Women’s Champions League: How Lyon bullied Barcelona to reclaim European crown
It is not often a team who have won five of the previous six Women’s Champions League finals are considered underdogs. But Lyon were against Barcelona – and they proved why it was foolish to underestimate them.
Barcelona, comfortable winners in 2021, raced to the final in impressive style and were hoping to defend their crown in Turin, while also getting revenge for their 4-1 defeat to Lyon three years ago.
But the French giants – record holders in the competition – had other ideas.
It was like masters against students in Italy as Lyon showed why they have dominated European football for the past decade by winning their eighth title in ruthless fashion.
England goalkeeper Siobhan Chamberlain told ITV 4: “Lyon did exactly what Barcelona don’t like. They pressed them high up the pitch and they didn’t let them get into their rhythm.
“They stood up and they showed Barcelona exactly what they were made of. We saw some of the interviews pre-match. They said, ‘look, we’re champions, we’re the people who deserve to be on the trophy, we’re the ones who deserve to lift it at the end of the game’.
“They lived up to the hype. Sometimes you can talk the talk, but you’ve got to walk the walk as well – and that’s exactly what they did.”
Lyon were 3-0 up within 33 minutes as they blew Barcelona away.
This was a Spanish side who had lost just once all season – that being the second leg of their semi-final with Wolfsburg after they had taken a 5-1 lead in the first leg.
Amandine Henry set the tone with a stunning long-range strike to put Lyon 1-0 up within six minutes.
“Against Chelsea in last year’s final Barcelona really went at them and that game was over in the first half. This time it was whether they could live up to a team coming out and playing against them – the answer was no,” added former England forward Rachel Yankey on ITV4.
“Barcelona will go away feeling really disappointed because the one thing you want to do when you get to a final is perform and I don’t think they did. I think, mentally, the pressure got to them.”
Former England defender Anita Asante added: “Lyon brought the intensity early on in the game and they said, ‘we’re here to play a final’. Barcelona weren’t really able to match up to that both physically and mentally.”
The final was also teed up as a battle between two of football’s greatest players – Lyon’s Ada Hegerberg and Barcelona’s Alexia Putellas.
It was inevitable then that both would score, but it was Hegerberg – the inaugural winner of the Women’s Ballon d’Or – who ultimately came out on top as she scored Lyon’s second and set up a third for Catarina Macario.
The Norway striker had haunted Barcelona before, when she scored a hat-trick in that 4-1 final success in 2019, before suffering a serious knee injury that would keep her out for more than 20 months.
“We let the football talk. It’s part of the game, it’s completely normal to talk about Barcelona. They were the last winners,” said Hegerberg, 26.
“Barcelona are a beautiful team, but we didn’t doubt our qualities. We always stayed very focused on how to attack this game. We knew there would be spaces and we took our chances very well.”
Putellas’ goal just before half-time threatened a comeback but the Barcelona captain could not inspire her team to victory as she so often has before.
Lyon’s experience shone through and their leaders bullied Barcelona with game management – running down the clock at any opportunity, thwarting Barcelona’s attempts to gain rhythm and frustrating the crowd.
In the end, it was the familiar sight of Lyon captain Wendie Renard lifting the trophy for a sixth time.
“Lyon have an unbelievable spirit, strength and mentality. They were almost written off because everyone was talking about Barcelona,” said ex-Arsenal striker Ian Wright.
“Lyon got on with it when everyone was calling them the underdogs. They’ve won it so many times and they’re being called underdogs… They used that.”
Former England striker Lianne Sanderson added: “It’s one thing winning it a few times but winning over long periods is hard to do. These Lyon players deserve it.”
Barcelona coach Jonatan Giraldez said the defeat to Lyon “hurt”, but this one perhaps stung more than usual.
“Every defeat hurts, but we knew this was a very important one as it was the chance to change history in our favour.”
Hegerberg added: “Football is fresh, it’s all about the next move.”