By Samindra Kunti in Kiev
May 25 – Lyon defeated Wolfsburg 4-1 to win the Champions League for a third consecutive time. They recovered form a goal down to run out classy 4-1 winners against ten Germans in a dramatic 30 minutes of extra time.
Heavy security and long queues prevented many fans from getting into the stadium in time for the kick-off. The French were favourites to defend their crown and did so, in the end, with bravado. However, Wolfsburg made Lyon sweat. There was little between the two teams in the 90 minutes but in over time Lyon’s superior fitness and higher level prevailed. Alexandra Popp’s needless 95th-minute second booking left Wolfsburg entirely at Lyon’s mercy.
The French champions dominated proceedings, imposing a possession game from the kick-off. Midfielder Amandine Henry squandered a fine chance in the 6th minute, miscuing a half-volley inside the box. In the 10th minute Wolfsburg could have claimed a penalty when Sara Gunnarsdottir was clattered inside the penalty area.
Wolfsburg lurked on the counterattack and in transition they carved through the French midfield at times, but Lyon captain Wendie Renard was always on hand to mop up any danger, keeping close tabs on her direct opponent Ewa Pojar.
Lyon found most joy in the space in behind Wolfsburg’s Anna Blasse and captain Nilla Fischer, but all incursions of left winger Amel Majri were futile. A cautious half finished without goals.
Wolfsburg coach Stephan Lerch rang the changes at half time, Belgian Tessa Wullaert replacing Graham Hansen, but Lerch was soon forced to play his hand again as Gunnarsdottir limped off. Joelle Wedemeyer deputized for the Icelandic midfielder.
Lyon maintained their dominance, but the game failed to spring into the life. Henry flicked the ball goal-wards, but somehow Noelle Maritz hacked the ball away. Replays showed the ball to have crossed the goalline, but with no goalline technology or VAR, Lyon were denied a goal. The French could feel aggrieved.
In the 83rd minute Almuth Schult saved Eugenie Le Sommer’s first-time attempt, Lyon’s best chance of the game. The deadlock was not broken in regular time, but the game finally exploded in the prolongations. Wolfsburg scored with their first shot on target, and a poor one at that. Pernille Harder collected the ball in midfield, darted towards the French box and her meek shot deflected of Renard and into the net.
But Lyon still ran away with the European Cup as Popp’s sending-off and three goals inside five minutes were enough to knock the Germans, whose legs began to tire, off their feet. Last weekend Wolfsburg had also played extra time in the German Cup final against Bayern Munich.
Inside five minutes Henry, Le Sommer and Ada Hegerberg all got on the score sheet with substitute Shanice van de Sanden providing to assists. Camille Abily, from another van de Sanden assist, wrapped up a convincing win with a neat finish, 4-1. In the end, Lyon’s class was too much for the team of Lerch. The French’s victory was their fifth Champions League trophy.
“There were different moments in this game, but there was the goal that was not allowed, even though the ball had crossed the line,” said Lyon coach Reynald Pedros .”Then we thought that it was not going to be our day, but the players put this aside and I saw their reaction. They kept pushing forward, perhaps they felt it was a bit unfair. I didn’t doubt for very long and then I saw the players really did the rest. It was a match full of surprises.”
Next year’s final will be held in Budapest. For the first time, the women’s final will be staged in a different host city – Madrid will host the men’s final – in a bid by UEFA to make the game a centrepiece in its own right. Don’t bet against Lyon making it to the Hungarian capital.
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