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UWCL nostalgia watch: Wolfsburg celebrate a hard-fought title

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Martina Müller etches her name in the history books.

Champions League VfL Wolfsburg - Olympique Lyon Photo by Federico Gambarini/picture alliance via Getty Images

VfL Wolfsburg Frauen and Olympique Lyonnais Féminin have become synonymous with the UEFA Women’s Champions League and have gone on to face each other in what are usually titanic battles. The first of these titanic clashes came in 2013, at Stamford Bridge in London where the bookies favourites’ Olympique Lyonnais were looking to win their third Champions League title.

They didn’t count on a Wolfsburg side that would be prove to be resilient, dogged and well-versed in how to nullify the French champions.

Some familiar names were on show that day and even though OL were the stronger team coming into the match, it was Wolfsburg who managed to create the first big opportunity of the match. Zsanett Jakabfi pushed forward and combined well with Conny Pohlers in the third minute down the left-hand side, which left an opening in the middle of OL’s backline due to Pohler’s movement. Nadine Keßler raced through from midfield and was picked up by Pohler but despite two attempts at it, could not find the back of the net.

After that initial flurry, OL looked to dominate proceeding and exploit the space out wide that Wolfsburg’s 3-4-3 formation gave them. Élodie Thomis and Megan Rapinoe were key to this and constantly tried to find space out wide to help their team. Their movement led to a corner kick in the 11th minute that Amandine Henry sent just wide of the far post. Henry would be at the center of another attack in the 30th minute and she skipped past two challenges before finding Camille Abily inside the Wolfsburg penalty area. The French midfielder was leaning back as she took the shot and ended up sending it high over the crossbar. OL continued to probe and test Wolfsburg’s defense but Martina Müller was next to go closest with an audacious attempt that went wide in the 39th minute.

Champions League VfL Wolfsburg - Olympique Lyon Photo by Federico Gambarini/picture alliance via Getty Images

The second half continued in a similar fashion with OL constantly testing Wolfsburg and the German side’s backline, along with goalkeeper Alisa Vetterlein standing strong. Ralf Kellerman had clearly worked a tactical plan that would stop Lyon’s strongest players from shining bright and it continued to pay dividends in the second half. In stark contract, OL’s Patrice Lair made no adjustments in the second half to counter what Wolfsburg was doing and it showed in the countless fruitless attempts his team had throughout the match. Wolfsburg’s front three and their midfield were more than prepared to clog up the spaces in their defensive third when called upon and kept their concentration for most of the match. It gave little to no room for the likes of Lotta Schelin or Louisa Necib to do what they do best and because of that, Lyon’s attack was stymied.

Champions League VfL Wolfsburg - Olympique Lyon Photo by Federico Gambarini/picture alliance via Getty Images

The telling moment of the match came in the 73rd minute when a mistimed jump saw Laura Georges handle the ball inside the penalty area. It was a really soft call as Georges did not make any attempt to move the ball with her hand but it did strike that part of her and the referee, Teodora Albon, decided to give the penalty. In probably one of the biggest moments of her life, Martina Müller sent her spot kick over Sarah Bouhaddi and into the top of the goal to give Wolfsburg the lead.

After that penalty went in, you knew that OL’s task had become infinitely harder. They had failed to find the breakthrough when the game was 0-0 and now with the lead, Wolfsburg were going to dig even deeper to stop them from scoring. OL continued to look for the equaliser but it was their opponents who came closest to extending their lead. A then Müller found 19-year old Lina Magull with a cheeky backheel inside the penalty area in the 90th minute, but could only watch as her shot trickled by the near post.

Wolfsburg stood up to every test Lyon threw at them and ended up being victorious, despite all the odds. They were not the strongest team on paper coming into the match but they showed that their talent and overall self-belief was more than enough to match the queens of Europe.