Women’s Soccer Will Never Be The Same

Paint it. Cast it in gold. Put it in the Louvre. Christiane Endler’s right hand deserves to be memorialized by the city of Paris.

It should have been a goal. No doubt about it. It was a point-blank opportunity. It was struck with devastating pace. Melvine Malard’s volley should have gone in the back of the net and Olympique Lyon should have tied the game in the 92nd minute. Endler’s mitt, however, said, “Not today.”

It was a great save, a strong save. How her single outstretched hand got in the right position and remained so necessarily rigid under that direct force will baffle most. It was also stunning, because Endler came up huge, focused, for that split-second moment after an hour and a half that consisted primarily of jogging up to and back from the top of the 18-yard box, simple passes to her defence, and yelling directions. Other than the Malard shot, Endler made only one other save in the entire game.

Paint it. Cast it in gold. Put it in the Louvre. Christiane Endler’s right hand deserves to be memorialized by the city of Paris.

The reason the Chilean shot-stopper didn’t have a whole lot to do was because her teammates did everything they were supposed to. Irene Paredes and Paulina Dudek were calm and composed in the back. 43-year-old Formiga, continuing to defy nature, ran around the field like a 20-year-old. Ashley Lawrence delivered tough tackles, kept possession and made dangerous passes into the final third. Sandy Baltimore broke ankles with dizzying footwork and put in a defensive shift at which most forwards would turn up their nose.

Paris Saint-Germain’s win, in short, was a masterclass.

That’s how the performance will be remembered. It will also be remembered as the end of an era. Women’s soccer’s Goliath, Olympique Lyon — long the world’s greatest women’s club team, arguably the greatest team in sports in the 2010s — was finally brought down.

More importantly, they deserved to be brought down. PSG didn’t win on a fluke. They had more shots. They controlled possession. They were, all in all, the better team.

After this win, because of this win, women’s soccer will never be the same again.

Photos: @PSG_Feminines

What will be known as the “Lyon Chapter” has come to an end. We saw it coming, but it was more like death by slow boil.

Over the last couple of years, gradually, other cities — Barcelona, London, Munich — emerged as appealing to women’s soccer’s stars. Lyon was no longer the only popular kid in school. Other teams got hot, built muscle, dished out the money to buy the cool clothes. Soon, Lyon’s emphatic wins, once expected week in and week out, domestically and in Europe, began to occur just a bit less frequently. There were a few more “2-0” victories, maybe even a “1-0” here and there.

Still, though, it was nothing to really lose sleep over if you were club president Jean-Michel Aulas or coach Jean-Luc Vasseur. The French league trophy still came home to Lyon last year. So did the UEFA Women’s Champions League cup.

Then, November 20, 2020 happened — the first sign of real trouble for the club. PSG beat Lyon in the French league, 1-0. It was the first time Lyon had lost in the French league since December 2016. They dropped to second place. They’ve been there ever since. Aulas and Vasseur might have started tossing and turning a bit then. After all, Lyon have won 15 straight French league titles.

Finally, today. April 18, 2021. The ink on the final sentence and the period finally dried. PSG victory. Chapter over.

We will not see a women’s team win five straight UEFA Champions Leagues again. We will not see another 73-game winning streak in all competitions again. We will not see a team be as dominant as Olympique Lyon ever again.

Go on, lick your wounds if you’re a Lyon fan. Cheer loudly and brag if you’re a PSG one.

As for the rest of you, the women’s soccer fans who just want to see good games and the sport grow, sit back and smile. Sunday was a good day.