Goals from Champions League record scorer Ada Hegerberg and club captain Wendie Renard earned Lyon a 2-1 win in a feisty semi-final second leg with Paris Saint Germain and set up a mouth-watering final with reigning champions Barcelona in Turin.
In front of a record crowd of 43,255 for a women’s domestic game in France, Hegerberg headed the visiting team ahead before Marie-Antoinette Katoto’s second half leveler drew PSG to within a goal of Lyon over two legs and set up a tense final half-hour . However, Renard rose highest to head home and restore Lyon’s two-goal advantage.
On a night when Barcelona suffered a shock 2-0 defeat to Wolfsburg, their first loss in 45 games, to progress to the final in Turin with a 5-3 aggregate win, 500 miles to the west Lyon were making a statement.
There has been much talk of the new Spanish queens of Europe, and it has not gone unnoticed in France.
“There was women’s football before Barcelona, and it was played here for years,” a somewhat frustrated Hegerberg had told L’Equipe wryly earlier this month. “We have to win again to regain our place in world football. We have the chance to do it this season. We have never lost against Barcelona.”
Having come from behind to earn a 3-2 home win last weekend, the seven-time European champions were decidedly unfazed by the show being put on for them by the Paris ultras who, with tifos, flares and drummers, bounced constantly behind the goal their team were attacking in the first half.
Yes, Lyon faded last season, failing to reach the Champions League final for only the third time in 10 years after winning the prestigious cup competition for five seasons in a row. However, they were a team in transition, with a high player turnover and the absence of the competition’s record goal scorer for much of the season, due to an ACL injury, hampering their campaigns domestically as well as halting their march on the continent.
It was fitting then that after a somewhat scrappy opening period it would be Hegerberg that would extend the visiting team’s lead in the tie to two, rising above Sakina Karchaoui to send a header looping over goalkeeper Barbora Votikova and into the corner. The Norwegian striker wheeled away, cupping her ear towards the Paris faithful but also, no doubt, to the Catalans.
They should have had a second when Dephine Cascarino found herself one-on-one with Votikova but the Czech keeper gathered the ball as the hesitant winger attempted to round her.
PSG’s fanbase may have mobilized, but chaos in the dressing room has impacted the team’s season and both legs of the Champions League semi-final. Midfielder Kheira Hamraoui was beaten with iron bars by masked men in November before her affair with Eric Abidal was discovered by French investigators and she was again in the headlines of the French press again ahead of the first leg two weeks ago for an altercation with teammate Sandy Baltimore in training.
As a result, the French midfielder was absent for the first leg, with 18-year-old Laurina Fazer performing well in her place and not included in the squad for the return fixture.
With Fazer struggling this time and PSG looking to close a two-goal gap, the young player was swapped at half-time for the more experienced legs of former Chelsea forward Ramona Bachmann.
There was more intensity to PSG in the second half, Sara Dabritz forced a fine save from Endler just before the hour mark. She would pull off a smart double save from Kadidiatou Diani and Baltimore shortly after but could not stop Katato from hammering in the rebound.
The threat of the home team continued to grow, but as they grew in confidence the Parisian side left space at the back. In the 83rd minute Selma Bacha’s free-kick from the right was swung towards towering Lyon centre-back Wendie Renard and the captain sent her header confidently past substitute keeper Charlotte Voll, on at half-time in place of injured Votikova, to seal victory.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism