Lyon regained the Champions League in Turin on Saturday night after triumphing 3-1 over Barcelona.
Three goals in the opening 33 minutes from Amandine Henry, Ada Hegerberg and Catarina Macario was enough to see Lyon over the line.
A goal before halftime from Alexia Putellas gave Barcelona some optimism ahead of the second half, but a vintage and dogged defensive display from the French side saw them snuff out any Barcelona chance, as they claimed their eighth Champions League.
The tone of the half was set in the first minute. A crunching collision between Aitana Bonmati and Lindsey Horan an indication that both sides were willing to put their bodies on the line to win the trophy.
Five minutes later, that physicality was on show again and it resulted in the opening OL goal. The talismanic Amandine Henry making a wonderful challenge on Alexia Putellas, before getting up and unleashing a remarkable curling effort from 30-yards into the top corner, to shock the Allianz Stadium.
Pre-match, there were discussions of the battle between possibly the world’s best striker in Jenni Hermoso, and the world’s best keeper, Christiane Endler. The first duel between the two came in the eleventh minute after Bonmati played a wonderful ball through to her compatriot. However, the Chilean stood her ground and came out on top.
The biggest blow perhaps for Sonia Bompastor’s team was the injury that Ellie Carpenter suffered. The Australian was stretchered off the field in a lot of pain and was replaced by Kadeisha Buchanan.
While an injury like that could derail a team, this Lyon team are made of stern stuff and doubled their lead in the 23rdminute. Selma Bacha using her pace and power to get past Marta Torrejón, before producing a magnificent cross into the box, where, who else, but Ada Hegerberg was there to nod the ball into the net.
There was a cacophony of noise in the stadium, mainly made by the number of travelling Barca fans, waving their Catalan flags and cheering their team on, yet even they were shellshocked when Lyon found their third goal in the 33rdminute.
Barca’s defence was labelled by Rachel Yankey in the ITV studio as a possible weakness, and it was on show here. Irene Paredes’ attempted clearance fell straight to the feet of Melvine Malard, before she played it off to Hegerberg, who found Catarina Macario at the far post who walked it into the net, and suddenly the prospect of a 2019 re-run could become a reality.
The Blaugranes needed something before half-time to not only give themselves confidence, but to give their own fans hope, and they got it four minutes before the break. Caroline Graham Hansen played a low lofted ball into the area, and Putellas timed her run from deep excellently and volleyed home to reduce the deficit.
The second half started off with a far slower tempo compared to the first. Perhaps Lyon, knowing that they had a two-goal lead and physical defenders such as Wendie Renard and Griedge Mbock Bathy, could halt any momentum by the Spanish champions.
Patri, however, almost scored a screamer. Spotting Endler off her line, the Spanish midfielder tried to chip her from the halfway line, only for her effort to cannon off the crossbar in what was a heartstopping moment for Les Fenottes.
Apart from that effort, Barcelona couldn’t muster anything going forward for the vast majority of the second half. Even with the introductions of Asisat Oshoala, Ana-Maria Crnogorčević and Lieke Martens, nothing was working for them.
Full credit has to be given to Lyon though. With the way this Barcelona team has been playing for the past year and a half, to hold them to a handful of chances is a remarkable achievement, and they were fully deserving of being crowned European Champions.
Player of the Match: Selma Bacha
Bacha was brilliant in this final. In the first half she showed her attacking might in creating the second goal for her team, while in the second half she showed her defensive prowess in stopping some of the best attackers in the world in creating anything.
Sandra Paños (GK), Marta Torrejón (Ana-Maria Crnogorčević, 59’), Irene Paredes, María León, Fridolona Rolfö (Clàudia Pina, 75’), Aitana Bonmati, Patri Guijarro, Alexia Putellas ©, Caroline Graham Hansen, Jenni Hermoso(Asisat Oshoala, 46’), Mariona Caldentey (Lieke Martens, 59’)
Goals: Alexia Putellas (41’)
Yellow Cards: María León (33’), Irene Paredes (85’)
Christiane Endler (GK), Ellie Carpenter (Kadeisha Buchanan, 14’), Wendie Renard ©, Griedge Mbock Bathy (Janice Cayman, 81’), Selma Bacha, Lindsey Horan, Amandine Henry, Catarina Macario, Delphine Cascarino (Perle Morroni, 81’), Ada Hegerberg, Melvine Malard (Eugénie Le Sommer, 72’)
Goals: Amandine Henry (6’), Ada Hegerberg (23’), Catarina Macario (33’)
Yellow Cards: Ada Hegerberg (45’), Catarina Macario (65’), Perle Morroni (90’)