Barcelona blitz in UEFA Women’s Champions League final

Having wrapped up the Spanish league title with eight games to spare, Barcelona is now the only franchise whose men’s and women’s sides have both won the top European tournament.

Barcelona wrapped up the biggest winning margin in a final since the Women’s Champions League era began 20 years ago.   -  AP

Two years after losing 4-1 to Lyon in the final, Barcelona produced an almost identical performance against Chelsea at the Gamla Ullev in Gothenburg, Sweden, to win the UEFA Women’s Champions League for the first time in its history.

Caroline Graham Hansen scored Barcelona’s fourth and final goal in the 36th minute, and that’s how the score read at full-time. The performance was no surprise from Barcelona, which didn’t drop a single point in the Spanish league while scoring 136 goals and conceding just five in 27 games this season.

Coming into the game full of confidence after winning the Women’s Super League title a week before, Chelsea was on the back foot from the very beginning as Barca’s rapid passing and possession-based game proved too much for the Londoners.

ALSO READ - USWNT announces squad for pre-Olympic matches

Barcelona got off to the best possible start when Lieke Martens hit the crossbar and Fran Kirby’s attempted clearance bounced off Chelsea midfielder Melanie Leupolz before spinning into the net in the opening minute.

Chelsea struggled to deal with Barca’s punishing press and it went 2-0 behind in the 14th minute when Leupolz was penalised for fouling Jennifer Hermoso in the box, and Alexia Putellas made no mistake from the spot.

Chelsea did its best to get forward, but it found its path blocked by a defence that has conceded only five goals in 26 Primera Division games this season.

Aitana Bonmati made it 3-0 seven minutes later, rounding off a superb passing move from a Barca throw-in with a confident left-foot finish, prompting an emergency meeting of the Chelsea players on the edge of their box as the Catalans celebrated.

That discussion failed to resolve Chelsea’s defensive woes as Lieke Martens skipped past Niamh Charles on the left wing and centred for Norwegian winger Caroline Graham Hansen to steer home a fourth in the 36th minute.

Chelsea’s switch to a more direct style produced an improvement in the second half, but it wasn’t enough to stop the Catalan club from coasting to victory, with the Barca bench exploding in celebration as the final whistle sounded to confirm the side’s status as Europe’s best club side.

Having wrapped up the Spanish league title with eight games to spare, Barcelona is now the only franchise whose men’s and women’s sides have both won the top European tournament.

Having trailed by four goals in its first final two years ago — going on to lose 4-1 to Lyon — Barcelona wrapped up the biggest winning margin in a final since the Women’s Champions League era began 20 years ago. The result also ended Lyon’s reign of dominance in the competition, the French side having been knocked out by Paris Saint-Germain in the quarterfinals after winning five consecutive titles between 2016 and 2020.

Caroline Graham Hansen scored Barcelona’s fourth and final goal in the 36th minute, and that’s how the score read at full-time.   -  Getty Images

 

The focus for Chelsea manager Emma Hayes’ side will now turn to trying to capture another domestic trophy as it bids to add the FA Cup to its Women’s Super League and League Cup titles.

“It’s obviously disappointing. We didn’t have the start to the game that we wanted and I think in these types of games against these opponents, you can’t concede sloppy goals… They had four chances in the first half and put four chances in the back of the net,” Chelsea defender Millie Bright told BT Sport after the game.

Barcelona’s Oshoala makes history

Asisat Oshoala became the first Nigerian as well as the first African to win the Women’s Champions League. The 26-year-old striker was introduced for Spanish midfielder Jennifer Hermoso in the 71st minute as Barcelona craved more goals. She added a fifth goal in the closing stages of the game, although her effort was chalked off for her being in an offside position.

ALSO READ - 2023 Women's World Cup in Aus, NZ to begin on July 20

Before the final, the four-time African Women’s Player of the Year said Barca had learned from its defeat to Lyon in the 2019 final: “Now, we have the experience of how European football is and also how a top game like this is played. I think we’re going to be better with our tactics this year, how we go out and play and everything. For us, it was good. We played in the final in 2019, we lost and then we picked up corrections from there. Come May 16, against Chelsea, I don’t think we’re going to make the same mistakes again, because we already learned from the past. We are a better team now than we were two years ago,” she said then.

Chelsea players make vow to Abramovich

Roman Abramovich, the Russian-Israeli billionaire owner of Chelsea, visited the team dressing room following the defeat. “Our owner came in to see us and all the girls were very quick to say we’d be back here,” said Chelsea manager Hayes. “We’ll work hard on the training ground to make sure we do that. I’m just gutted we didn’t have the chance to make a game of it. We’ve had a wonderful season but, at times, we were a bit naive. I was gutted that, after 40 minutes we were 4-0 down because, for me as a coach, it then became impossible. It’s a difficult place to be. I did my best, I tried to change a few things just to give us a little bit of momentum, but it wasn’t to be. It will be difficult for the players, when they reflect on it.”