For 90 minutes, not a great deal happened between Lyon and Wolfsburg in a tight and tense final.
Then, in ten frantic minutes, spectators were treated to the drama of four goals and a red card.
It was ultimately during this first half of extra time in which the result was settled, but substitute Camille Abily added the gloss four minutes from full-time to make it 4-1.
After Pernille Harder’s deflected effort opened the scoring for Wolfsburg, it was in doubt for all of five minutes but eventually saw a result that reflected the balance of play.
Well worth their victory, Lyon have made history with an extraordinary and unprecedented three in a row. With twelve consecutive French league titles and this their fifth European title in seven years, we are lucky to witness such a sporting dynasty.
A forgettable 90 minutes
With the best two teams in Europe making the final, there was a justified hype for this final and spectators nearly packed out Kyiv’s historic Valeriy Lobanovskyi Stadium with an attendance of 14,237 not far off last week’s 15,000 that were in attendance for Ukraine’s biggest rivalry, Dynamo Kyiv vs Shakhtar Donetsk.
Spectators might have been a little disappointed that the final followed an oft-recurring template of a major final, with both teams looking a little inhibited by the occasion.
This was especially surprising for a Lyon side with vast experience of the biggest stakes, although they managed to exert their authority and dominate the match, but were just a little imprecise in the final third.
Every so often, there looked to be an opportunity for Wolfsburg to break into space and cause an upset, but repeatedly their through balls were cut out by Griedge Mbock Bathy who was exceptionally well positioned, a titan at the back for Lyon.
They had cause to feel aggrieved not to have completed the job in the standard 90 minutes after Eugenie Le Sommer’s header looked to have crossed the line, but was not given.
An unforgettable extra time
After Bathy hadn’t put a foot wrong in the game, three minutes into extra time she allowed Harder, Wolfsburg’s top scorer in the competition, far too much time and space to turn and set up a shot from outside the box. A deflection made it awkward for Sarah Bouhaddi, but questions could be asked as the ball slowly squirmed in past her.
Three minutes later, Wolfsburg’s talismanic midfielder Alexandra Popp lost her head to pick up a second yellow with a reckless and unnecessary mistimed challenge on Delphine Cascarino, a second-half substitute for Lyon.
Whether it was the extra space and playing against a fatigued ten men or the spark of being 1-0 down, there was a sense of waking the beast when Lyon responded with three goals in five minutes. Capitalising on a botched clearance, Dzsenifer Marozsan set Amandine Henry through on goal and she emphatically finished on the half-volley to equalise.
Reynald Pedros deserves immense credit for his substitutes, all three of whom had an impact. Cascarino drew in the foul that saw Popp dismissed. Shanice van de Sanden was immense on the right wing, her energy and guile creating three goals in the 25 minutes she played.
Crossing to Le Sommer, this one wasn’t to be denied, as Lyon took a 2-1 lead. Not long after, the game was done as another cross met Ada Hegerberg who finished to score her 15th goal of the competition, a new record.
Abily was given her dream ending to her fantastic career at Lyon, coming on for the final five minutes and getting on the scoresheet in her final appearance, after eight years at the club.
Yet again it was the unstoppable Van de Sanden who cut back to find the veteran 33-year-old, who was never going to miss such an opportunity. Placed deftly into the bottom corner, this extended her tally in the Champions League to 43 goals, two more than anybody else.
No stopping the history makers
As Lyon triumphantly lifted their third consecutive European title, you could be forgiven for sensing this is the conclusion, a culmination of all the recent good work.
That is the case for the departing legend Abily, but there is no reason that this team can’t continue their dynasty. English clubs are patently a level below while the likes of Barcelona and Atletico Madrid have a lot more developing to do if they’re to compete at such a level. German champions Wolfsburg admirably held their own for 90 minutes, but it was no surprise to see them so brutally undone.
This is a team that can continue their domination for years to come. Lucy Bronze has only been at the club for one season and will be hungry to repeat this success. Prolific goalscorer Hegerberg in only 22, and should have Abily’s goal-scoring record in her sights. There’s no reason that the likes of Van de Sanden, Bathy, Henry and Le Sommer won’t have more years at the very top.
Can Lyon continue their dynasty? Let us know in the comments below.
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