Wolfsburg vs Lyon: women's football giants collide

On Sunday in San Sebastián is the latest chapter of an epic seven-year struggle for European supremacy.

Wolfsburg's Alex Popp and Lyon's Wendie Renard during their 2019 meeting
Wolfsburg's Alex Popp and Lyon's Wendie Renard during their 2019 meeting AFP via Getty Images

So for a record fourth time, in eight years, Wolfsburg and Lyon will face off in the UEFA Women's Champions League final. We take a look back at a rivalry that has dominated the European game in recent seasons.

Five key facts

  • This will be the fourth final between the teams (all since 2013), beating the previous record of three FFC Frankfurt vs Umeå encounters between 2002 and 2008.
  • Wolfsburg are the only team to beat Lyon in regulation time in a final, in 2013; that was OL's first competitive loss over 90 minutes in 120 fixtures.
  • Lyon have knocked out Wolfsburg in the last four seasons; the only other side to have ever eliminated the Wolves were Paris Saint-Germain in the 2014/15 semis (they had earlier beaten Lyon in the round of 16, OL's last elimination to date).
  • Lyon's six titles and nine finals are records; Wolfsburg's two and five respectively are only also bettered by Frankfurt (four and six).
  • Lyon were the last team to beat Wolfsburg competitively, their 4-2 away win in March 2019 in the second leg of their quarter-final of this competition.

The matches

2013 final:

2013 final highlights
2013 final highlights

23/05/13 (Stamford Bridge, London): Wolfsburg 1-0 Lyon (Müller 73p)

  • Lyon, aiming for an unprecented third straight title and already in a record fourth final in a row, had not lost over 90 minutes since a 1-0 defeat at Italy's Torres more than two years earlier in the then UEFA Women's Cup quarter-finals (a tie they led 3-0 from the first leg). But Wolfsburg, in their debut European entry, had other ideas and won it courtesy of Martina Müller's penalty. They followed fellow German teams Frankfurt, Turbine Potsdam and Duisburg on winning in their first UEFA season and a year later retained the title thanks to a clinching goal in Lisbon by ... Müller.

2016 final:

2016 final highlights
2016 final highlights

26/05/16 (Stadio Città del Tricolore, Reggio Emilia): Wolfsburg 1-1, 3-4pens Lyon (Popp 88, Hegerberg 12)

  • Lyon suffered round of 16 exits in 2013/14 and 2014/15 but were back in the first again in 2016 and Wolfsburg were waiting for them after runs where between them the likes of Atlético, Chelsea, Frankfurt and Paris had been blown away. Ada Hegerberg, already with 12 goals on the run to the final, scored what looked for a long time the winner as she turned in Pauline Bremer's cut-back before Alex Popp's late headed equaliser. Popp scored and Hegerberg missed to start the shoot-out but Sarah Bouhaddi denied Nilla Fischer and former Lyon colleague Élise Bussaglia, allowing Saki Kumagai to do what she did for Japan in the 2011 FIFA Women's World Cup final and convert the winning penalty.

2017 quarter-finals:

23/03/17: Wolfsburg 0-2 Lyon (Abily 62, Marozsán 74)
29/03/17
: Lyon 0-1 Wolfsburg (Graham Hansen 82p)

  • Camille Abily's cross-cum-shot had a touch of fortune about it before an inspired Dzsenifer Marozsán put Lyon in full control. Wolfsburg's second-leg win, Caroline Graham Hansen's penalty teeing up a tense finish, was in vain but was the first time Lyon had lost at home in any competition since their November 2014 European exit to Paris.

2018 final:

2018 final highlights
2018 final highlights

24/05/18 (Kyiv): Wolfsburg 1-4aet Lyon (Harder 93; Henry 98, Le Sommer 99, Hegerberg 103, Abily 116)

  • The first 90 minutes were far from memorable; no one will forget extra time. Pernille Harder broke the deadlock but Lyon then sent on Shanice van de Sanden and Delphine Cascarino, a foul on who by Popp earned the Wolfsburg player a red card. Lyon took full advantage, Amandine Henry equalising and a rampant Van de Sanden setting up Eugénie Le Sommer, Hegerberg (a record-breaking 15th in the campaign) and fellow substitute Camille Abily, playing her penultimate match before retirement.

2018/19 quarter-finals:

20/03/19: Lyon 2-1 Wolfsburg (Le Sommer 11, Renard 18; Fischer 64)
27/03/19
: Wolfsburg 2-4 Lyon (Harder 53 56; Marozsán 8, Renard 25p, Le Sommer 60 80)

  • Nilla Fischer's away goal gave Wolfsburg real hope for the second leg but they were to suffer their first home defeat in any competition since the 2-0 loss to Lyon almost exactly two years earlier. Wolfsburg have not been beaten since.

Stats to note

  • Lyon's Bouhaddi, Wendie Renard and Le Sommer have appeared in all seven encounters, as has Wolfsburg's Popp.
  • Lara Dickenmann, now with Wolfsburg, came off the bench for Lyon in the 2013 final.
  • Recent Wolfsburg signing Bremer played both legs of the 2017 quarter-final for Lyon as well as setting up Hegerberg's goal in the 2016 final.
  • Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir joined Lyon last month from Wolfsburg, for who she faced her future club in the 2018 final and both legs in 2017 and 2019.