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Barcelona join Women's Champions League roll of honour

Barcelona claimed their first title with a convincing final defeat of Chelsea as Lyon's five-year reign ended.

Alexia Putellas lifts the trophy in Gothenburg
Alexia Putellas lifts the trophy in Gothenburg UEFA via Getty Images,

In the 20th season of UEFA women's club competition only the eighth different champions were crowned as Barcelona beat debut finalists Chelsea 4-0 in Gothenburg.

Lyon's five-year reign had been ended in the quarter-finals by Paris Saint-Germain, who themselves fell in the last four to Barcelona. Chelsea knocked out three of the 2019/20 quarter-finalists – Atlético de Madrid, Wolfsburg and Bayern München – but a fourth overwhelmed the English champions in the decider.

2021 final highlights: Chelsea 0-4 Barcelona

The COVID-19 pandemic, which had caused the 2019/20 quarter-finals onwards to be played as a one-venue tournament in Spain, also prompted a format change in 2020/21, with qualifying altered to two rounds of single-legged ties and virtually every game all season, including the final, played behind closed doors.

In qualifying, Lanchkhuti became the first Georgian team to win a game in this competition as they knocked out Okzhetpes then repeated the trick against Olimpia Cluj. Glasgow City, who reached the 2019/20 quarter-finals on penalties, went through both qualifying rounds on spot kicks.

The top seeds entered in the round of 32 and all went through, with debutants including Servette, PSV Eindhoven and Benfica falling at this hurdle. Austria's St. Pölten made it to the last 16 at their seventh attempt, beating Zürich.

Favourites also prevailed in the round of 16, with Lyon's two wins against Brøndby making them the first team (male or female) to get to 30 UEFA club competition games without defeat. Atlético had two first-leg penalties saved and missed another in the return as they lost 3-1 on aggregate to Chelsea.

The Blues now faced Wolfsburg, who had ended three of Chelsea's four past European campaigns, but this time the London side could field Pernille Harder, signed days after the Wolves' 2020 final loss to Lyon. And in a tie where both legs were played in Budapest, Harder scored in each match as Chelsea won 5-1 on aggregate.

Top five goals of the 2020/21 UEFA Women's Champions League

Barcelona showed their hand in an impressive 3-0 first-leg home victory over Manchester City which meant they could afford a defeat in the return, and Bayern comfortably ensured Rosengård would not reach the final in their native Sweden. Lyon won their first leg at Paris 1-0 through Wendie Renard and quickly led the delayed return through Catarina Macario. But Grace Geyoro's strike and a Renard own goal inflicted Lyon's first elimination since Paris themselves had beaten them in the round of 16 in November 2014.

Paris were to reach that 2014/15 final but missed out this time, held 1-1 at home by Barcelona then losing 2-1 with Lieke Martens striking twice. Bayern won their first leg 2-1 against Chelsea but a thrilling contest in London finished 4-1 to the Blues, who became the first English finalists since Arsenal in 2007.

Watch Barcelona lift the trophy

Barcelona, when the first Spanish finalists in 2019, found themselves 4-0 down inside 30 minutes against Lyon. This time the Catalans were 4-0 up in 36 minutes at Gamla Ullevi through an own goal, an Alexia Putellas penalty and further strikes by Aitana Bonmatí and Caroline Graham Hansen.

There was no way back for Chelsea after that and Barcelona became the first club to have been both women's and men's European champions. The new-look final and fresh winners were perhaps appropriate as this season was the last before the competition's major revamp to introduce a 16-team group stage and new financial model.