UWCL: Wolfsburg See Off Barcelona to Reach Final

In an entertaining semi-final between the German and the Spanish champions, Barcelona controlled the game but left their finishing boots at home, while Wolfsburg rode their luck to advance to their fifth Champions League final. Swedish international Fridolina Rolfö stabbed in the only goal in the 58th minute after Barcelona had blocked an audacious bicycle kick inside the box from Ewa Pajor. With the narrow win, Wolfsburg will now face the winner between Lyon and Paris Saint-Germain in the final on Sunday, August 30, in San Sebastián.

Wolfsburg head coach Stephan Lerch made only one change to his starting line-up, bringing in Dominique Janssen in place of Lena Goeßling; Friederike Abt kept her starting spot in goal. For Barcelona, head coach Lluís Cortés shockingly left 2017 FIFA Player of the Year Lieke Martens on the bench, but Norwegian winger Caroline Graham Hansen started against her former club.

Showing Wolfsburg what they have missed, Hansen started brightly on the right and immediately got a shot off in the first minute, foreshadowing the possession dominance Barcelona would enjoy for large stretches during the game. Playing the “Barça way,” Spanish internationals Jenni Hermoso and Alexia Putellas were able to string passes together. In the seventh minute, Putellas combined with Nigerian striker Asisat Oshoala on a give-and-go, with the latter hitting the side netting.

In the game’s first of several controversial moments, Barcelona should have had a penalty in the 13th minute. Putellas was able to steal the ball from midfield, and the subsequent shot from Oshoala forced Wolfsburg to concede a corner kick. Barcelona’s corner hit Kathy Hendrich’s arm and almost deflected in.

Feeling aggrieved from the missed call, Barcelona enjoyed some sustained possession but were unable to generate clear-cut chances. The tide began to turn, with Wolfsburg relying on Rolfö to direct play down the left, with some nice connections between her and Pajor. Joelle Wedermeyer also advanced high from her left-back position and almost scored a long-range effort through traffic. Abt almost had a howler, however, as she came outside of the box to receive the ball and almost got dispossessed by Oshoala. A few minutes later, Hansen threaded a pass to Oshoala, leading to a collision between Abt and Hendrich.

Hansen continued to be the best player on the pitch, generating dangerous opportunities for Barcelona whenever she received the ball and dribbled down the right. In the 40th minute, she showed off some skills by bringing down a ball from Mariona Caldentey with her back-heel in the box, turned and fired off a shot that was inches wide left. But before half-time, it was Wolfsburg who came closest to scoring, with Svenja Huth’s header off of a Rolfö cross saved by Sandra Paños.

Barcelona’s dominance of possession continued in the second half, but they also continued to squander decent chances. In the 50th minute, Hansen went behind Wolfsburg’s defense in a one-on-one situation against Abt. Instead of shooting, Hansen opted to square the ball toward Oshoala’s direction, however, allowing Abt to intercept the ball.

Unfortunately for Barcelona, their profligacy in front of goal was about to be punished. In the 57th minute, Ingrid Engen played a field-switching ball from the midfield to Huth on the right wing. Huth crossed into the six-yard box, and Pajor’s bicycle kick from the deflection was blocked only as far as Rolfö, who took advantage of the chaos and stabbed in from close range. Just as in the quarter-final, Huth’s service from the right continued to generate goal-scoring opportunities for Wolfsburg.

Now with the lead, Wolfsburg could afford to sit back and absorb pressure, while Barcelona threw numbers forward in search of an equalizer. In the 60th minute, an Oshoala header was tipped over by Abt but the referee gave a goal kick instead, prompting some demonstrative reactions from Barcelona players. Two minutes later, Abt failed to catch a ball under pressure and Doorsoun blocked the ensuing shot for a corner. Caldentey then somehow missed the goal from a cutback in the 64th minute.

Barcelona brought on a number of attacking substitutions after Caldentey’s miss, including Spanish starlet Patri Guijarro and Martens—the latter inexplicably only in the 85th minute—but they just continued to squander chances provided by Hansen and Marta Torrejón. Hermoso missed a cutback almost identical to Caldentey’s in the 73rd minute, and in the 83rd Kheira Hamraoui opted for the pass rather than shooting. A Hansen low cross into the goal area led to the second legitimate penalty appeal for Barcelona, as Hermoso was toppled over and could not get a clean shot off in the 79th minute. Unfortunately for Barcelona, their poor finishing—combined with Wolfsburg’s defensive game management—saw them unable to return to the final for the second year running.

About Sean Wang 16 Articles
I became a diehard women's soccer fan after catching the epic 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup Final between Japan and the US at a dive bar in Jordan, Montana. A Berliner since 2017, I can be frequently found shouting in front of the computer while watching OL Reign play in the NWSL, and catching Frauen-Bundesliga actions in Potsdam and on local television. Come talk "Quatsch" with me on Twitter!