You already know the result of the historic match at Camp Nou, just as you know it means that Barcelona progress to the Champions League semi-finals at the expense of Real Madrid. Clàudia Pina’s stunning curler likely to be the goal that sticks in the mind, maybe Aitana’s low shot to the corner or Alexia’s effort that dribbled over the line will resound, three academy products who had grown up in Catalunya, a familial bond to the club. But this isn’t about the five goals Barcelona scored, but rather about the two scored by the visitors, the bittersweet memories for Olga Carmona and Claudia Zornoza that are likely to fade from the memory for most.
Penalties are curious things, although they are simply a free shot at goal or very direct free kick, they have been mystified by fans and players throughout the game. Although the odds favour the penalty taker rather than the goalkeeper, all sorts of things can happen to a player at some point between their run up and when they strike the ball. Some coach and teams have famously shied away from practicing spot kicks, as other players have taken it upon themselves to practice penalties to the point of distraction.
A youth product of Sevilla, Carmona’s move to the Spanish capital, whilst being successful hasn’t always been overly profitable. Indeed, the attacker has only scored five league goals for Las Blancas, finding the back of the net about once every ten matches. When she stepped up at Camp Nou, the 21-year-old knew that she had squared off against Sandra Paños from 12-yards before, just as she knew that she had been the victor that day, last season, at the Estadi Johan Cruyff. But for Olga, this was a penalty like no woman anywhere in the world had faced.
Sure, plenty of players had taken penalties, plenty in hostile environments, plenty with matches and silverware in the balance. Yet, no woman, anywhere had stood over the ball 12-yards from goal, with the noise of 90,000 fans booing and hissing at her. The footage from the match does little to fully capture the atmosphere and oppressive nature of the home fans. However, Olga didn’t falter as the vocal culés hoped she would, but rather she stroked the spot kick home, Paños close but not close enough.
At the end of the day, it was simply a penalty scored but under the most nerve-wracking circumstances.
A thing of beauty
The second half had barely gotten underway when Zornoza picked up the ball in the centre circle, a heavy first touch saw it run away from here and skip several yards forward before she brought it back under control. Her third touch was to strike clean through the ball, her left boot forcing the ball into the air to loft it over Barcelona’s high defensive line, arcing over 30-yards before dipping as it neared the goalmouth.
Like a plane making its final descent onto the runway at Josep Tarradellas airport just eight miles from the Camp Nou, the ball curved down through the air. Paños, who had been spotted and caught by Zornoza, was frantically back-peddling, waiting until the very last moment to dive skywards, arms lofted, desperate to get anything on the rapidly stooping ball. But Zornoza had struck the ball too cleanly, too true and nothing would stop it from completing its arc into the hungry net.
It was an audacious and opportunistic effort from a player who only tended to average two or three goals a season. It was the type of shot that could easily go wrong and see an easy turnover, the ball could come in too shallow and be an easy claim for the goalkeeper or it could sail clear over the bar. It was a low percentage shot but it was struck with the type of precision associated with a heart surgeon and it had indeed provided a lifeline for the Madrid team.
It could have been a match changer, a route back into the tie, but as the scores tell us, it wasn’t to be. But for four glorious (if you’re a Madrista) minutes, it had insured that Las Blancas lead at the holiest of grounds for the Catalans. And it had also, finally, silenced the home faithful. The goal one that deserves to go down in the history of the Women’s Champions League as one of pure sauce.