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Friday, May 18, 2012


No French men's club has won the Champions League since its inception (and Olympique Marseille remain the only French team to have won the competition in either of its guises, only for UEFA to later strip them of the title following a match-fixing scandal), but the Olympique Lyonnais women's team showed their male counterparts how it's done by winning the Women's Champions League for the second time in a row in Munich on 17/5/12.

In the final, played before an estimated attendance of more than 50000 at the Olympiastadion, OL (officially known as Olympique Lyonnais Féminin) were up against three-time winners of the WCL's predecessor, the UEFA Women's Cup, German side 1.FFC Frankfurt. This was FFC Frankfurt's fifth final, having won the competition in 2002 - the year of its inception - 2005 and 2008. They lost the 2004 version. Olympique, meanwhile, were appearing in their third final in a row, having lost in 2010 to another German team, Turbine Potsdam, before defeating them on penalties at Craven Cottage last year.

This year's final was the first football match to be held at the Olympiastadion since both Munich clubs, Bayern and 1860, moved out and relocated to the newly-built Allianz Arena in 2005. Many football fans hold the opinion that the Olympiastadion was somewhat devoid of athmosphere, though there was no sign of that on Thursday last.

Both squads featured a smattering of players who had taken part in last year's Women's World Cup; OL's Wendie Renard, Corine Franco, Eugénie Le Sommer, Louisa Necib, Sabrina Viguier, captain Sonia Bompastor and substitutes Céline Deville and Laura Georges were all included in the French squad, while team-mates Lotta Schelin (Sweden) and Japan's Ami Otaki also featured at the tournament, which was held in Germany. Otaki was in the team which won the women's World Cup in nail-biting circumstances alongside one of her opponents on Thursday night, Saki Kumagai.

FFC Frankfurt were also well-represented at the last WWC, with current squad members Melanie Behringer, captain Sandra Smisek, Saskia Bartusiak and Kerstin Garefrekes all involved for Germany. (Injured team captain Nadine Angerer was ever-present in goal, while fellow absentee Ali Krieger also took part for the United States.) Sara Thunebro and Jessica Landström, meanwhile, were part of the Swedish team which finished third.

An impressive line-up of personalities, allied with Olympique Lyon's record in the competition of 7 wins and 1 draw, 37 goals scored and just 1 against (not to mention having won the Coupe de France the Sunday before the final - how's that for a confidence boost?), and a FFC Frankfurt side hungry to return to the top of the European tree, boded well for an exciting game of football, one worthy of a continental final. However, as so often happens, it didn't quite turn out that way, though there was plenty of industry and skill enough to be seen.

Early pressure from Frankfurt almost saw Bompastor slice a corner into her own net in the fifth minute, while Sarah Bouhaddi in the Olympique goal looked nervy on a couple of occasions. A penalty claim by Olympique for a handball by FFC's American full-back Gina Lewandowski was waved away by Swedish referee Jenny Palmqvist, though she did point to the spot in the 15th minute.

Olympique's speedy Costa Rican left-winger Shirley Cruz Traña was already proving to be a thorn in the side of the German side, and she was alert to Behringer dawdling on the ball, won it and then got hauled down from behind by her opponent, leaving Palmqvist no option but to award a penalty, which Eugénie Le Sommer converted in style, curling the spot-kick deftly past Desirée Schumann in the Frankfurt goal.

Schumann's evening was not to get much better; ten minutes after the goal, she flapped at a Renard header from a Bompastor free-kick, missed and was no doubt relieved to see the ball bounce of the post and to eventual safety. However, she was culpable for Olympique's second goal, which arrived in the 28th minute. 

A long ball meant for OL's Louisa Necib was intercepted by Schumann who headed it clear only to see her clearance fall to Camille Abily, who deftly lofted it over the stranded goalkeeper from 30 yards and into the empty net.

From then on in it was a case of chasing shadows for FFC, though Bangerter, who had earlier sent a lob just wide of the goal and was trying to make up for the mistake which led to OL's earlier penalty, missed a golden opportunity to bring her side back into the reckoning just before half-time when she was put through in a one-on-one with Bouhaddi, but shot straight at the goalkeeper, who saved with her legs.  

The second-half saw several chances for Olympique come and go, with Schelin, who was looking sharp, getting behind the defence but her shot was well saved by Schumann, who saved a header from the Swede not long after. Le Sommer was guilty of blazing a volley high and wide when clear, and Abily came off second-best in a one-on-one with Schumann, who, apart from the mistake which led to OL's second goal, was having a good game and ably dealing with allcomers.

Abily almost made the game safe with ten minutes to go when she knocked her free-kick, taken from distance, off the top of the Frankfurt crossbar with Schumann scrambling. The French side took their foot off the pedal somewhat in the latter stages, and FFC tried to take advantage, but Bartusiak's back-header just into injury-time was saved in a less than comfortable fashion by Bouhaddi. Garrefrekes, who, along with the hapless Behringer, was probably the pick of the bunch for Frankfurt, missed the chance to net a late, late consolation goal when she slipped just as she was about to slot the ball home, and instead sent it skidding a yard past the Lyonnais' goal.

There was hardly time for Bouhaddi to take the goal-kick before Palmqvist, who had had an extremely good and trouble-free game, blew for time and the Olympique Lyon staff converged on the pitch to form a happy, bouncing melée while their FFC Frankfurt opponents slumped to the ground one by one, crestfallen, with many in tears.

Olympique were certainly worthy winners, but the match was a scrappy one at times, and not very many players actually stood out. FFC's early pressure didn't pay off, and they didn't really take the game by the scruff of the neck as many observers thought they would have done. Cruz impressed for Olympique, as did Bompastor, Schelin and Renard; Garefrekes and Behringer stood out for Frankfurt.

Olympique Lyon now join Swedish side Umeå IK as being the only two teams in the history of the Women's UEFA Cup/UEFA Women's Champions League how retain the trophy, the team from the northern reaches of Sweden wining it in 2003 and 2004. Can OL go one better than Umeå, who were runners-up in 2002, 2007 and 2008 but now appear to be as far away from their golden era as before it began, and go on to dominate European women's club competition for the forseeable future, or will their star eventually burn itself out? And what of FFC Frankfurt, who are outside the top two in the Bundesliga and have but a slim chance of qualifying for next season's competition? What does the future hold for them? Who can say?

Certainly, the immediate future appears rosy for the French side, with a cup double now under their belts, a hatful of international players in the squad, and the resources of the men's section also at their disposal. It would be a brave man - or woman - who would bet against them being there or thereabouts once again at the business end of next season.



26 Sarah BOUHADDI, 3 Wendie RENARD, 6 Amandine HENRY, 8 Lotta SCHELIN (22 Ami OTAKI, 88), 9 Eugénie LE SOMMER (14 ROSANA, 65), 10 Louisa NECIB (21 Lara DICKENMANN), 11 Shirley CRUZ TRAÑA, 17 Corine FRANCO, 18 Sonia BOMPASTOR, 20 Sabrina VIGUIER, 23 Camille ABILY


1 Céline DEVILLE, 4 Makan TRAORÉ, 5 Laura GEORGES, 15 Aurélie KACI


26 Desirée SCHUMANN, 2 Gina LEWANDOWSKI, 4 Saki KUMAGAI, 5 Sara THUNEBRO, 7 Melanie BEHRINGER, 10 Dzsenifer MAROZSÁN, 12 Meike WEBER (23 Ria PERCIVAL, 61), 15 Svenja HUTH (21 Ana Maria CRNOGORCEVIC), 18 Kerstin GAREFREKES, 25 Saskia BARTUSIAK, 28 Sandra SMISEK (11 Jessica LANDSTRÖM, 83)


30 Anne-Kathrine KREMER, 6 Silvana CHOJNOWSKI, 20 Jasmin HERBERT


HELP BILLY WALK APPEAL: The Help Billy Appeal, ongoing since last year, aims to raise enough money to enable a young 3-year-old boy, Billy Douglas, who comes from a village just outside Belfast and who suffers from spastic diaplegia, to undergo an urgent and potentially life-changing operation. Should you wish to know more, Billy's plight has been highlighted in a recent entry here on Pat's Football Blog:

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