Barcelona finally beats Lyon and retains Women's Champions League crown

BILBAO, Spain (AP) — With a triumph over the rival it could never beat, Barcelona made it clear who's in charge of women’s soccer.

Barcelona ended its losing streak against the game's most successful club on Saturday, beating Lyon 2-0 to clinch its third Women’s Champions League title in four years.

World player of the year Aitana Bonmatí scored in the second half and former world player Alexia Putellas added a second deep in stoppage time for defending champion Barcelona in front of a record crowd of 50,827 for a final.

“This team has made history. With each passing year we just want more," said Bonmatí, the player of the match. “The first time we have beaten Lyon, and to do it like this in a final, winning back-to-back Champions League titles ... this team deserved it.”

Barcelona lost the two previous finals it played against the French side and all four of its previous matches against Lyon, which was seeking a record-extending ninth European trophy.

"The reality is that Barcelona has taken two consecutive titles and their dynamic is extremely positive, not only regarding results but also about the quality of the game and the amount of support that they have,” Lyon coach Sonia Bompastor said. “The other clubs, not only Lyon, have to be motivated by that and try to find ways to beat that.”

Victory gave Barcelona a quadruple of trophies: Champions league, Spanish league, Copa de la Reina and the Spanish Super Cup.

“This is what we worked so hard for,” said Putellas, who struggled to recover her prominent role since returning from a serious leg injury and recently signed a contract extension through 2026. “We are super happy to have won these four titles.”

Barcelona added to its Women's Champions League titles in 2021 and 2023 in its fourth consecutive final.

“We knew we needed to be a club that made history,” Barcelona defender Lucy Bronze said. “It’s not easy, it’s hard to win it once, but to do it back to back, Lyon showed how difficult it is. This team’s finally done that. We go down in history as one of the best teams in Europe.”

The women’s triumph comes amid continued turmoil in the men’s team, which hasn’t succeeded in Europe recently and saw player great Xavi Hernández leave as the coach on Saturday. Club president Joan Laporta, who sacked Xavi, celebrated the title with the women at the medal ceremony.

Former Barcelona player Lionel Messi congratulated the women's side on Instagram.

Their success follows Spain’s triumphs last year in the Women’s World Cup and the inaugural Women’s Nations League.

It felt like a home match for Barcelona as its fans occupied most of the seats at San Mames Stadium in Basque Country.

It was an even match from the start, with neither team creating many significant scoring opportunities. Lyon hit the woodwork and goalkeeper Christiane Endler made easy saves at the other end.

Lyon was able to keep Bonmatí in check during most of the match, but she broke through with the opening goal with a nice run into the area before firing a left-footed shot past Endler in the 63rd minute. The ball deflected off the leg of Lyon defender Vanessa Gilles.

Putellas came off the bench in stoppage time and scored a few moments later. She celebrated by taking off her jersey and running toward the fans.

Bompastor, the first woman to win the Women’s Champions League as a player and coach, was trying to become the first woman to win two titles as a coach.

Lyon was playing in its 11th final in 15 seasons, and was seeking its first title since it beat Barcelona in the 2022 final. The French club also defeated Barcelona in the 2019 final. It won five titles in a row from 2016-20.

“I’m very emotional. No one likes to lose a final. You’re here to win it," Lyon defender Danielle van de Donk said. "It’s a shame you don’t create enough. Barcelona overtook the game, and they kind of deserved the win. I’m still very proud of my team. We gave it our all. We have some regrets, of course, but hopefully next year we’re back again.”

Lyon star striker Ada Hegerberg, who had been listed as doubtful because of a muscle injury, only got into the final in the 81st.

Barcelona became the third club with three Women’s Champions League titles, behind the eight of Lyon and the four of Eintracht Frankfurt.

Barcelona coach Jonatan Giráldez was in his final match before joining U.S. club Washington Spirit.

“When I decided in December to leave at the end of the season, people thought the team’s performances might dip,” he said. "We showed that wasn’t the case today. An amazing performance, and a deserved victory.”

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AP soccer: https://apnews.com/hub/soccer

05/25/2024 20:13 -0400

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