Japan star Saki Kumagai’s strike proved crucial as Lyon continued their reign as Europe’s dominant women’s club side on Sunday, beating Wolfsburg 3-1 in the Champions League final to win the trophy for the fifth year running.
Kumagai scored after Eugenie Le Sommer had handed the French outfit the lead in San Sebastian, giving Lyon a 2-0 half-time advantage and leaving Wolfsburg with too much to do even if Alexandra Popp did pull one back for the Germans in the second half.
Icelandic midfielder Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir’s late effort made sure of the victory for Lyon, whose fifth consecutive Champions League crown is also their seventh overall, comfortably a record.
A fifth straight title sees them equal the feat achieved by the Real Madrid men’s team between 1956 and 1960, in the early days of the European Cup.
All of Lyon’s seven titles have come in the last decade and this latest triumph confirms their status as the finest club team around even as rivals around Europe step up their investment in the women’s game.
Jean-Luc Vasseur’s team edged out Bayern Munich 2-1 in the quarter-finals at the ‘Final Eight’ in Spain’s Basque Country, played out behind closed doors because of the coronavirus pandemic.
They then claimed a narrow 1-0 win in the semi-finals over domestic rivals Paris Saint-Germain, the team they beat to claim a 14th successive French title earlier this year and defeated on penalties in the French Cup final.
This victory, against a Wolfsburg side who themselves claimed a German domestic double and were unbeaten in 40 games coming into the final, showcased the depth of their all-star squad.
Lyon were missing four of their biggest stars, with France duo Griedge Mbock and Amandine Henry injured and Norwegian striker Ada Hegerberg — the 2018 Ballon d’Or winner — not fully fit. England forward Nikita Parris was suspended.
But Lyon’s long-serving president Jean-Michel Aulas continues to be rewarded for his heavy investment in a women’s team, despite the prize money for winning the Champions League being a mere 450,000 euros ($535,000), a tiny fraction of that on offer in the men’s competition.
Here, despite the absences, Lyon were still able to call upon a host of French internationals and foreign stars like Kumagai, Germany’s Dzsenifer Marozsan and England right-back Lucy Bronze.
– Unbeaten in 65 games –
They are now unbeaten in 65 matches stretching back more than two years, and this is also the third time in five editions in which Lyon have beaten Wolfsburg in the final, leaving the Germans still searching for a third Champions League crown to go with their titles in 2013 and 2014.
They defeated OL in 2013, but the French side have now overcome the Germans en route to winning each of their five straight titles.
Previous finals between these sides have always been close affairs, although on this occasion the holders started strongly and were rewarded with the opening goal in the 25th minute.
Without Hegerberg or Parris, it was Le Sommer who led the attack. And when a move down the right ended with Delphine Cascarino cutting the ball back for Le Sommer, she pounced to convert the rebound after her first shot was blocked by goalkeeper Friederike Abt.
The second goal came in the 44th minute. Ingrid Engen stopped Amel Majri shooting but only succeeded in setting up Kumagai, who let fly with a terrific left-foot strike from 23 yards.
There was hope for Wolfsburg when they pulled one back just before the hour, Ewa Pajor setting up Popp to head in from close range.
But they could not find an equaliser and instead Lyon scored again in the 88th minute.
When a corner was not properly cleared, Le Sommer went for goal and her wayward shot was deflected in by Gunnarsdottir, who was on the losing side with Wolfsburg in 2018 but is this time a Champions League winner.