Lyon’s Champions League victory over Barcelona reaffirms its status
TURIN, Italy – This was supposed to be the one, the UEFA Women’s Champions League final won by Barcelona Women and its winds of change. No one had dominated the sport in the past two seasons like Barca had, no one seemed destined to claim the crown anymore and leave no doubts.
But on Saturday at Juventus’ Allianz Stadium there was a sweltering heat wave where no wind, literally or figuratively, would be allowed. Lyon, all-time leaders in the Women’s Champions League, were certain it would only be one thing: more of the same.
With a dominating 3-1 win, Lyon won their eighth Champions League title and made it clear that everyone, including Barca, still regard the club as European royalty. And while the game and the title belong to Lyon, Barca’s impact on the sport was clear from the start thanks to their impressive traveling support.
An hour before the game, Barca fans went wild inside the stadium for a moment the sport had never seen: two dynasties in their own right, battling it out for a singular prize as the best team in Europe. Throughout the day, the drums and chants of Barça supporters echoed throughout the city, and their procession from the city center to the stadium interrupted traffic and required a police escort. In the end, they filled 39 night buses and four planes bound for Turin.
“I feel bad for them for all those fans who have come a long way, some of them taking buses that took 15, 16 hours,” Barca coach Jonatan Giráldez said. “They’ve been key for us throughout the year and unfortunately we can’t give them the title. We’re sad. … It felt like we were playing in our own stadium, the noise was unbelievable.
The Lyon supporters only had a small corner of the stadium to themselves, but it was the team that made the most noise on the pitch. Amandine Henry’s thunderbolt from 35 yards set the tone in the 6th minute, and the Lyon supporters roared with the steady confidence that belongs to a base accustomed to dominance.
“I saw exactly where it was going and didn’t even wait for it to hit the top corner – I just started celebrating,” said Henry, who won her second player of the match award in a a Champions League final.
After the match, Giráldez admitted that the opening goal shocked Barça and sent them into a spiral from which they could not recover. The only issue that seemed to plague Lyon’s players was the heat as it nears 90 degrees leading to cramps and injuries. But Lyon’s demeanor was icy against a side that have won their 30 league games and entered the game with 43 wins in their last 44.
Norway star Ada Hegerberg, who scored a hat-trick in the 2019 final, doubled Lyon’s lead in the 23rd minute to take their Champions League scoring record to 59 goals in 60 games. Just 10 minutes later, United States Women’s National Team midfielder Catarina Macario became the first United States international to score in a Champions League final. She and fellow Lyonnais Lindsey Horan became the fourth and fifth American players to win the title (joining Ali Krieger, Gina Lewandowski and Alex Morgan).
Scroll to continue
Thirty-three minutes later, Lyon were leading 3-0, and not even a goal from Barca star Alexia Putellas, the competition’s top scorer this season with 11 goals, could make it a game. Instead, Saturday was about a familiar queen reclaiming her throne.
In 2019, after Lyon handed Barcelona a resounding 4-1 defeat in the final, then-Barça manager Lluís Cortés sat his team bosses down for a debriefing. The questions asked ranged from “What happened?” to “How could Femení close the gap?” The consensus was that the French giants were literally that: stronger, faster, dominant in every physical aspect of the game.
Barca therefore forged ahead with a plan to match Lyon’s physique while remaining true to their pressing team identity based on hypnotic passing. Saturday’s final would be the real test, and the result was that Lyon were Herculean, an immovable object that could stop any force. Lyon once had a firm grip on the sport, and Saturday was proof that they still do.
This performance is testament to Lyon manager Sonia Bompastor’s plan to strike fast and play fast. Essentially, Lyon went to shrink the canvas on which Barca usually paint their masterpieces, and his willpower never wavered.
With the win, Bompastor became the first woman to win the Champions League as a player and manager, adding to her legacy which began as a player in Lyon’s league first team in 2010-11. Meanwhile, three players from Lyon’s matchday squad (Wendie Renard, Sarah Bouhaddi and Eugenie Le Sommer) have made it to the eight titles, showing that Barca’s philosophy is not the only philosophy that should be trumpeted at masses.
“We are writing history,” Bompastor said. “But I said it before the match. What was important for me was that it was the 10th final for the club and a chance to win an eighth title.
In a year that has been dominated by Barca triumphs on the pitch and in the stands, perhaps Lyon’s run needs repeating. The club have appeared in 10 of the last 13 Champions League finals, including a streak from 2015-16 to 2019-20 where they won five in a row.
Saturday’s result does not erase the fact that it has been a monumental year for women’s football in Europe. The investment has never been so high; the stories have never been bigger. Seven of the eight Champions League quarter-finals had to move their games to bigger stadiums. Barcelona have broken the world record – twice – for attendance at a women’s football match with over 91,000 spectators at Camp Nou.
But now Barca will have to stage another painful debriefing in hopes of leveling up with Lyon. Success for the French club has always been the goal, it could take longer than previously thought, that is if Lyon ever fades. The only certain thing is that this is a club built to last, and Lyon still hold all the power to decide when and if their reign will end.
More football coverage:
#Lyons #Champions #League #victory #Barcelona #reaffirms #status