Wolfsburg shocks Rapinoe, Lyon in Women's Champions League final
LONDON -- Three thoughts on Wolfsburg's 1-0 victory over Lyon in the UEFA Women's Champions League final Thursday ...
• This was a major, major upset. Not only had Lyon won the last two Champions League finals, but it had its best team ever here, one that had posted an astonishing record this season with 35 wins and one tie in 36 games. (Lyon had outscored its opponents 223-10 entering the final.) But it became clear early on that Lyon wouldn't run away against Wolfsburg, which created early chances even though Lyon had the better of the play for much of the first half. (The U.S.' Megan Rapinoe came close with a header only to have it cleared off the line.) But Lyon's Laura Georges, a Boston College alum, was whistled for a handball midway through the second half, and Wolfsburg's Martina Müller made no mistake on the spot kick, powering it past Lyon keeper Sarah Bouhaddi for the game-winner.
• Rapinoe wasn't allowed to have much of an impact. The U.S. midfield star had scored for Lyon in the Champions League quarterfinals and semifinals, but she didn't see much of the ball for large parts of her 45 minutes on the field. Rapinoe had told me that she was asked to stay on the left flank more by Lyon coach Patrice Lair than she's used to doing in her role with the U.S. team, and Lyon attacked down the right side more than down Rapinoe's left side while she was on the field. Rapinoe's corner kick was turned by Amandine Henry into one of Lyon's best chances of the first half, a header that went narrowly wide of the goal. Lair ended up removing Rapinoe at halftime, and the American didn't exactly look thrilled about it on the bench.
• Women's soccer continues growing in Europe. The women's game made a big leap forward the last two summers as the 2011 World Cup in Germany and 2012 Olympic tournament in Great Britain drew record crowds for women's soccer in those countries. Now the women's club game is growing, too, in Europe, and that's a good sign. UEFA made the smart call last year of holding the women's final in the same city as the men's final and attracted a big crowd in Munich for last year's final. Despite not having an English team this year, the game here still drew a healthy attendance, filling the lower bowl of Stamford Bridge. Those here ended up seeing a good game -- and a giant upset.