Lyon’s right-back Lucy Bronze described becoming the first England player to win the Champions League in its current format as “the best thing I’ve done to date.”
Goals from Amandine Henry, Eugénie Le Sommer, Ada Hegerberg and Camille Abily handed Lyon their third consecutive Champions League title after they had fallen behind in an action-packed extra time.
After a dull 90 minutes with the score at 0-0, the game sprung to life in style when a deflected strike from the Wolfsburg forward Pernille Harder, massively against the run of play, was followed by Henry’s top corner strike from a wonderful Hegerberg chip. In between Harder’s goal and the leveller, Wolfsburg had gone down to ten as Alexandra Popp picked up a second yellow for a rash challenge on Delphine Cascarino. The fresh legs of Shanice van de Sanden then sealed the tie for the French side as she three times raced clear on the right, first providing the assist for Le Sommer, then for an unmarked Hegerberg – her record-breaking 15th Champions League goal in a single campaign – and finally for Abily, on her final appearance for Lyon at 33.
Lyon had dominated in normal time and had felt aggrieved when a Le Sommer header seemed to cross the line, only to be waved away. “Watching their goal go in was heartbreaking, and having just had a goal disallowed that definitely crossed the line was a very up and down situation,” said Bronze.
“We push for more and more in these big games. Lyon and Wolfsburg are trendsetting and pushing women’s football. We do as much as we can as players on the pitch, but we need the referee and goalline technology to be up to standard as well,” she added.
Bronze was full of praise for the Lyon substitutes, particularly the former Liverpool player Van de Sanden, whose pace was just too much for the exhausted legs of the German side. “Shanice was a game changer in the end, she got three out of four assists, came on and made the difference with the pace she’s got getting in behind. Both teams were tiring and she’s so energetic, works so hard and won us the game. She deserves every credit.”
This was the third meeting of the two sides in a Champions League final. Both previous encounters were tight affairs; in 2013 only Martina Müller’s penalty for Wolfsburg at Stamford Bridge could separate the European giants, and in 2016 Lyon won on penalties.
The first chance of this match fell to Lyon after five minutes, after Griedge M’Bock Bathy was brought down in the middle of the park. A swung-in free-kick fell to Henry but her shot bounced clear off a Wolfsburg body. Minutes later, up the other end, Popp’s ball across the front of Sarah Bouhaddi’s goal was teasingly out of reach of the incoming Ewa Pajor.
The tree-lined Valeriy Lobanovskyi Stadium was close to empty shortly before the whistle, perhaps thanks to heavy security. However, 35 minutes into the match the little 17,000-seater was heaving, mainly with locals.
Lyon edged the first 45 with the tricky winger Amel Majri and the left-back Selma Bacha causing plenty of trouble for Anna Blässe on the left.
However, the half had failed to light up, half chances and misplaced passes the order of the day. After 15 minutes Lyon began to up the pressure a little, and a Dzsenifer Marozsán corner was cleared as far as Bronze, whose volley went wide.
With the Wolfsburg defence resolute and well organised, Lyon were forced to try their luck from distance, a swerving shot from the left-hand corner of the box by a frustrated Marozsán comfortably collected by Almuth Schult. As the half drew to a close, Harder, the heartbeat of the Wolfsburg attack, was increasingly forced to go deeper to get the ball.
With Wolfsburg struggling to make anything happen, their manager, Stephan Lerch, swapped the winger Caroline Graham Hansen for Tessa Wullaert at the break to try to shake things up. An uneventful opening to the second half was brought to an abrupt halt when Sara Bjork Gunnarsdóttir crumpled to the ground, on her own, clearly in pain – the exertions of the German cup final win after extra time and penalties at the weekend starting to show in the legs of the players.
Lyon spent much of the second period camped in the opposition half and they were denied a breakthrough in the 69th minute when a corner from the left found Henry, who flicked the ball goalwards. Replays seemed to show the ball crossed the line, but Noelle Maritz cleared and the referee waved away appeals. Lyon kept pushing for what would surely be a winner. Cascarino, on for the bright Bacha, sent in a low cross but Le Sommer’s shot was nicely saved by Schult.
Wolfsburg came out fighting in extra time, as Harder raced forward and her deflected strike from outside the box gave the German side a surprising lead. It was then that the game exploded. Popp received her second yellow before Hegerberg’s lovely chip found the onrushing Henry, who put the ball into the top of the net. Moments later the holders took the lead as Van de Sanden raced down the right and her cross was met by Le Sommer to poke past the keeper.
With Wolfsburg forced to push forward they were left even more exposed, and again, Van de Sanden found an unmarked Hegerberg to put the game out of an exhausted Wolfsburg’s reach in the first half of added time. Then Abily put a lovely curling strike beyond Schult with two minutes to play, giving her an emotional send-off as she rounded off Lyon’s record fifth European title, one she said was “amazing, I couldn’t hope for a better end. I came in and scored and we won, it was a perfect night for me.”