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Olympique Lyonnais scored a goal in each half to secure victory in the 2011 UEFA Women’s Champions League final against defending champions Turbine Potsdam.
Lyon’s offensive firepower proved to be too much for a Turbine Potsdam side looking to repeat as UEFA Women’s Champions League titleholders after managing to see off Lyon in penalty kicks last year. Wendie Renard scored in the 29th minute after she followed through on a blocked shot by Turbine Potsdam goalkeeper Anna Felicitas Sarholz. Lyon continued to press from all angles, and Sarholz prevented Lyon from doubling the lead just moments later.
Elodie Thomis caused Turbine Potsdam’s outside backs trouble on the wings while Camille Abily created a handful of chances and Lotta Schelin came close to scoring on several occassions. The two-time Frauen-Bundesliga champions finally folded under the mounting pressure as Lara Dickenmann sealed victory in the 84th minute as she raced into the box unmarked and unleashed a shot from 10 yards out.
Turbine Potsdam’s chances were deflated pre-match when Yuki Nagasota was ruled out to a knee injury sustained in Japan’s friendly against the United States last Wednesday. Nagasota scored the second most goals in the 2010-2011 Champions League campaign with nine.
Lyon seemed intent on capturing European glory after years of promise and preparation. A sixth consecutive domestic title is also guaranteed as the team remains undefeated in France’s Feminine Division with one match day left.
Determined club chairman Jean-Michel Aulas spent lavishly on the side in the offseason. Camille Abily and Sonia Bompastor were lured away from WPS while the club purchased promising talent Eugenie Le Sommer from Stade Briochin. Aulas’ investments paid dividends as Lyon look destined to continue to be a preeminent force both in France and, alas, on the European continent, too.
It’s been a long time coming. Shek Borkowski told AWK in October that Lyon were the only team capable of breaking Germany’s dominance in European women’s club football. Indeed, this is the first time a non-German side has won the UEFA Women’s Champions League (which was formerly known as the UEFA Women’s Cup from 2001 to 2008) since 2007 when Arsenal defeated Umea.
Turbine Potsdam’s loss reflects a possible rearrangement of power in the European landscape. After a three-year lull, FFC Frankfurt staged a grand reentrance this season and held their East German rivals close throughout the entire Frauen-Bundesliga campaign.
Frankfurt are clearly aiming to return to the top of their perch. The club currently has the most European titles with three and are set to enter the UEFA Women’s Champions League next season at the expense of 2009 tournament champions Duisburg.
The team has strengthened this offseason with the addition of Turbine Potsdam’s star striker Lira Bajramaj, who found the club’s big money offer too tempting to pass up. The former powerhouses also look poised to become fully professional in the near future – a potential first in Europe.
Frankfurt’s aspirations and spending power can only be only matched, if not eclipsed by that of Lyon. Olymique Lyonnais’ top class professionalism and uninhibited ambition have become trademarks of the club.
Thursday’s win also gives the club its first Champions League trophy in history, as Lyon’s men’s side has come close in recent years but historically falter at the quarterfinals stage.
The club’s men’s division has become known for selling off valuable players for huge sums of money. Michael Essien, Karim Benzema, and Flourent Malouda have all garnered Lyon massive profits in transfers. Lyon’s women’s side adheres to an entirely different model, however, as the club has methodically assembled a well-paid French-centric, quasi-all-star team of sorts.
Lyon’s women’s team has been known to attract fan support as well, as a record crowd of 20,123 packed the famed Stade de Gerland to witness Lyon defeat Arsenal Ladies in the first leg of the semifinals this past April.
While Lyon’s rapid ascendancy is unlikely to let up anytime soon, the team could very well see a change in its continental competition.
Click here for The Guardian’s excellent report of the match.