It’s time for another rewatch with Kudzi! Today it’s another dose of all-they-do-is-win from Lyon over perennial thorn in their side Wolfsburg. You can catch previous rewatches here.
The UEFA Women’s Champions League has become synonymous with Olympique Lyonnais Féminin and when they faced off against VfL Wolfsburg Frauen four years ago, the French outfit did what they do best in this competition: win.
There was extra motivation for both sides. Lyon had been kicked out of the competition the season before without reaching the final and were also saying goodbye to stalwarts Lotta Schelin and Louisa Necib. Wolfsburg had finally made it back to Europe’s biggest stage after missing out for two consecutive finals. It promised to be a grand affair as two of the biggest teams in Europe looked to end their seasons on a high.
With so many big names on display, especially up top, it was Japanese international Saki Kumagai who stood out the best after 120 minutes and penalties. The midfielder, alongside Amandine Henry, formed the base of Lyon’s midfield and allowed those ahead of her to try and create with freedom. Throughout the match, Kumagai was constantly putting out fires and keeping her team on top in midfield through her positioning and her passing. It was only fitting that she would score the winning penalty to cap off a player of the match performance that night.
Both sides knew that a win that day would put them on top as the greatest European side as both were looking to claim their third Champions League title in their histories. Over 15,000 in Reggio Emilia, Italy witnessed some of the best the game has to offer and they did not have to wait long for the first goal of the game.
Pauline Bremer, who was up against her compatriots that day, made a storming run forwards, shrugging off Isabel Kerschowski with ease before centering a ball that Ada Hegerberg finished from close range under pressure. On the day that the torch would be officially passed from Schelin to Hegerberg, it was only fitting for the Norwegian to be on the score sheet as her mentor watched from the bench. Hegerberg had been in scintillating form that season and ended up the top scorer in the competition with that 12th minute goal, her 13th of the season. The game should have been almost out of sight in the 26th minute as Hegerberg and Eugénie Le Sommer combined beautifully to set up the FRench forward but instead of placing the ball either side of the advancing goalkeeper, she aimed it straight at Almuth Schult. Lyon were the dominant team in the first half but only had one goal to show for it at half time.
Wendie Renard was the next to go close for Lyon as her header was saved off the line in the 48th minute and Necib almost caught Schult out with an ambitious effort from a long way out in the 64th minute. The lack of clinical finishing came back to haunt Lyon as right at the end of the game, Sarah Bouhaddi gifted Wolfsburg a lifeline. A cross was sent into the box for Alexandra Popp to attack and Bouhaddi rushed out to punch it clear. The French No. 1 missed the ball completely and all Popp had to do was keep her concentration to nod the ball home into an empty net.
That goal seemed to have switched on something inside Wolfsburg as they were the team with the momentum in extra time. Popp really should have made it two for the Germans in the 91st minute but could not keep her effort on target after being picked out at the far post. That was the moment many Wolfsburg fans would look back on and wonder what could have been if Popp had made the most of that chance. Instead, the game dwindled out and both teams headed towards penalties against two goalkeepers, in Bouhaddi and Schult, who usually excel at penalty shootouts.
Popp made up for her miss by converting the first penalty of the game and in a surprising moment, Hegerberg missed the following chance from the spot. Kerschowski and Schelin made no mistake of their spot kicks while Babett Peter and Wendie Renard finished their penalties emphatically. Lyon were then brought back on to level terms in the shootout when Nilla Fischer missed her penalty and Griedge Mbock-Bathy converted hers. Elise Bussaglia was next for Wolfsburg and knew that another miss would give Lyon the chance to win the final. She measured her run up, moved to take her penalty but was denied by her former teammate in Bouhaddi. Knowing that if she scored, Lyon would be champions, Kumagai calmly walked up to her penalty, set the ball down and then proceeded to leave Schult rooted to the spot, giving her team their third Champions League title.
Gérard Prêcheur became one of the most decorated managers in the women’s game, not only for adding another Division 1 Féminine and Coup de France Féminine title to Olympique Lyonnais’ trophy cabinet, but he also completed thetreble that season with his team and would go on to win another treble the following year. The French champions sent off Schelin and Necib in style and also cemented their dominance in Europe once again.
Ralf Kellermann and Wolfsurb were left to rue their big chance in extra time and also how they could not keep their cool during the penalty shootout. They would be back on Europe’s biggest stage but that was the beginning of Lyon’s dominance over Wolfsburg for years to come.