Author: Ribin Peter
It has been a successful couple of days for Barcelona teams in Madrid. The men’s won 4-0 on Sunday, and just 48 hours later, the women’s take a 3-1 lead into the second leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie with Madrid next week.
This women’s Clasico triumph felt much more than just a win. Barca Women came back from 1-0 in the first half to score three goals in the second and take control of this Champions League quarter-final. The advantage could have been extended in the second half, but they still bring a healthy lead to the return leg next Wednesday, March 30, at Camp Nou.
Barca were far from their best and faced a very competitive Madrid side, but Femeni eventually showed their superiority in the second half and found the winning goals to give themselves a chance to finish the job in front of a packed Camp Nou next Wednesday.
Barca were quite simply unrecognizable in the first half, playing the worst 45 minutes of their season so far. A lot of their poor play had to do with a great Real Madrid team that came out with incredible intensity and suffocating pressure without the ball, and they were very dangerous whenever they had the ball.
The game began with high pressing from Real Madrid, finding ways over and through the Barca defence. This bore fruit as Esther Gonzalez carried the ball forward, slid the ball out to the left, and Olga Carmona finished across Panos from inside the area. Barca Women couldn’t find their rhythm and didn’t have their first shot until 26 minutes when Misa saved well down to her right from a Patri shot from the edge of the area.
Barca were starting to find their feet, but Real Madrid continued to threaten, and the lively Esther González hit the post on the 38th minute before Panos saved another of her shots.
Madrid went forward in the dying moments looking for a late equalizer but couldn’t find a way past Sandra Panos and conceded a third goal on the counter-attack when Patri Guijarro found Alexia all alone. The world’s best player chipped the keeper to make it 3-1 at the death.
The final whistle gave Barca the win and a comfortable advantage going into the second leg. They didn’t play nearly as well as they have all season, but knockout football is all about the wins, and Barca got it. Now they come home to Camp Nou in front of 90,000 fans, with a chance to show how good they really are and book a place in the semi-final.
Since the 2010s, Lyon has frequently been named the strongest women’s team globally and has been cited as a model for the development of women’s football in both economic and cultural terms. The team has won seven Champions League titles, including a record five successive titles from 2016 to 2020 and 14 consecutive domestic league titles from 2007 to 2020. They have also won five trebles when the top-level continental competition is considered the most for any team.
The growth and domination of Olympique Lyonnais Feminin laid a foundation for the development of women’s football around the world. They used to dominate Europe and changed the perspective of people about women’s football.
Before becoming Olympique Lyonnais Feminin in 2004, the club was founded as FC Lyon in 1970 and claimed four league titles between 1991-1998. Over the past 17-years, the Lyon women’s team has established itself as the best club side globally, breaking records and dominating the women’s game. Olympique Lyonnais claimed their first league title under their new name in 2007, finishing 7pts clear of Montpellier in 2nd and only losing one and drawing one of their 22 matches. Thus began Olympique Lyonnais’ total dominance of Division 1.
Olympique Lyonnais entered the Guinness Book of World Records in 2013 after the club secured 41 consecutive wins in the league and cup between 28th April 2012 to the 18th May 2013. The club have also won a record 9 Coupe de France titles since 2008 and claimed the Trophee des Championnes in 2019.
Sandrine Bretigny proved one of the club’s best-ever players during this spell of constant success, netting 211 goals in 241 appearances between 2000-2012. Bretigny’s best season arrived in 2006/07 during the club’s first title success as Olympique Lyonnais, in which she played in all 22 league games and scored an impressive 42 goals.
In more recent years, Olympique Lyonnais have relied upon the goals of Norwegian international Ada Hegerberg. Hegerberg signed for the club in 2014 from Turbine Potsdam in Germany and proved an immediate success. During her first season, Hegerberg netted 34 goals in 32 games and has only failed to score more goals than games played in a season in two of her six campaigns with the club, which includes the season that was cut short due to the global pandemic.
This success can partially be credited to their President, Jean-Michel Aulas, who has been committed to gender equality in the sport since creating Olympique Lyonnais Féminin in 2004. He wanted to bring as much success to the female team as to the male one, which was ambitious knowing that the male team won the domestic title 7 times consecutively between 2002 and 2008.
Ada Hegerberg, the Norwegian International, was at the helm of women’s football in 2018 after winning many individual accolades and team titles with the French club Olympique Lyonnais. But at the beginning of 2020, she sustained an injury before Lyon were due to play Stade de Reims on 26 January 2020. It was later confirmed via an MRI scan that she had ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament. On 28 January, the club announced that she would miss at least the remainder of the season. Her absence was further extended in September 2020 by a stress fracture in her left tibia.
Her return to football took a long time. But she was stronger mentally and physically. On 5 October 2021, the Norwegian forward returned to action on the inaugural night of the very first UEFA Women’s Champions League group stage away to Hacken. On 14 November, she ended her 707-day wait for a goal when she struck against Paris Saint-Germain and added another within three minutes. She was back in the European goals on 9 December with two at Benfica, passing 50 in Europe for Lyon, the first to get that may for a single club.
Ada Hegerberg said that scoring the first goal after returning gave her goosebumps. Hegerberg said: “I’ve just been focused ever since I came back. About doing things very simply, getting back into my rhythm. Obviously, playing against PSG is one of my favorite games to play. I love those games. I was ready mentally. I knew I was ready to score. It was just a fantastic day. We had been longing for this game ever since we had lost the French title last season. It was some night for us as a team and the people of Lyon who came to support us. It was incredible to have that reception from the fans because they were cheering like crazy and gave me goosebumps as well.”
Ada is one of the top footballers in the world right now. She has won several awards before suffering that injury. Hegerberg was awarded the 2016 UEFA Best Women’s Player in Europe Award on 25 August 2016, and in 2017 and 2019 was named BBC Women’s Footballer of the Year. In 2018 she was the first-ever recipient of the Ballon d’Or Feminin. She holds the record for most goals in a UEFA Women’s Champions League season and is currently the all-time highest goalscorer in UEFA Women’s Champions League.
The Norwegian footballer has already started working for the betterment of women’s football. Hegerberg has had a massive media impact over the past years, widely considered as the number one spokesperson for her sport, given the numerous interviews she gave for women’s football. She has been named one of the most powerful women in sport by several media, including Sports Illustrated.
Maria Leon is the wall of Barcelona. She is sometimes called the ‘Carles Puyol’ of the Femeni team. She is a physical defender who can also play as a left-back. Her technique and speed help her to attack very well.
Her first club was Zaragoza CFF, where she debuted at 16 years of age. Mapi played at Espanyol during 2013/14 before joining Atletico Madrid the following season. Last season, in which Atleti claimed the Liga Femenina title, was the one where she came to everyone’s attention. Her performances saw her selected for the Spanish team that contested the European Championship in the summer. On August 24, 2017, she became an FC Barcelona player.
Jennifer Hermoso is the No.10 in the squad. She is a player who can score goals and makes assists in any situation. She is a natural leader who possesses a strong left foot and a big aerial presence.
She was brought up through the ranks at Atletico Madrid and coming to the fore at Rayo Vallecano, Madrid-born Jennifer Hermoso joined Barça in the winter of 2014 after a season at Swedish side Tyresso. In 2017 she left to join PSG, returning to LaLiga and Atletico Madrid a year later. Her second spell at Barça would come when she was signed again in 2019. Hermoso was the top goalscorer in the league during the three seasons before her rejoining Barca.
Asisat Oshola is one of the best African players in the world. The striker has been chosen as African Player of the Year on no less than four occasions, in 2019, 2014, 2016 and 2017. The year 2014 was a stellar one for the Nigerian as she also claimed the Golden Shoe at the U20 World Cup. Oshola has great experience despite her youth, having played for Arsenal in 2016 alongside Vicky Losada and for Liverpool the previous year in the English top division of Women’s Football.
During a spell in China, she was the top scorer in the 2017 Superleague. The striker came to FC Barcelona on loan from Chinese club Dalian Quanjian and was presented as a Barca player in January 2019.
One of the most promising players to come out of the youth set, Aitana Bonamati, has been an international at every youth level. In 2015/16, she led the B team to their first-ever Second Division league title. During that season, she made her debut for the first team in the Cup. In the summer of 2016, she made the definitive move to the first team squad.