CHRISTIAN RADNEDGE in LONDON: Was the outcome of the Women’s Champions League final at Chelsea an omen for the men’s version at Wembley? Delighted winners were not favourites Lyon but outsiders Wolfsburg. Does that presage success on Saturday for Borussia Dortmund rather than Bayern Munich?
A 74th-minute penalty by Martina Muller clinched a remarkable treble for a Wolfsburg team who had already won the German league and cup, powered by the sponsorship of home-town Volkswagen.
Holders Lyon dominated the match but were denied by their own wasteful finishing and the superbly secure goalkeeping of Alisa Vetterlein.
On Chelsea’s home ground Wolfsburg followed the example of the London club’s men who have won two European titles in the past year – against Bayern Munich and Benfica – by winning matches in which they were second best for long spells.
The French club were the defending champions and were pursuing a third successive Champions League trophy. For much of the match that appeared to be how it would end up against a German club making their debut in the competition, never mind the final in front of a 19,278 crowd.
The French champions dominated first-half possession and Camille Abily, player of the match in the previous two finals, should have put them ahead on the half hour. Instead she skied high over the bar with the goal at her mercy.
Vetterlein had to stay composed to save a flurry of long range efforts from Lyon before half-time with Wolfsburg managing only one serious counter when Muller saw a snap-shot fly narrowly wide just before the break.
United States winger Megan Rapinoe came off for Lyon at half-time after a less than inspiring half. She was replaced by Lara Dickenmann who had an immediate impact on the left wing, causing all sorts of problems for Wolfsburg with her pace and crossing ability.
But, for all their speed and slick passing, Lyon let themselves down with their inability to finish and were duly punished in the 74th minute.
A cross from Luisa Wensing dropped off the head of central defender Laura Georges on to her right arm and Romanian referee Teodora Albon immediately awarded a penalty. Muller duly thumped home her sixth – and most important – goal of the competition.
Victory was remarkable not only for Wolfsburg in general but, in particular, for striker Conny Pohlers who became the first player to lift the trophy with three different sides after winning with Potsdam in 2005 and with Frankfurt in 2008.
Lyon came into the final having just won their seventh successive French league title with 129 goals to the credit in 21 games. It was just their bad luck that they could not extend this tally on a 22nd occasion when it would have mattered the most.
Coach Patrice Lair conceded that his team had been below their best. He had not been worried at half time but he acknowledged that, the longer the game went on, the more fragile their position became. They had tried everything tactically to win the game but all in vain.
“For two a half years I have been a god,” said Lair. “Now, I suppose, I am an idiot.”
No such regrets for Wolfsburg coach Ralf Kellermann and player of the match Lena Goessling.
“We showed an absolute tactical masterclass,” said Kellermann. “It’s very important to have the title back in Germany.
“We had a lot of players injured or ill. So we wanted to hold back and go on the counter attack. There was a phase before half-time when Lyon came at us with wave after wave of attacks but, in the end, our plan worked.”
“I can’t take it all in,” said midfielder Goessling. “Everything that’s happened over the last few weeks has been a dream.”
Other Germans will be echoing similar sentiments come Saturday night.