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Barcelona comeback reclaims Women's Champions League crown

Barcelona were back as UEFA Women's Champions League winners in 2022/23 but only after a dramatic final recovery.

Barcelona won the title for the second time in three years in 2023
Barcelona won the title for the second time in three years in 2023 UEFA via Sportsfile

The second season of the UEFA Women's Champions League in its group stage format built on the success of the first, as Barcelona reclaimed the title in a dramatic final.

While 11 of the clubs who made the 2021/22 group stage did so again, there were several new names. Former semi-finalists Rosengård made it through, as did St. Pölten, Slavia Praha, European debutants Roma and Vllaznia, the first Albanian club to get to the last 16 of any UEFA competition since KF Tirana in the 1989/90 men's European Cup.

Holders Lyon suffered an immediate shock as they slipped to a record home defeat on Matchday 1. Arsenal's 5-1 victory was inspired by Beth Mead, who like Vivianne Miedema was to suffer a season-ending injury during the group stage. Lyon, becoming the first club to pass 100 competition wins, progressed behind Arsenal, denying 2021/22 quarter-finalists Juventus as well as Zürich.

There was also a win for Arsenal's London rivals in France in the opening week, as Chelsea prevailed 1-0 at Paris Saint-Germain. But Paris, like Lyon, were to go through in second place ahead of a 2021/22 quarter-finalist in Real Madrid, with Vllaznia finishing fourth.

Wolfsburg and Roma both advanced to the last eight, though the Italian side needed to recover from 2-0 down to win at St. Pölten, who finished ahead of Slavia. Barcelona, having been dethroned by Lyon in Turin the previous May, scored 29 goals in their six group games to finish ahead of Bayern on head-to-head record, and well ahead of Benfica and Rosengård.

2022/23 top ten goals of the season

The scheduling of the men's FIFA World Cup in November and December meant four group matchdays were moved to that time of year, and with no male top-level club games the availability of big stadiums meant 264,267 fans came to the 48 games, up from 158,939 in 2021/22, including 46,967 for Barcelona vs Bayern.

The big crowds continued in the quarter-finals as Barcelona saw off Roma, Wolfsburg edged out Paris and Arsenal (at that stage for a record 15th time) overturned a first-leg deficit to defeat Bayern. Chelsea, having won 1-0 in their opener at Lyon, found themselves trailing the holders in extra time, only for Maren Mjelde to convert a 128th-minute penalty and the Blues to emerge triumphant in the subsequent shoot-out.

Both London sides were to miss out in the semi-finals. Chelsea lost 1-0 at home to Barcelona after an early stunner from Caroline Graham Hansen, who scored again in front of more than 72,000 at Camp Nou in a 1-1 draw, taking the Blaugrana to a third straight final.

Arsenal recovered from 2-0 down to draw in Wolfsburg and were level at 2-2 until the final minute of the second leg, when Pauline Bremer silenced most of the 60,000+ crowd to send the German side to the final in Eindhoven.

That game was a 33,147 sell-out and looked to be going Wolfsburg's way when Ewa Pajor got her competition-leading ninth of the campaign on three minutes. Alex Popp made it 2-0 late in the first half, thereby equalling Ada Hegerberg's record by scoring in the final in a fourth different season.

Final highlights: Barcelona 3-2 Wolfsburg

Wolfsburg had been the only team to overturn a 2-0 deficit in a final, their second-half comeback in the 2014 showpiece against Tyresö sparked by Popp. This time the boot was on the other foot as, following a tactical reshuffle, Patri Guijarro struck twice within five minutes of the break and former Wolfsburg player Fridolina Rolfö got the winner with 20 minutes remaining.

Alexia Putellas, the 2021/22 player of the season, entered the fray late on for her first appearance of the European campaign following serious injury. She was to lift the trophy, while Aitana Bonmatí was Alexia's successor as Player of the Season. Wolfsburg's Lena Oberdorf took the Young Player of the Season prize.