Monday 31 August 2020, 07:03

Seventh heaven for history-making Lyon

  • Lyon won their seventh UEFA Women’s Champions League title on Sunday

  • The French club beat Wolfsburg in the final for the third time

  • Three players have featured in all seven of those trophy wins

Like many other competitions, the UEFA Women’s Champions League was forced to reinvent itself by the Covid-19 pandemic. Following a 10-month layoff – the Round of 16 was completed on 30-31 October 2019 – the last eight teams in contention met in San Sebastian and Bilbao, Spain, to contest the quarter-finals.

Wolfsburg, Barcelona, Paris Saint-Germain and Olympique Lyonnais got the better of Glasgow City, Atletico Madrid, Arsenal and Bayern Munich respectively, before two tight semi-finals went the way of two sides that have grown accustomed to reaching finals: Wolfsburg and l’OL. We look back at the competition and the match that brought it to a long-awaited conclusion.

The match

Women’s Champions League finals between Olympique Lyonnais and Wolfsburg are fast becoming a classic fixture. Prior to yesterday’s meeting, the two sides had already faced off three times at this stage of the competition, with the German club winning the first of those encounters and the French giants the next two.

Die Wölfinnen were anxious to avenge those two defeats and to stop Les Lyonnaises – the most successful side in the history of the competition – adding yet another trophy win to their collection. The absences of star acts such as Ada Hegerberg, Amandine Henry, Griedge Mbock Bathy and Nikita Parris from the Olympique line-up would have raised their hopes of doing just that.

The French side can draw upon a deep pool of talent though, and still found a way to win, dominating the first half and building a 2-0 half-time lead thanks to goals from the experienced Eugenie Le Sommer on 25 minutes and Saki Kumagai on 44. Wolfsburg captain and club legend Alexandra Popp pulled a goal back just before the hour mark to give her side renewed hope. It was extinguished two minutes from time, when Sara Björk Gunnarsdottir, who left Wolfsburg for Les Lyonnaises just a few weeks ago, scored a third to secure the French side’s seventh Women’s Champions League title and consolidate their place in football history.

What they said

“There are an awful lot of emotions. Winning five Champions Leagues in a row is incredible and I’m so proud of the team. We’ve got stronger and stronger since the season restarted and we showed up today. That’s why we won.” Olympique Lyonnais forward Delphine Cascarino

“So happy! We’re not tired of winning. We’re not weary of it. We’ve won it seven times now and though the joy might be different, it’s still there. It still feels special when you win the Champions League. There’s a lot of hard work and sacrifices day in day out, but when you get the reward like that, then it’s worth it. We’ve worked all year for this. Everyone saw us losing this game but l'OL are still here and we’re going to stay at the top for a long time.” Olympique Lyonnais forward Eugenie Le Sommer

“It’s always good because it’s tough to win. This is a trophy we fight for every year and it’s wonderful. You always want to make your mark and now we have to go for a sixth consecutive win to match Real Madrid’s record. We want to keep going for more.” Olympique Lyonnais forward Wendie Renard


The underachievers

Manchester City have an impressive and very experienced squad, one that features the likes of England internationals Karen Bardsley, Steph Houghton, Demi Stokes, Jill Scott, Keira Walsh, Georgia Stanway and Ellen White, Scotland star Caroline Weir and Canada’s Janine Beckie.

That talent could do nothing, however, to prevent a Round-of-16 defeat to Atletico Madrid. Semi-finalists in 2017 and 2018, the Citizens how now failed to progress beyond the last 16 in the last two seasons.

The overachievers

Not many people expected to see Glasgow City in the quarter-finals, and yet there the Scots were in San Sebastian, rubbing shoulders with some of Europe’s biggest names. Despite lacking a genuine star player, the Glasgow side had upset the odds by beating Brondby IF in the last 16 before Wolfsburg brought them back down to earth in the quarters with a 9-1 defeat.

Star player

One of the main reasons why Olympique Lyonnais conceded just two goals in this Women’s Champions League was the form of captain Wendie Renard in the centre of defence. The inspirational skipper was also a force at the other end of the pitch. Her five goals made her the fourth-highest scorer in this season’s tournament – quite an achievement for a centre-half.

One of those goals gave her side a 1-0 win in the semis against PSG. Renard has also made a record 87 appearances in the competition now and has won it a joint-record seven times, along with team-mates Eugenie Le Sommer and Sarah Bouhaddi.

And finally…

A new behind-the-scenes documentary on Olympique Lyonnais is due for release in French cinemas this week. Entitled Les joueuses #paslàpourdanser (The Players #notheretodance) it follows the club’s fortunes over this last season, including their Champions League campaign.