Lyon won a third UEFA Women's Champions League title in 2015/16, but what was looking like a straightforward final win against Wolfsburg turned into an epic.
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Lyon won a third UEFA Women's Champions League, but what was looking like a straightforward final win against Wolfsburg turned into an epic.
Wolfsburg had ended Lyon's previous two-year reign as champions in 2013 but Ada Hegerberg's early goal in Reggio Emilia seemed to be enough to reverse the scoreline from that previous final. However with two minutes left Alex Popp equalised and Wolfsburg even led the penalty shoot-out before the trophy returned to France.
A record 56 clubs from 47 nations had begun the competition, including three from Germany, as 2015 winners Frankfurt had finished behind both Bayern München and Wolfsburg in the league. Luxembourg had their first entry since 2011/12 while Chelsea, Atlético Madrid and Ferencváros made women's debuts.
Like the only team to enter all 15 editions, Faroese champions KÍ Klaksvík, Ferencváros fell in the qualifying round, beaten to the round of 32 by Twente. And the Dutch side then pulled off one of the competition's biggest surprises, winning on away goals against Bayern.
Twente lost in the last 16 to newly-professional Barcelona, while Wolfsburg knocked out Chelsea and Anja Mittag scored for new club Paris Saint-Germain against KIF Örebro to move on to 49 European goals, one ahead of Conny Pohlers's old record. Making the quarter-finals for the first time were Slavia Praha, but in their away leg at OL they were beaten 9-1 in the first women's match at the new Stade de Lyon.
Frankfurt had needed penalties to keep their campaign alive in the round of 16 against LSK Kvinner, and did exactly the same in the quarter-finals versus Rosengård. In the end the holders' luck ran out in the semis with a 4-0 loss at Wolfsburg, ensuring a 1-0 home win was not enough.
The other semi-final was also a one-nation affair and Lyon avenged their 2014/15 round of 16 defeat by Paris with a stunning 7-0 victory in front of 22,050 fans, a record for a women's game in France. Lyon won the second leg 1-0 to set up a 2013 final rematch with Wolfsburg, the sixth Franco-German decider in seven seasons.
In front of more than 15,000 fans at the home of Sassuolo, Hegerberg gave Lyon a 12th-minute lead with her competition-leading 13th goal of the season, one short of the single-season record. Lyon remained dominant but a team that had scored more than 150 goals this season could not strike again and with two minutes left Popp headed in an equaliser.
Penalties were needed for only the second time in a final. Lyon had lost that previous shoot-out to Turbine Potsdam in 2010 and fell behind as Almuth Schult saved from Hegerberg. But Lyon's Sarah Bouhaddi denied both Nilla Fischer and Élise Bussaglia (who, like Lara Dickenmann, had joined Wolfsburg from OL in summer 2015). Saki Kumagai coolly converted the winning penalty, just as she did for Japan in the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup final.
Kumagai was rewarded with the Player of the Match award by the UEFA technical team, who included ten Lyon players in their 18-strong Squad of the Season. Referring to Louisa Necib, Amandine Henry and Lotta Schelin, leaving Lyon having been part of all nine of their European campaigns, Kumagai said: "Before the game we swore we had to win it, for us but especially for them.