Olympique Lyon won its fourth Champions League title after defeating Paris Saint-Germain, 7-6, on penalties. Richard Laverty was on the scene in Cardiff, Wales, and has reaction from players and coaches, as well as match analysis.
Sarah Bouhaddi, the Unlikely Hero
On the big nights, there is always one player who becomes the hero, and sadly one who becomes the villain. On Thursday night, it was Lyon goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi who scored the winning penalty after she’d seen PSG goalkeeper Katarzyna Kiedrzynek fire wide just moments before.
The 30-year-old was making a historic sixth Champions League final appearance, along with Wendie Renard, and continued to show both sides of her game throughout the match. A brilliant first-half save to deny the mercurial Shirley Cruz denied PSG the opener, before she sliced a simple clearance behind for a corner kick in the second half.
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To her credit, Bouhaddi remained composed under such pressure to send her penalty into the corner of the net to seal yet another treble for Gérard Prêcheur’s side.
PSG Missed their Best Chance to Exploit Lyon
It’s not every day that several of Lyon’s big players put in below-par performances, but that was the case in Cardiff as Patrice Lair’s PSG failed to put their rivals to the sword. Both Cruz and later Marie-Laure Delie missed key chances as the former, along with Cristiane, continued to find space between Lyon’s midfield and defesce.
With two up top, PSG had the chance to get at Lyon, with Camille Abily, Wendie Renard, and Griedge Mbock Bathy far from their best on Thursday, it was a chance that went missing. While Cristiane was a constant menace and looked like she’d been linking up with Delie her whole career, bar the one chance when the striker got through on goal, Delie looked like she’d never played with the Brazilian before.
Cristiane’s frustration was evident with every pass Delie didn’t make and Lair will surely sit back and wonder what could have been had his side been more clinical.
Morgan Bows out as a European Champion
It was a risk starting Alex Morgan given her recent injury troubles, and it was a risk that didn’t pay off. Diego Costa and Wayne Rooney both famously came off in big European matches after being rushed back from injury, and the frustration was clear to see on Morgan’s face as she made her way around the pitch to the dugout.
Despite playing just 22 minutes, the U.S. Women’s National Team star got what she came for — the treble. Morgan will now return to the National Women’s Soccer League and the Orlando Pride with a Ligue 1, Coupe de France, and a Champions League medal under her belt but likely not in the manner she would have wished.
Speaking after the match, Morgan said, “The ball hit me in the hamstring and it felt like someone had hit me right in the back in the leg, I still don’t know how bad it is to be honest.”
While Jean-Michel Aulas may be keen to keep the marketable Morgan in France, it’s likely the last we’ll see of the 27-year-old in Europe for now.
Sabrina Delannoy Went Out with Class
Playing at the heart of a back three against a team like Lyon can’t be easy, especially knowing it’s your last game of football.
The 31-year-old announced last month that the Champions League final would be her last, and her last kick of a ball was putting her penalty away to give PSG a fighting chance of taking home the trophy.
It would have been the perfect way to bow out had Delannoy lifted the trophy for the first time but it simply wasn’t to be. However, Delannoy showed her class right until the end. When Kiedrzynek missed her penalty and collapsed to the ground, Delannoy was the player to charge from the center circle to offer words of comfort and motivation as the Polish international picked herself back up to try to stop Bouhaddi’s winner.
Delannoy was also one of the first to go to the goalkeeper once the final penalty went in, crouching on the ground next to her teammate and ushering her fellow Parisians to join her.
Hegerberg Hit by Illness
It seemed a strange, almost bizarre, decision by Prêcheur in his last game as Lyon manager to bring off one of Europe’s best players after just an hour of the match but it appears there was method to the madness.
Reports from Norway suggested Hegerberg was hit by a stomach bug the night before the match and wasn’t in perfect condition to play the whole game. The Norwegian star certainly didn’t put in her best performance, missing a huge chance shortly before her withdrawal, but she was still delighted to come out as a winner.
“It was a tough challenge,” she said. “Being on top, it’s always hard to protect that status but we knew we were capable of doing it and we showed it today.
“It’s an adventure and I try to enjoy it as much as possible, it’s a lot of hard work but it’s what we work for. Being in a group and training for something like this, reaching it is incredible.
PSG Went Off Cruz Control
While Player of the Match went to Lyon’s Dzsenifer Marozsán, there’s no doubt about who the top performer was on the pitch up until Shirley Cruz was substituted in the second half.
The 31-year-old Costa Rican was at her brilliant best, finding gaps with ease and making difficult runs from midfield into the attack, which caused endless problems for the would-be champions.
Cruz’s only regret will be the chance she missed in the first half; after making her way into the opposition box, Cruz cut in on her right foot but saw her effort palmed away by eventual match-winner Bouhaddi.
After Cruz’s withdrawal, PSG lacked the same drive from midfield and began to retreat back into their own half, giving Lyon the lion’s share of possession in doing so.
What Next for Lyon?
PSG’s fate became clear with the final kick of the ball. The Parisian side will not be in next season’s Champions League after finishing behind both Lyon and Montpellier in Ligue 1.
But what about Lyon? The giants of women’s football have now won a second treble in a row and appear almost unstoppable, even when it comes to a penalty shootout.
Speaking after the match, Lyon President Aulas described Lyon as a “very nice project to be involved in” and reaffirmed his commitment to ensure Lyon remain at the top of the women’s game.
Aulas also confirmed the U.S. market is still of interest to top teams in Europe but it’s hard to view many positions in which the current European champions are weak.
Adding his thoughts on the game overall, Aulas said, “It was our third match against PSG in quick succession and it’s very difficult to win all three, but we have a very good team with a lot of champions.
“It’s a special competition, I like the European Cup. It’s much more difficult to win on the men’s side for us but I hope next year we can win again, because we’ll be the only club to win five finals in the Champions League.”