Barcelona 2-0 Olympique Lyonnais: Bonmatí provides the breakthrough in Bilbao

Barcelona retained their UEFA Women’s Champions League crown on Saturday, defeating Olympique Lyonnais at the San Mámes in Bilbao – a city which to the neutral eye may have looked a little like Barcelona in the buildup to kickoff, given the sheer volume of Catalan fans who had ventured to the Basque Country.

A cagey affair remained goalless at the break, with Barça beginning to dominate just before Rebecca Welch blew for half-time. Jonatan Giráldez’s Culers eventually found the breakthrough though – courtesy of none other than the current Ballon d’Or Féminin holder, Aitana Bonmatí.

That lead was doubled in the dying minutes of stoppage time by Alexia Putellas; her cameo appearance leaving the fans bowing down to her as the final whistle sounded to confirm Barcelona’s first-ever win over Olympique Lyonnais.

It is a result that brings into question Lyon’s status as the indomitable greats of the women’s game in Europe, with the prevalent feelings amongst supporters that their era of dominance is gradually waning.

As it happened

Against a backdrop primarily adorned with Catalan flags and the famous striped shirts of the Blaugrana, the early action certainly lived up to the pre-match anticipation, with both teams wasting no time in kickstarting a frenetic affair that saw chaos at each end of the pitch.

Caroline Graham Hansen was Barcelona’s brightest star throughout, evading a shirt pull and dancing towards goal to square for Salma Paralluelo with just six minutes on the clock – only for the young Spaniard’s tame effort to roll straight into the palms of Christiane Endler.

Delphine Cascarino provided the first real moment of attacking prowess for Lyon; her cross was put out for a corner by Aitana Bonmatí. It would not be the last of les Olympiennes attempts to open the scoring though, with a corner forcing a remarkable collective effort defensively from Barça to keep the match scoreless.

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Graham Hansen would prove her worth once more as the twenty-minute mark ticked past at the San Mámes, combining with Bonmatí in the inside-right channel but ultimately seeing Vanessa Gilles rise to nod her cross away from danger.

It would be Lyon’s right-winger that forced the best chance of the first half thus far when she whipped a teasing ball into the box, with Cata Coll spilling her initial save but recovering well to ensure she smothered the danger at the second time of asking.

Wendie Renard’s header was held well by the Spanish goalkeeper in the 39th minute – Lyon’s last real chance of the first half, as they gave way to a late spell of Catalan dominance that saw Graham Hansen threaten yet again. The Norwegian jinked infield twice and was dispossessed by Renard on the first occasion, before dragging her effort wide of the far post when she dashed forwards again mere moments later.

Barring an early chance for Lyon that saw Renard blaze a tidy flick from Ellie Carpenter over the crossbar, the unrelenting Catalan waves of attack were allowed to continue as the teams emerged from the tunnel for the second half.

Fridolina Rolfö slipped and sent her effort waywards just minutes before the referee took an unwanted touch on an attempted long-range pass from Keira Walsh, sparking serious furore in the stands as the Blaugrana were denied a clear-cut chance.

In finals of these calibre and when there is so little to split two world-class teams, individual players were always bound to be the difference. On Saturday, that player was Aitana Bonmatí.

The Ballon d’Or winner had already skipped over one. She’d leapt over another. That move did not pay off, admittedly, but her next attacking contribution would send the majority inside the San Mámes into scenes of sheer jubilation.

A tidy one-two with Mariona Caldentey set the midfielder free on the left, working her way towards the byline before shooting from a tight angle. It was ambitious – speculative even – but if there is one thing that Bonmatí continues to demonstrate, it is that nothing is outside the realm of her possibilities.

A fortuitous deflection from Gilles saw the 26-year-old’s effort ripple into the back of the net; Endler unable to produce the save that would have kept the deadlock intact for just a little while longer. Bilbao erupted – the Senyera colours leaping from their seats as the back-to-back dream edged a step closer to reality.

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Lyon are perhaps the last team in Europe that would just sit back and accept defeat – on multiple occasions, Sonia Bompastor’s side came threateningly close to forcing a late equaliser that would have dampened the celebrations at San Mámes, but each time they fell just short.

Kadidiatou Diani and Amel Majri both squandered efforts in the closing stages, and as the clock ticked past the ninety-minute mark, Lyon were left with just six minutes of additional time to force a result.

Chances came and went for Lyon – but it was another moment of sheer inevitability that confirmed Barcelona would enjoy another year as European champions when Alexia Putellas arrived off the bench to slot home the second goal in stoppage time.

The lineups

BAR: Coll; Rolfö, Engen, Paredes, Bronze; Patri, Walsh, Bonmatí; Caldentey, Paralluelo, Graham Hansen

OL: Endler; Bacha, Gilles, Renard, Carpenter; van de Donk, Egurrola, Horan; Cascarino, Dumornay, Diani

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