Lyon continued their domination over their closest rivals in the French domestic game with a 1-0 win over Paris St. Germain in Bilbao to reach their fifth consecutive Champions League Final.
The six times Champions League winners have a staggering record over the Parisians – having lost just four times to them in over forty matches. However, PSG can point to the fact that they were the last team to defeat the dominant force in French and European women’s football – albeit two years ago. Clearly the gap between the two sides continues to narrow, and PSG produced more than enough throughout this semi-final in the Basque Country to emphasise that it is just a matter of time before they lower Lyonnaise colours.
PSG coach Olivier Echouafni set out his side to deny Lyon the time, space and freedom to allow their creative players to dominate the game. The physical edge to the game which they showed so often against Arsenal in the Quarter-Final was also in evidence – it was a game plan which brought his team close to glory.
Paris were probing well in offence during the early exchanges and tried to maintain a high press. Sara Dabritz played a crucial role in this period, and she created the first real opportunity of the semi-final when she played in PerleMorroni, but the effort flew over the bar.
Just after the twenty minute mark, Lyon had an opportunity from a corner but Wendy Renard’sheader could only hit the back of team-mate Lucy Bronze.
The ever dangerous Delphine Cascarino began to show her worth for the defending champions as she used her pace down the right to pull in a cross, but Nikita Parris, no slouch herself in the speed stakes, could not match her run to get onto the end of the cross in time.
The game then became disjointed after the half hour mark as PSG were forced to stop Lyon in their tracks with a number of fouls. From one of the eventuating free kicks, Dzenifer Marozsanplayed the ball in to Cascarino who hit an effort from outside of the box which was pushed away by Christiane Endler for a corner. As the resulting flag kick came in, Lucy Bronze’s free header was saved.
PSG responded with the influential Dabritz who combined with Kadidiatou Diani, but Sarah Bouhaddi saved.
Cascarino’s marauding down the right continued to cause problems for the Parisians and she was stopped by Paulina Dudek’s foul. From the free-kick, Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir headed just wide.
The fouls began to rack up for PSG and Nadia Nadim, already booked, put in a cynical effort on Sakina Karchaoui which warranted a second yellow, but no card was shown by referee Anastasia Pustovoltova. It remained 0-0 at the break.
The second half began in a similar fashion. Within seven minutes of the restart, Nikita Parris was fouled, but the free-kick missed everyone in the box. However the main cause for interest in the move was a clear shirt pull by PSG’s Paulina Dudek on Kadeisha Buchanan in the box. Nothing was given – although it would not be long before the referee found her cards once more.
With sixty-five minutes played, Lionesses star Lucy Bronze went on a super run which could only be halted by another cynical Paris challenge – this time by Grace Geyoro, who had already been booked and so received her second yellow.
There was double despair for PSG, as AmelMajri floated in the resulting free-kick which was met by the head of Wendy Renard to put Lyon ahead.
Three minutes later, Nikita Parris was pushed by Parisian captain Irene Paredes as the ball went out for a throw in. Parris was at the centre of the next drama as well when, having been booked earlier for shouting back to the referee, she got involved by needlessly shoving Christiane Endler and received a second yellow.
This indiscretion served to buoy PSG who were no longer hampered by the double disaster of being behind in both the score and number of players. They dominated the remaining fifteen minutes of the encounter.
There were two final opportunities for the Parisians as the clock ticked down – first Dudek’s chance from a free-kick caused a huge playground style scramble with Lyon’s Dutch star Shanice van der Sanden finally clearing. Then Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir handled on the left, far too close to her own goal for comfort, but Dabritz’s free kick was comfortably claimed by Sarah Bouhaddi and the final danger passed.
For the third time in the last five seasons there will be a Wolfsburg v Lyon Champions League Final. However, the French side’s ambitions of a record breaking seventh win in the last eleven years will be tempered by the realisation that they will be far from their usual strength offensively for the final as not only will they be missing Ada Hegerberg through continued injury, but Nikita Parris’ sending off will see her suspended.
Paris St Germain: Endler, Lawrence, Paredes, Dudek, Morroni, Bachmann, Dabritz, Geyoro, Diani, Katoto, Nadim.
Substitutes: Voll (GK), Criscione (GK), Simon, Cook, Luana, Saevik, Fazer, Baltimore (for Nadim), Bruun (for Baltimore), Huitena, Formiga (for Bachmann), Khelefi.
Olympique Lyon: Bouhaddi, Bronze, Renard, Buchanan, Karchaoui, Gunnarsdottir, Kumagai, Cascarino, Marozsan, Majri, Parris. Substitutes: Gallardo (GK), Talaslahti (GK), Bacha (for Karchaoui), Le Sommer (for Cascarino), van der Sanden (for Marozsan), Carpenter, Greenwood, Cayman, Taylor, Malard.