UEFA Women’s Champions League: Lyon dazzles; Arsenal, Wolfsburg fail to put quarterfinals away
UEFA’s Women’s Champions League is down to eight teams, but after today’s first legs of the competition’s quarterfinals, one team saw their fate sealed. And predictably, it was at the hands of Olympique Lyonnais.
The two-time defending tournament champions posted a 5-0 result over Malmö on Wednesday, with goals from Elodie Thomis, Lotta Schelin (twice, pictured right), Camile Abily and Louisa Necib igiving the 2011 Swedish champions an impossible task next Thursday. Lyon hasn’t conceded in five matches this competition. On Thursday, Malmo will have to score at least five times while containing an attack that’s posted 28 goals. This tie’s over.
Given Malmö's quality, it was a shame to see the Swedes drawn into Lyon’s section of the bracket. They were “the toughest side we could have faced,” according to Abily, mere lip service from a team capable of posting a 5-0 on anybody. After finishing joint-top in Sweden last year (Tyresö won the title), Malmö had reason to think they could be a bigger factor in this competition, had they avoided OL.
Advancing was always going to be a big ask, but if Malmo could contain Lyon in France, they may have at least had a prayer back in Sweden. Instead, the seven-time Swedish champions became sacrificial lamb.
This is a team that has talents like German veteran Anja Mittag, Danish attacker Ramona Bachmann, young Swedish star Elin Rubensson, and New Zealand international Ali Riley. Dutch attacker Manon Melis is back after a season at Linköping, while Lina Nilsson and Malin Levenstad are normally strong in defense. It’s a talented team that would compete near the top of the NWSL, but against a Lyon side that has elite players at almost every position, it wasn’t even close.
If Malmö were in another quadrant, they’d have a strong chance to make the semifinals. In the other half of the bracket, they could even be finalists, maybe. Instead, their hopes were extinguished after 90 minutes.
Americans in action: Megan Rapinoe didn’t start for Lyon, but she got a 24-minute run-out after coming on for Lara Dickenmann in the second half. The U.S. international was one of four Americans to making a Wednesday appearance and the only one that didn’t start. Kristin Edmonds went 87 minutes for Russian champions Rossiaynka, while both Yael Averbuch and Camille Levin went 90 minutes in Göteborg’s visit to France’s Juvisy.
Kerr debuts in Arsenal win
After one match, it’s unclear how much Arsenal has been hurt by Laura Harvey’s departure. In Shelley Kerr’s debut as Arsenal’s new coach, the Gunners posted an impressive 3-1 win over Italian champions Torres. Still, a late goal leaves the tie in doubt, with an injury to Arsenal’s most important player leaving a feeling that this two-goal may be vulnerable.
Arsenal took an early lead through Kelly Smith only to see their playmaker leave soon after with an apparent knee injury. Jordan Nobbs and Kim Little gave Arsenal a 3-0 lead, but when Sandy Mändly got Torres on the board in the 71st minute, the Italians were back in the tie. A 2-0 win next Wednesday in Sassari would send the Gunners crashing out.
“The girls were disappointed because it could have easily been avoided,” Kerr told the Guardian after the match. “But we’re more than capable of scoring away from home.”
To their credit, Arsenal managed to contain Italian legend Patrizia Panico. The 38-year-old had scored eight goals for Torres’s 13 goals in their first four games. Today, she was kept off the scoresheet.
Wolfsburg’s missed chance
Frauen-Bundesliga leaders Wolfsburg were heavy favorites going into their tie with Russian champions Rossiyanka, a status that was justified with early goals from Alexandra Popp and Martina Muller. When Rossiyanka defender Olesya Machina was sent off just before halftime, Wolfsburg were given a chance to put up the kind of number that would eliminate any doubts before next week’s trip to Russia.
That’s not what happened. One minute into the second half, and own goal by Josephine Henning made it 2-1, and despite playing 11-on-10 for nearly 50 minutes, Wolfsburg were unable to add to their lead. Rossiyanka not only stopped what could have been a blowout, they took a valuable road goal out of Germany.
So Rossiyanka essentially broke serve. That doesn’t mean they’re all of a sudden favorites. Wolfsburg still have the better side, and unless they get beaten in Russia, they’re through to their first semifinal.
But this was a chance to put this tie away. If, for whatever reason, Rossiyanka’s able to turn this tie around in Russia, Wolfsburg will be left to rue Wednesday’s second half.
Little between Juvisy, Göteborg
Juvisy is the litmus test for France’s Division Feminine. If they can do something in this competition, they’ll provide some justification for their domestic league and start to quell conventional wisdom that Lyon’s prowess is bolstered by a thin French circuit.
Conventional wisdom stood uncorrected on Wednesday. Despite an early goal conceded to Julie Machart on a bomb from outside the box, Göteborg -- a team that finished a distant fourth in last year’s Damallsvenskan and were almost eliminated in the last round by Denmark’s Fortuna Hjørring -- was able to hold out. Though their late advances never broke through for what would have been a huge away goal, they take a only 1-0 loss back to Sweden.
Though Juvisy ultimately won the game, a 1-0 vicotry in the home leg of a Champions League tie is a minimally acceptable result. They would have wanted more. Now unless they get on the scoresheet in a one-goal loss, Juvisy must get a result of some kind next week in Sweden.