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A perfect goal and perfect striker ruin Barcelona's perfect season, win Champions League for Lyon

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Barcelona had glided closer to perfection than any women's soccer team ever. It soared to a treble in 2021, then orchestrated an encore that, as of Saturday afternoon, had seemed even more untouchable. Barca had scored 159 goals and conceded 11 en route to a 30-0-0 record in Spain. It had discarded Champions League contenders in front of 90,000-plus fans who'd come to both expect and appreciate dominance.

It was the super-team of all super-teams until, on Saturday in Turin, in the Champions League final, it ran head-first into the super-club of all super-clubs, and stumbled.

Lyon, winner of seven UEFA Women's Champions League titles since 2011, blasted perfection into a million glittering pieces, and won its eighth continental title, 3-1 over the reigning champs.

The French side confronted perfection with perfection of its own. Midfielder Amandine Henry sent a 35-yard screamer into the top corner to claim a sixth-minute lead.

Norwegian striker Ada Hegerberg, the competition's top all-time scorer, nodded home a second goal, then exquisitely assisted a third. American attacker Catarina Macario finished nonchalantly at the back post.

The Barca machine, which had rarely yielded single goals, much less multiple goals, looked stunned.

Barcelona pulled a goal back before halftime. It threw on superstars, and even a former FIFA world player of the year, off the bench in search of a second-half comeback. Patricia Guijarro struck the crossbar from midfield. A reshuffled attacking line probed the many avenues that had, throughout a storybook season, led to over 200 goals, and record-breaking crowds, and uninterrupted success.

But there was, all along, one club capable of interruption it.

Barca was a recent phenomenon, an ultra-modern story riding and catalyzing a wave of women's soccer growth. Lyon, on the other hand, had blazed this trail, realizing earlier than most that investing in its women's team could pay limitless dividends.

A decade ago, when Barcelona hadn't even professionalized its women's team, and when sexist attitudes toward women's sports were rife, Lyon was already assembling super-teams. It completed its own perfect league season in 2011, the same year it claimed its first European title. It followed that up with a treble of its own in 2012.

Ever since, it has boasted the most expensive and most talented women's soccer team on the planet. Although 2020-21 had been rocky, and somehow trophy-less, that team hadn't just disappeared. Heberberg, the inaugural women's Ballon d'Or winner, returned from an ACL tear to top form. American midfielders Lindsey Horan and Macario arrived to supplement a veteran French core that knew, perhaps more so than anybody in soccer, how to sustain success.

Barca didn't so much wilt on the the biggest stage in women's club soccer, under the pressure of perfection, in front of tens of thousands of fans who'd traveled from Spain and France. It simply succumbed to a more experienced, hardened machine that remains the gold standard in the sport.

TURIN, ITALY - MAY 21: Catarina Macario of Olympique Lyon celebrates after scoring her team's third goal with teammates during the UEFA Women's Champions League final match between FC Barcelona and Olympique Lyon at Juventus Stadium on May 21, 2022 in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Harry Langer/vi/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)
Lyon players celebrate Catarina Macario's goal, their third in Saturday's Champions League final. (Photo by Harry Langer/vi/DeFodi Images via Getty Images)
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