2011-12 UEFA Women’s Champions League Semi-final Pt. 1: Changing of the Guard

Olympique Lyonnais probably didn’t need any help from Mother Nature in its bid to reach a third straight UEFA Women’s Champions League final. Still, it didn’t hurt. Lyon on Sunday collected a comprehensive 5-1 win over Turbine Potsdam at the famed Stade de Gerland. Lyon’s tournament rivals were simply swept away in the ensuing deluge.

Patrice Lair’s scintillating side handed Turbine Potsdam its heaviest defeat in tournament history. Lyon were utterly unstoppable on the night. The German powerhouses stumbled through a hellish opening 21 minutes and never recovered. Amandine Henry’s stunning sixth minute strike (.GIF) sailed past Alyssa Naeher and set the tone for the rest of the match. A picture-perfect Camille Abily free-kick and trademark Lotta Schelin strike followed soon after.

The rain-soaked pitch contributed to Turbine Potsdam’s concession of the battle in midfield. The sudden three-goal deficit saw them lose the battle of the mind.

The team’s disjointed attack only mustered three measly shots on goals. Lyon, meanwhile, produced 15. True to the hosts’ cool, calculating style, every third attempt resulted in a goal.

Possession was slightly more equitable in the second half, but Lyon refused to let up. Lara Dickenmann’s weaving run culminated in Lyon’s fourth goal of the night. They capped off the win in the 61st minute as Abily connected with Schelin for her second.

It was as if the driving rain played directly into Lyon’s hands. It did nothing to disrupt their oft-breathtaking style of play. The wet conditions even appeared to up the tempo of Lyon’s attacks. Each Lyon player seemingly had a telepathic understanding of teammates’ movements and whereabouts.  Turbine Potsdam were ultimately powerless to stop Lyon’s silk-smooth passing and, ahem, fluid movement.

Bianca Schmidt’s late header may have given Turbine Potsdam a tenuous life-line. The side hasn’t lost a Champions League match at home since 2006. They must now overcome the daunting first leg scoreline and the psychological bruising. Both could be insurmountable.

Lyon have markedly strengthened since losing the 2010 UEFA Women’s Champions League final to the Germans in penalty kicks. The tournament may only crown the best club team in Europe, but if Lyon perform like this in the final in Munich, a grander title is deserved. This is women’s football in its most highly evolved state.

 

Olympique Lyonnais may have just dashed hopes of an all-German final, but Frankfurt can at least still claim legitimate eligibility. The competition’s only three-time winners pulled out a 2-1 away victory against Arsenal. It was dramatic in a very familiar sense.

Frankfurt advanced to the semi-finals on the back of an immensely suspenseful quarter-final second leg match against Malmo. They overturned a 1-0 aggregate deficit thanks to Silvana Chojnowski, who struck the vital equalizer in her debut appearance for the side. A Kerstin Garefrekes brace put the tie on ice.

The recently retired German international came through in emphatic fashion once more.

Ane-Marie Crnogorcevic broke the extended deadlock after 64 minutes. Arsenal offered a speedy retort just five minutes later as defender Ciara Grant bested goalkeeper Desiree Schumann. A 1-1 draw seemed inevitable until Garefrekes powered Frankfurt to victory with mere seconds to spare.

The last-minute triumph was the latest peak in a thoroughly topsy-turvy season for Frankfurt and manager Sven Kahlert. The side – along with its attack – has frequently misfired this year. Frustration has stemmed from injuries to key figures, discontented players, maddeningly inconsistent form, and occasionally incomprehensible tactics.

Five straight wins suggests Kalhert’s team has finally turned the corner, however. It comes at the timeliest juncture of the season. Frankfurt currently lie fourth in the Frauen-Bundesliga, but are just three points adrift of a Champions League spot. A date in the DFB-Pokal Cup final has also lifted spirits.

A victory over Arsenal in the return leg will likely qualify the season as a success. And if history counts for anything (re-branding aside), this is the competition the club knows best.

3 thoughts on “2011-12 UEFA Women’s Champions League Semi-final Pt. 1: Changing of the Guard

  1. necron99

    One thing I noticed watching was just how many TP passes would just slow to a stop short of the intended player. It really seemed like they could not play in the rain. (not sure how that was possible.) Obviously both sides faced the same conditions, and Lyon took it in stride. I would have liked to see a more quality game in the dry though.

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  2. John

    Just wanted to give a shout out to Alex Singer. From “failed” WPS player to Aussie W League to Sweden to Womens Champions League is a real testament to her dedication to growing as a player and maintaining a self belief through lean times. On top of that she’s a really nice person as I was lucky enough tolearn in those heady Freedom days.

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  3. Rob

    Anybody know if there is a way to watch the final between Lyon and Frankfurt on tv? (or stream from the ‘net for that matter….)
    thanks!

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