Barcelona 3 Wolfsburg 2
England star Lucy Bronze says the world saw a new side to Barcelona as they dug deep and fought back from 2-0 down against Wolfsburg to win a memorable Women’s Champions League final, as she and her England team-mate Keira Walsh rejoiced in lifting the European title in their first season with the Catalan club.
Right-back Bronze, who became the first Englishwoman to win the Women’s Champions League with two different clubs, as she won the trophy for the fourth time in her career, had keyhole surgery on her knee in April and said: “I’m always hungry to win trophies, so there’s no better stage that you want to get to. Suffering the surgery like I did, my focus was completely on making it back for the final, because it was the reason that I came to the club.”
After trailing 2-0 at half-time and looking on course for a shock defeat, Barcelona fought back emphatically with two goals in two minutes from Spain’s Patricia Guijarro shortly after the restart, and then Sweden’s Fridolina Rolfo capitalised on some poor Wolfsburg defending to complete the dramatic turnaround with 20 minutes remaining.
Bronze, who joked that she and Walsh didn’t really know the words to all the Spanish celebration songs in the dressing room, added: “We always believed that we could come back and I think it showed a different side of Barcelona, that we’ve never seen before, where we had the mentality to come back, there are not many teams that are capable of doing.”
Deep-lying midfielder Walsh, who signed for Barcelona for a world-record women’s transfer fee last September from Manchester City, added: “It hasn’t quite sunk in yet, it’s hard to put into words. I’m just really happy. The way we did it made it a little bit more special.”
Initially, though, it could have all been so different. Lionesses right-back Bronze had started the game in slightly nightmarish fashion because she was at fault for Wolfsburg’s opening goal, allowing Ewa Pajor to steal possession from her just outside the box and the Germany forward rifled home. Germany’s Alexandra Popp doubled the lead with a textbook header.
On recovering from her mistake, Bronze added: “This is my first game after the surgery, it’s not really an excuse but, yeah, the pitch was a little bit drier than I expected, but I mean, everybody makes mistakes, and it was at the beginning of the game and I’m thankful that I play in a team that’s as good as it is, that we can still go on and win games like this. You just have to get on with it, these things happen.”
England head coach Sarina Wiegman was also there to watch the final, in her native country, and brought the trophy onto the pitch before kick-off, at what was the first sold-out final in this competition’s history.
Barcelona’s fans heavily outnumbered their German counterparts in Eindhoven’s lively city centre ahead of the game and inside the stadium, and after their heartbreak of losing in Turin a year ago, they must have feared another day to forget when they fell 2-0 down but their team rallied admirably.
For two-time European champions Wolfsburg, who knocked out Arsenal after extra-time in their semi-final second leg at Emirates Stadium on 1 May, and who finished two points behind German domestic champions Bayern Munich in the Frauen Bundesliga, despite 19 wins from their 22 league games this term, their campaign ended in crushing disappointment.
The result also ensured that Women’s Super League champions Chelsea are guaranteed a spot in the group stages of next season’s Women’s Champions League. The English league winners would have been required to enter at the second phase of qualifying in September had Wolfsburg lifted the title, because of England’s fourth-placed position in Uefa’s ranking coefficient, but because Barcelona receive an automatic group-stage place as reigning champions as well as for being league winners in Spain, that spot now passes to Emma Hayes’ side.
Barcelona (4-3-3): Panos 6; Bronze 5, Paredes 6, Leon 6, Rolfo 7; Bonmati 6 (Putellas 6, 90), Walsh 7 (Engen, 89), Guijarro 8; Graham Hansen 7 (Crnogorcevic 6, 79), Paralluelo 6 (Geyse 6, 70), Caldentey 6 (Pina 6, 79) Subs not used: Coll (gk), Codina Panedas, Fernandez, Torrejon, Putellas, Vilamala, Rabano, Syrstad Engen, Vicky Lope
Yellow cards: Bonmati, Paredes
Wolfsburg (4-2-1-3): Frohms (gk) 5; Wilms 6 (Hegering 6, 84), Hendrich 5, Janssen 6, Rauch 6; Oberdorf 7, Roord 6 (Lattwein 6, 72); Huth 7; Jonsdottir 7, Pajor 7 (Bremer 5, 84), Popp 7
Subs not used: Weiss (gk), Kiedrzynek (gk), Agrez, Demann, Wolter, Blomqvist, Wedemeyer, Wassmuth, Brand
Yellow cards: Hendrich, Popp, Jonsdottir
Referee: Cheryl Foster (Wales)