1. FFC Frankfurt Frauen were once regarded as one of the premier teams in Europe and on May 14, 2015, they cemented that position with their fourth UEFA Women’s Champions League title. Although the path towards the final seemed easy for Frankfurt, the final itself proved to be a battle of wills. Their opponents on the day, Paris Saint-Germain Féminine, had a harder road to the final, having to overcome the likes of rivals Olympique Lyonnais Féminin and VfL Wolfsburg Frauen.
Both sides came into the final with names that could change the game in an instant but it was Frankfurt who proved to have more about them in the end. Célia Šašić and Dzsenifer Marozsán gave Frankfurt the attacking intent that saw them score 30 goals while Desirée Schumann only conceded twice during Frankfurt’s continental tilt. That dominance showed up in the first half of the match as PSG could not find a way to crack Frankfurts 5-3-2 formation while the German side continually found holes in PSG’s defense.
Šašić got the goal Frankfurt’s domination deserved in the 30th minute as she out-jumped Jessica Houara at the far post. Frankfurt had overwhelmed PSG’s two-player midfield throughout the entire first half and when Šašić drifted away from the center backs, she made the French side pay with a well-directed header.
That goal seemed to wake PSG up and they began to play like the team that saw them knock out OL and Wolfsburg in their journey towards the final. Marie-Laure Delie was on hand in the 40th minute to show just how good she was in the air as well and Schumann could not scramble across her goal quickly enough to stop the header.
The second half saw both goalkeepers tested as the two teams adjusted and looked to score the winner within normal time. Katarzyna Kiedrzynek and Schumann were called on time and time again to stop their opponents from taking the lead, which they did to great effect. PSG had more of the possession in the second half as manager Fared Benstiti had made the right tactical changes at half-time to give his team a chance against a clogged up Frankfurt backline. Fatmire Alushi and Kenza Dali became more prominent in the game as their width provided PSG the change to drag defenders out of position and create chances on goal. The tactic worked well but the Parisiennes could not find a way past Schumann.
It was the switch made by Frankfurt manager Colin Bell that proved telling however. In the 66th minute he took off Ana-Maria Crnogorčević and brought on Mandy Islacker to try and find the winning goal. Islacker was a shrewd change as she wasted no time in testing both the PSG backline and their goalkeeper. It was Islacker who found the match-winner in stoppage time, repaying the faith her manager had in her to bring her into the game. The ball fell towards the German striker after not being cleared well by the PSG defenders and Islacker proceeded to loop the ball over Kiedrzynek and into the far corner of the goal.
Frankfurt proved that their journey to the final, despite facing so called weaker opposition, had been no fluke as they found the back of the net when they needed to the most. Although they were not as prolific as they had been in the previous rounds, Šašić was there to give them a cutting edge and Islacker came on to put the ball in the back of the net, just as she had been instructed to. PSG were left wondering what could have been had they started the game better than they had. They were the favourites to win before the match began and were left in despair once the final whistle blew. They, and Bastiti, got their tactics all wrong in the beginning and when they needed to find a way to win, failed to do so. That failure to show up on the big occasion would go on to haunt PSG again two years later as they once again failed to win a major title. As for Frankfurt, after that win Šašić retired from the game and Verónica Boquete moved on to FC Bayern Munich Frauen. Frankfurt could not recover from losing those two players and the likes of Marozsán and Crnogorčević also left the club in the following years, thus making the 2015 final a seemingly last hurrah for a storied club. PSG returned to the Champions League final after that day in Berlin but Frankfurt continue to fall short of the final in the proceeding years. That afternoon in Berlin will remain a bright spot for Frankfurt as they look to re-establish themselves as one of Europe’s elite while PSG will remember that day as another final where they could not be more than runners-up once again.