It is often said that the hardest part is not getting to the top, but staying there. FC Barcelona lost their continental title in Turin after losing 3-1 to Lyon in the Women’s Champions League final, a match in which Lyon displayed more dominance, strength, and experience than the Blaugrana.
It was the French team’s ninth title, and they reigned in Europe for the second time in three years.
It was hardly the day for surprises, so Jonatan Giraldez of Barcelona and Sonia Bompastor of Lyon went with their first-choice lineups.
Lyon started the game stronger, pressuring their opponents off the ball and forcing them to run rather than play. In the first half, Amandine Henry opened the scoring with a right-footed strike from outside the box that sailed into the top corner.
Barcelona sought to respond quickly, and Jenni Hermoso had the equalizer in her hands, but Christiane Endler’s hand blocked her shot from inside the area. With an alternative game of time-wasting and wanton fouls, the French team attempted to end the game. The injury to Ellie Carpenter, who was carried off the field on a stretcher, did not deter Lyon’s plans, as they rallied to the point where they were able to win.
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Selma Bacha’s cross, Sandra Panos’ weak clearance, Mapi Leon’s lack of position, and Ada Hegerberg’s goal, the Champions League’s all-time leading scorer, worked in favor of Lyon.
The Blaugrana were out of control, out of position, and out of sync. It gave the impression that the team was at the mercy of a Lyon team that knows how to play this type of game. Another defensive failure came in the form of Irene Paredes’ bad clearance, which allowed Hegerberg to cross and locate Catarina Macario, who only had to push it over the goalline.
The only way to restore faith was to score before the break, which Barcelona did. At the finish line, Alexia Putellas defeated Carolina Hansen.
It was a goal that earned her the tournament’s top scorer, though she isn’t motivated by individual accolades unless they are backed by team victory.
In the second half, Giraldez made a substitution, bringing on Asisat Oshoala to replace Jenni, who had struggled in the game. The Galician coach brought on Lieke Martens and Ana-Maria Crnogorcevic after determining that things were neither good nor awful.
When a shot from the centre circle hit the crossbar, Patricia Guijarro had the fans jumping out of their seats. She hit confidently when she spotted Endler in front of her, but she had no luck that day. Barcelona pressed forward and came within a whisker of scoring thanks to a willing but wayward Oshoala and a slick passing move.
They turned things around to the point that they dominated the statistics in terms of possession, chances on goal, and shots attempted, however, numbers are nothing without precision.
Lyon had the clock on their side as well as experience. They have shown that they are not afraid to play on the counter and defend in their penalty area. In stoppage time, even Hegerberg hit the post. They only stopped gnawing their teeth when the referee sounded the final whistle and they could taste the glory again.
You don’t realize how valuable something is until you lose it. Losing will make Barcelona appreciate what they have accomplished even more, and they will undoubtedly return.