·3 June 2023
·3 June 2023
A sensational second-half comeback propelled Barcelona to a 3-2 victory over Wolfsburg in the women's Champions League final on Saturday afternoon.
Barcelona captain Alexia Putellas described her side's 3-0 humbling in last year's Champions League final against Lyon as 'traumatic'. A sense of PTSD must have begun to gather over the skipper while watching Barcelona fall 2-0 down in the first half from the bench.
Any dark cloud was emphatically evaporated by a brace from Patri Guijarro within five minutes of the restart. Fridolina Rolfo - who eliminated Barcelona with Wolfsburg in the semi-finals three years ago - completed a stirring turnaround in the 70th minute.
For the third year in a row, the Champions League final erupted in a flurry of early activity. After benefitting from a first-minute opener against Chelsea in 2021, Barcelona fell behind against Lyon in last year's European showpiece to Amandine Henry's wonder strike after six minutes. Ewa Pajor needed less than 200 seconds to blast Wolfsburg ahead at a packed Philips Stadion on Saturday.
This season's top scorer in the competition bullied Lucy Bronze off the ball on the edge of the box before battering her ninth Champions League goal of the season beyond Sandra Panos' dive.
Barcelona quickly recovered their collective composure, penning Wolfsburg back and flooding down the flanks as Irene Paredes and Caroline Graham Hansen squandered two clear chances from inside the six-yard box.
Wolfsburg, by contrast, were brutally efficient. In just their second meaningful attack of the first half, Pajor turned provider, picking out her skipper Alexandra Popp. Darting into a disorganised penalty area Popp doubled Wolfsburg's lead with a thunderous header.
On multiple occasions throughout the first half, Barcelona had funnelled their attacks down the left flank, finding room for a low ball into the box which rolled harmlessly across the area. Guijarro made sure there was an extra set of blue and red stripes in the box after the break.
Graham Hansen and Aitana Bonmati took turns tormenting Wolfsburg's beleaguered left-back Felicitas Rauch before picking out Guijarro's late bursts, with two unerring finishes separated by as many minutes.
If Barcelona meticulously manoeuvred their way back into the contest, Wolfsburg gifted the Spanish champions the lead. Lynn Wilms hurriedly launched a clearance into her teammate Kathrin Hendrich. Mariona Caldentey snaffled up the loose ball, teeing up Rolfo for a sweep into the top corner against her former employers.
Wolfsburg caused a late flicker of nerves with a volley of long throws but the Catalans held on to win their second European title in three years, giving their raucous travelling fans the victory Putellas said the team 'owe' them after last year's galling loss.
Mariona Caldentey started up front for Barcelona / ANP/GettyImages
GK: Sandra Panos - 5/10 - Got plenty of glove to Pajor's pile driver but not enough to keep it out.
RB: Lucy Bronze - 4/10 - On her return from injury, the rust was certainly still there.
CB: Irene Paredes - 6/10 - Missed a glorious first-half chance from point-blank range but was more assured in her own box.
CB: Mapi Leon - 7/10 - Too easily shrugged off for Popp's header but showed off her scalpel of a left foot with a glut of superb passes.
LB: Fridolina Rolfo - 8/10 - Repeatedly chugged forward and rolled the ball across the box, creating chances that her teammates didn't convert. Eventually took matters into her own hands.
CM: Aitana Bonmati - 7/10 - A little forest nymph tip-toeing between the towers of green.
CM: Keira Walsh - 5/10 - Not able to dictate play with her usual monopoly of possession, letting the final pass her by.
CM: Patri Guijarro - 9/10 - Kept on the fringes in the first half but certainly put her stamp on the contest by bursting into the box after the break.
RW: Caroline Graham Hansen - 8/10 - Quickly established that she had the beating of Rauch and didn't let the fullback forget it.
ST: Mariona Caldentey - 5/10 - Roaming around the final third in search of space that was easier to find in the second half.
LW: Salma Paralluelo - 5/10 - Skirted around the periphery of the contest despite swapping positions with Caldentey.
Geyse (70' for Paralluelo) - 7/10 - Immediately caught up to the breathless pace of the contest.
Ana Maria Crnogorcevic (79' for Graham Hansen) - 5/10
Claudi Pina (79' for Caldentey) - 5/10
Alexia Putellas (90' for Bonmati) - N/A
Ingrid Syrstad Engen (90' for Walsh) - N/A
Subs not used: Coll (GK), Vilamala, Lopez, Fernandez, Codina, Torrejon, Rabano
Jonatan Giraldez - 7/10 - Made a crucial tweak during the interval - giving Guijarro more licence to push forward - to ensure that Barcelona's penetration was rewarded.
Wolfsburg icons Alexandra Popp (left) and Svenja Huth celebrate the latter's goal / Lars Baron/GettyImages
GK: Merle Frohms - 5/10 - Unable to do much with what flew past her.
RB: Lynn Wilms - 3/10 - Panicked at just the wrong moment, inadvertently playing a starring role in Barcelona's third goal.
CB: Kathrin Hendrich - 6/10 - Tasked with sticking touch-tight to Caldentey even when she went on a wander, fulfilling the brief physically.
CB: Dominique Janssen - 6/10 - Sweeping behind her centre-back partner but with the same no-nonsense approach.
LB: Felicitas Rauch - 3/10 - Left in knots when lured into a one-on-one with Graham Hansen - although, few would fare much better.
CM: Lena Oberdorf - 8/10 - Outnumbered but not outworked with a monstrous midfield display.
CM: Jill Roord - 5/10 - Stifled by the defensive responsibility of her reserved role.
AM: Svenja Huth - 4/10 - Drifted through the showpiece without much consequence.
RW: Sveindis Jonsdottir - 5/10 - A willing defender - dropping into a back five when Rolfo pushed forward - but not a very effective one.
ST: Alexandra Popp - 7/10 - Bronze warned that Popp was "the one that shows up in the big games and the big moments". She did not disappoint.
LW: Ewa Pajor - 8/10 - Right from kick-off, Pajor was an electric nuisance buzzing around the Barcelona defence.
Lena Lattwein (71' for Roord) - 5/10
Pauline Bremer (84' for Pajor) - N/A
Marina Hegering (84' for Wilms) - N/A
Subs not used: Weiss (GK), Kiedrzynek (GK), Brand, Wassmuth, Demann, Wolter, Blomqvist, Wedemeyer, Agrez
Tommy Stroot - 4/10 - Fortunate to see his side rush into a two-goal lead despite giving up a raft of chances which eventually cost them.
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