Star-Studded 2011-12 UEFA Women’s Champions League Semi-finals Set

Olympique Lyonnais and Turbine Potsdam were fated to reprise their UEFA Women’s Champions League rivalry from the moment this year’s competition kicked off. They are the only two sides that have made it to the tournament’s finale since it was re-branded in the 2010-11 season. The regional powerhouses exchanged victories in those two years.

Destiny was fulfilled – partly, at least. The duo was set on a collision course, but this year’s clash will occur at an earlier stage. A date in the semi-finals awaits.

Turbine Potsdam’s convincing 3-0 win over Rossiyanka Thursday capped off the quarter-finals stage of the 2012 UEFA Women’s Champions League. A regal quartet of semi-finalists are left. The phase will be contested by four former continental champions (Arsenal and Frankfurt were crowned champions in the erstwhile UEFA Women’s Cup and will face off in the other tie).

Lyon returns to the familiar setting of the latter rounds with considerable pomp. The holders breezed past Brondby with successive 4-0 score lines. Eugenie Le Sommer remains voracious for goals. The 22-year-old’s padded her goal tally – now eight; a tournament best – with a brace in the away leg against the Danish side.

The magisterial French champions haven’t conceded a single goal in the competition since November 4, 2010 – thirteen matches, sixteen months, and counting.

Which team holds the distinction of being the last club to score against Lyon? Rossiyanka, in a 6-1 defeat in last season’s Round of 16.

The Russian side tasted defeat this year as well. Turbine Potsdam upped its aggregate lead from the first leg to 5-0. Despite a determined start, three defensive gaffes ultimately damned Rossiyanka. On two occasions Yuki Nagasoto was in the right place in the right time to punish the home side. Of note, the match featured six former WPS players – a tournament record.

Turbine Potsdam’s victory may have been more comprehensive than that of German rivals’ FFC Frankfurt, but it was significantly less suspenseful. Embattled Frankfurt coach Sven Kahlert partially silenced his critics with a gutsy substitution that paid dividends.

Frankfurt were facing a 1-0 deficit against Swedish champions Malmö heading into the home leg. In recent weeks, the side has made more encouraging moves off the pitch than on it with the acquisitions of stellar defenders Bianca Schmidt and Babett Peter from Turbine Potsdam. The coups will undoubtedly redouble Frankfurt’s efforts to remain in the Champions League. That’s an unlikely prospect this season, however, as the club is currently five points off a European place. A 1-0 loss to a middling Hamburg side last weekend certainly didn’t help matters.

With pressure mounting and the prospect of a third consecutive quarter-finals elimination looming, Frankfurt delivered. Massively.

Call it their Fedrico Macheda moment. Rewind back to the 2008-09 English Premier League season when Manchester United were trailing Liverpool (yes, Liverpool) at the top of the table towards the tail-end of the season. Hoping to avoid a third consecutive league defeat at home against Aston Villa, Sir Alex Ferguson called upon a fresh-faced Italian to help break the 2-2 deadlock. Cristiano Ronaldo had just scored the vital equalizer, but was about to be upstaged by someone of far less eminence. The 17-year-old Macheda struck gold on his debut – in the 90th minute, no less – guiding United to a 3-2 win and ultimately, the league title.

Frankfurt followed an eerily similar script on Wednesday. In the 66th minute Kerstin Garefrekes gave the club a lifeline with a header that leveled the aggregate score 1-1. Kahlert then rolled the dice, inserting Silvana Chojnowski in the 80th minute whilst leaving Jessica Landström on the bench. The 17-year-old has had a precocious start on Germany’s youth teams but has been plagued by back injuries. As fate would have it, Chojnowski knocked in the go-ahead goal…on her senior team debut…in the 89th minute. Garefrekes added another goal to confirm the victory and send Frankfurt through to the semi-finals in remarkably dramatic fashion.

Malmö’s Swedish compatriots Göteborg shared a similarly disappointing fate. The tournament debutantes defeated Arsenal with a late goal on Wednesday. It wasn’t enough to overcome the 3-1 deficit established in the first leg, however. Arsenal’s comfortable victory last week gave them considerable breathing room in what was a largely uneventful affair. There was a total of three shots on frame between both sides. Göteborg can take heart, though, as they’re guaranteed a place in next year’s Champions League by dint of finishing second in the 2011 Damallsvenskan season.

 

 

And all-time Champions League/UEFA Cup win percentages, if interested [W-D-L]:

Göteborg – 83% – 5-0-1 (first time participants)

Turbine Potsdam – 79% – 36-4-6

Lyon – 74% – 31-7-4

Umea – 69% – 45-10-10…did not qualify for this year’s tournament

Frankfurt – 68.9% – 40-8-10

Rossiyanka – 65% – 22-4-8

Malmö – 62% – 8-1-4

Arsenal – 56% – 35-12-15

Brondby – 54% – 28-5-19

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