Many aren’t familiar with the English version of the now famous Champions League hymn, but one line simply reads, “These are the Champions,” and on Thursday night it was Olympique Lyon once again who became the first team to defend their European title for a second time.
With the game at deadlock, penalties were to decide the fate of France’s giants and it was Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper Katarzyna Kiedryznek who missed, meaning her opposition goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi could step up and score the winner for Gérard Prêcheur’s side
In a first half of few big chances, Patrice Lair’s PSG side were happy to sit back and soak up endless Lyon pressure, although it was the Parisian side who created the best openings.
Half chances came and went before captain Shirley Cruz made a determined run through the middle of the park, cutting inside onto her right foot, only to be denied by a strong Bouhaddi hand.
Lyon did have their moments as they looked to break through a stubborn and solid PSG back three: Ada Hegerberg was unable to smuggle home after Eugénie Le Sommer’s cross hadn’t been dealt with — it was an unusually quiet night for the BBC World Footballer of the Year.
It was also a bad night for the U.S. Women’s National Team’s Alex Morgan — the striker making her first appearance after a hamstring injury but only lasted 22 minutes before the problem reoccurred and was replaced by Elodie Thomis.
The game became more open after the break as PSG began to find gaps in the Lyon defense and the pure brilliance of Cruz and the magic of Cristiane caused issues for the defending champions.
And it was Cruz who exploited the space between Lyon’s midfield and defense with 20 minutes to go when she found Marie-Laure Delie, but the French striker could only roll her effort inches wide.
Delie’s miss came not long after Lyon’s best chance of the match, Hegerberg was denied from close range by Kiedrzynek in goal before the striker somehow blazed the rebound wide with the goal at her mercy.
It was to be Hegerberg’s last big chance as she was substituted on the hour for Pauline Bremer as Prêcheur switched Le Sommer to the No. 9 role in the hope of snatching a late winner.
It was a match of high attrition; several players went into Bibiana Steinhaus’s book for rough challenges as pressure and nerves told late in the game. Lyon were looking to complete the double-treble, while PSG were chasing their first success in Europe and revenge over their great rivals.
Despite the quality on show, the deadlock couldn’t be broken in 90 minutes and it was PSG who looked the nervier side moving into extra time. Having controlled possession at times and creating some of the clearest chances, Lair’s side reverted back into their own half as Lyon began once again to control the occasion — and indeed the match.
Yet, still chances were few and far between and legs became tired: Formiga for the Parisians playing the whole 120 minutes at the age of 39. Dzsenifer Marozsán came closest, firing straight at Kiedrzynek from a free kick before curling an effort that was always rising over the crossbar.
The second half was more of the same, the game always looking likely to head to penalties, a repeat of May’s French Cup final in which the holders came out on top.
After misses from both Le Sommer and Grace Geyoro, the shootout went on until goalkeeper Kiedrynzek missed, allowing Sarah Bouhaddi, the Lyon goalkeeper, to step up and score the winner and secure a second European treble in a row for Lyon.
With its fourth Champions League title, Lyon equal FFC Frankfurt’s record of four European titles and final appearances (6). Lyon also wins back-to-back Champions League titles for the second time (2011, 2012 and 2016, 2017).
USWNT forward Alex Morgan joins Ali Krieger and Gina Lewandowski as the only Americans to win a Champions League title. Krieger and Lewandowski won the title with Frankfurt in 2007 when the competition was called the UEFA Women’s Cup.