Olympique Lyonnais Affirm Rising Star Status with First UEFA Women’s Champion’s League Victory

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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.

2 thoughts on “Olympique Lyonnais Affirm Rising Star Status with First UEFA Women’s Champion’s League Victory

  1. Josh

    This was a nice change of pace from WPS and USWNT matches. Both Turbine and Lyon were more fluid with their passing and movement than anything I have seen in American women’s soccer on any level.

    I took away a couple of things from this cup final: 1) The US, unfortunately, has no one like Lira Bajramaj. Her talent level at 23 is amazing and her vision and passing ability are uncanny. This was my first time seeing her play a full match and she lives up to the hype and then some. While her team did lose–and she was frustrated with the special defensive attention being payed to her– Bajramaj is clearly an elite level player that I look forward to watching in the World Cup this summer.

    2) Lyon played a 4-4-2 (or 4-4-1-1) the way that it should be played. The UEFA Champion’s League game should be the USWNT’s blueprint for this summer. Lyon made their wide players(Necib and Thomis, Dickenmann and Le Sommer) a priority when going on the attack and, with great one on one dribbling skills and pace, they stretched Turbine out in the back. The two up front, Lotta Schelin and Camille Abily — who played with a sense of freedom and creativity that I don’t remember seeing when she was in WPS — did a great job of playing off of one another with both players being goal scoring and playmaking threats, something I hope Wambach and Rodriguez could do.

    The Women’s Champion’s League Final is an indirect cause for concern about the upcoming World Cup for the US. The creative attacking acumen that Lyon and Turbine Potsdam showcased (with each team having at least 5 French or German nationals) are some of the traits that the US has struggled against recently: dangerous playmakers and teams with strong tactical fundamentals.

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  2. Shek Borkowski

    Josh,
    Too many fans of the women’s game in USA are myopic and don’t follow or really care to see what has been taking and is taking place, especially in Europe.
    North Americans are under self-hypnosis that everything is fine with our national teams, our leagues and player development. We beat Costa Rica and Jamaica and celebrate. We should be concerned.
    Watching Lyon and Potsdam one can only come to a conclusion that they are playing at a tactical and creative level which is foreign to even our best players and teams.
    The concerning fact for USA fans should be that while Lyon is leading the French revolution in Europe, even PSG, Montpellier and Juvisy can play at a level which could prove too big of a tactical challenge for all North American clubs.
    We have been suckered into believing that we are the best, other nations believe they are second so they have to work harder.

    The French are emulating and chasing Germany and they are achieving this level of sophisticated play with long term planning and strategy at the national team and club levels.

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