Lyon Extend European Dominance Over Wolfsburg In UWCL Final

Jean-Luc Vasseur, Olympique Lyon’s head coach since last summer, said that his squad was already a “precision machine” when he took over. Over the past two weeks, however, this machine had looked in need of some fine-tuning as injuries and suspensions of key players caused it to sputter.

VfL Wolfsburg, brimming with confidence, had hoped to take advantage and send-off their star Pernille Harder with a European title. Unfortunately, Lyon found another gear and dominated die Wölfinnen in the Champions League final by the 3–1 scoreline, winning a record seventh final and fifth in a row. Icelandic midfielder Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir, Lyon’s summer signing from Wolfsburg, scored their third goal, while German number ten Dzsenifer Marozsán started and played 87 minutes.

Wolfsburg have a fearsome front four led by Harder, the first foreigner to win the German Footballer of the Year award, but Bundesliga Fanatic had highlighted their suspect defense and inexperienced goalkeeping as potential concerns. Die Wölfinnen had got through the quarter- and semi-finals largely unscathed, but Barcelona had already posed serious questions in this regard. Wolfsburg head coach Stephan Lerch then made some questionable line-up decisions that arguably unsettled his defense before the final even started. Kathy Hendrich and Joelle Wedermeyer, who had started the previous two games, were dropped to the bench, and Anna Blässe got her first start at right-back. Sara Doorsoun, who had been playing right-back, slid in centrally and pushed Dominique Janssen out left in place of Wedermeyer.

Lyon, on the other hand, went as expected, with Eugenie Le Sommer starting in place of the suspended Nikita Parris and new signing Sakina Karchaoui winning the left-back spot against the departing Alex Greenwood.

Lerch’s reshuffling backfired almost immediately, as Lyon simply ran riot in the first half. Playing with an aggressive high defensive line and pressing with incredible energy, Lyon did not let Wolfsburg get into any sort of rhythm. Defensive mistakes also forced Wolfsburg to continuously chase the game from behind. Delphine Cascarino especially tormented on the right wing, dribbling past Wolfsburg defenders with ease. In the 25th minute, Cascarino dribbled between the center-backs and cut back to Le Sommer, whose shot was blocked by Friederike Abt. Doorsoun and Goeßling were caught ball-watching, however, and Le Sommer fired home her own rebound for the first goal.

Wolfsburg’s defensive nightmare continued, as a challenge forced Doorsoun off the pitch in the 39th minute and a switch to a lopsided back three. It did not slow Cascarino, however. Just before half-time, Cascarino again got to the end line and this time sent a looping ball into the penalty area. Wolfsburg could not clear and eventually the ball landed at Saki Kumagai’s feet, who one-timed it into the lower right corner.

Wolfsburg needed an energetic response after the break, but it was Lyon who continued to threaten. Le Sommer had two more opportunities to score a second goal, but it was Alex Popp who pulled Wolfsburg within one against the run of play. In one of the rare instances in this game where Wolfsburg’s attacking stars linked up, Fridolina Rolfö got down the left and sent in a cross that Sarah Bouhaddi spilled to Ewa Pajor inside the six-yard box. Pajor crossed for Popp to head over from close range.

After Popp’s goal, die Wölfinnen began to get more joy attacking as players tired and the game began to open up. There were few clear-cut opportunities, however. As Lyon began to make defensive substitutions, it was a familiar name who broke Wolfsburg’s hearts. Sara Björk, who left Wolfsburg after her contract expired in June to sign for Lyon and who would be guaranteed a winner’s medal regardless of the game’s outcome, made sure it was her current team who came out on top by back-heeling in from a corner.

As Lyon players celebrated their unbelievable dominance, Wolfsburg now enter an important season where they are at a crossroads. Harder will reportedly sign for Chelsea on Tuesday, leaving die Wölfinnen without their biggest star before the Frauen-Bundesliga season kicks off on Friday. Although they remain the absolute top team in Germany, the gap between them and Lyon seems to have grown, and English clubs like Chelsea and Manchester City are catching on. And despite his perplexing coaching decisions tonight, Lerch’s impending departure in 2021 means that Wolfsburg must get his replacement right and increase their financial investment to match the English and Spanish newcomers in order to scale the European top again.

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!

1 Comment

  1. Doorsoun played at LB not CB. Lerch really screwed his team up. Coaches in woso are disaster. Hendrich excelled as CB vs Barca (most chances came via Jansen/Wedemeyer side) but she was replaced by not fully fit Goessling (who just needs to retire already). And it’s Goessling who did nothing to stop Le Sommer from scoring that bounce. Jansen failed completely on her side against Cascarino. Doorsoun was also uncomfortable at LB. Abt was 3d goalie. Why? You have polish goalie (one of the best). Last year it was not fully recovered Schoult that cost Wolfsburg’s game in 2d leg. Now it’s Abt. These little details cost Wolfsburg game. Their midfield was also weakest point. Popp is pretty bad as 6. Kellerman already said that Wolfsburg can’t compete with Chelsea, Man utd, Barcelona and Lyon so 1/4 would be satisfactory for them in next 5 years.

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  1. Frauen-Bundesliga Club Season Previews: Part 1 – Bundesliga Fanatic
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