Olympique Lyonnais goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi is hoping this season's UEFA Champions League final against 1. FFC Turbine Potsdam will not go to penalties, despite being described as "a mixture of Mickaël Landreau and Fabien Barthez" after saving two spot kicks in last year's showpiece.
At the end of 120 tense, goalless minutes in Getafe a year ago, Bouhaddi took the French club to the brink of their first European crown by keeping out Potsdam's first two penalties in the shoot-out, taken by captain Jennifer Zietz and striker Anja Mittag. OL, however, have been eliminated from the French Cup three times on penalties in recent seasons and they got the jitters again in Spain. In a gripping climax, the German title-winners clinched a dramatic victory 7-6 after Amandine Henry, Isabel Herlovsen and Élodie Thomis had all failed from 12 yards.
Bouhaddi will be ready to show off her penalty-saving skills once more if need be when the same sides meet again at Craven Cottage but insists she would much prefer the contest to be settled beforehand. "I think we have something of a psychological barrier to break when it comes to penalties," the 24-year-old said. "I hope it won't be the same story again. I really want us to finish the job off before it goes to a shoot-out."
The omens are at least promising for Bouhaddi. Les Fenottes have been prolific on their way to the final, scoring 28 goals in eight games, and are likely to pose more of an attacking threat with Swedish striker Lotta Schelin – who missed last season's game through injury – available. Bouhaddi is confident they can break the Potsdam resistance at last, saying: "It'll probably be a different story. We're more attacking this year and we also have Lotta up front. It could go well for us if we play our natural game."
Schelin and her fellow attackers will, however, need to find a way past Potsdam's talented shot-stopper Anna Felicitas Sarholz, a player that Bouhaddi admires. "She's young but already has a strong and imposing character," observed the French international. Not that Lyon coach Patrice Lair would change his custodian for anyone. "Sarah is a great character," Lair enthused. "She's very motivated and shows a lot of spirit. I appreciate her a lot and think she is by far the best goalkeeper in France. I'm happy to have her in my team."
Bouhaddi has provided a host of inspirational displays this term, although her stunning fingertip save to deny Jordan Nobbs in the opening moments of the semi-final second leg against Arsenal LFC stands out a key moment in OL's season. Her agility and presence have even prompted comparisons with a couple of illustrious compatriots. "She has a similar style to [LOSC Lille Métropole goalkeeper] Mickaël Landreau and the spirit of [France legend] Fabien Barthez," observed Lyon's goalkeeping coach Daniel Jaccard.
The former Toulouse FC and Juvisy FC No1 has promised to "fight for every ball" on 26 May. If her team-mates show similar determination, Lyon may well avoid that dreaded shoot-out.
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