We look back at a memorable ten days in which European women's football made a welcome return to action.
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Lyon lifted their seventh UEFA Women’s Champions League trophy in San Sebastián on Sunday evening in a final which will live long in the memory.
In part, because of the unforgettable way in which Lyon continued their domination of the competition, but also because the game was played in front of an empty stadium against the backdrop of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
It was the last match of UEFA’s 2019/20 club season, which has been concluded in August with over 40 matches played across the Women’s Champions League, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League and UEFA Youth League, with ‘final eight’ mini-tournaments used to crown the champions.
Sunday’s final was originally scheduled to take place in Vienna on 23 May, but with European football placed on hold in mid-March, UEFA has had to condense a year’s worth of planning into just a couple of months to ensure UEFA’s 2019/20 club competitions could reach a conclusion in August.
The competitions’ unique format, involving one-off knockout ties, ensured plenty of drama on-the-pitch, but UEFA’s return to play would not be possible without the continued dedication of all key workers on the frontlines of the pandemic.
“I am delighted that our competitions are back, but we must not forget the people whose dedication and personal sacrifices have given us the opportunity to start playing again,” said UEFA president Aleksander Čeferin.
Saying ‘Thank You’ has carried special meaning for players, officials and staff representing all of the teams taking part this month. In a reflection of football’s strong community ties, many clubs launched their own initiatives during local lockdowns to support hospitals, charities, schools and care homes.
“Football’s gratitude is not limited to words. This unprecedented period has taught us that football really can be an important vehicle for good,” added the UEFA president.
Mr. Čeferin was in northern Spain to hand the trophy over to Lyon captain Wendie Renard following their triumph, a fifth consecutive win. They had taken a 2-0 lead into the break thanks to goal from Eugenie Le Sommer and Saki Kumagai, and despite an Alex Popp header for Wolfsburg, secured the win thanks to a late strike from Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir.
The Anoeta Stadium’s 39,500 seats may have been predominantly empty, but that did nothing to mute the Lyon celebrations. This was the final game in a 2019/20 season that will live long in the memory.