Olympique Lyonnais vs Turbine Potsdam
Women’s Champions League Final
Craven Cottage, London
Thursday May 26 2011
Kick-Off 20:00 (BST) / 21:00 (CEST)
Olympique Lyonnais and Turbine Potsdam meet in the UEFA Women’s Champions League final for the second successive season on Thursday evening, with the French champions looking to avenge last year’s agonising shoot-out defeat at the Coliseum Alfonso Pérez in Getafe, Madrid.
Potsdam have dominated the women’s Bundesliga, winning the title for the last three years, but Lyon’s dominance in France stretches back even further, having won five successive championships, but a win at Craven Cottage would be the club and country’s first European title.
As well as a repeat of last year’s final, it will also be a final outing for Potsdam playmaker Fatmire Bajramaj and goalkeeper Desirée Schumann, as they leave the club after the final to join this year’s Bundesliga runners-up Frankfurt, who are the most successful club in the Women’s Champions League with three wins, a feat which can be matched by Potsdam should they overcome Lyon.
Both sides have been prolific in this year’s tournament, Lyon scoring 23 goals with just four conceded, opening with a 10-1 aggregate win over Dutch side AZ, before an 11-1 win over Russian side Rossiyanka.
Lyon coach Patrice Lair’s side faced Russian opposition again in the quarter-finals, making hard work of Zvezda for a 1-0 win, setting up a semi-final against English champions and 2007 European champions Arsenal.
Swedish international Lotta Schelin scored twice in the opening 11 minutes in front of 20,123 at Stade de Gerland–a competition record for a non-final game–as Lyon ran out comfortable 5-2 aggregate winners, with Arsenal never looking capable of competing with their French counterparts until the final 45 minutes at Meadow Park.
Potsdam were even more emphatic on their route to the final, winning 15-0 on aggregate against Åland in the last 32,and 16-0 in the last 16 against Austrian side Neulengbach.
French side Juvisy at least scored against Potsdam, losing 9-2 on aggregate in the quarter-finals, but the defending champions faced Bundesliga rivals Duisberg for the second year in succession, running out 1-0 winners in the home leg, before a 2-2 draw in the away leg was enough to see them through.
Despite being only 23, Bajramaj has already secured two Bundesliga titles, the European Championship with Germany in 2009, and the Women’s Champions League twice, with Duisburg in 2009, before helping Potsdam to victory last year, and could make history as the first player to win the title three years running, and will be one of the biggest threats for Lyon to deal with after five goals and eight assists already in the competition this season.
Japanese international Yuki Nagasato leads the way for Potsdam with nine goals from 21 shots, ahead of Anja Mittag with eight from 17, while Lyon’s leading goalscorer is Swedish international Lotta Schelin with nine goals ahead of Eugénie Le Sommer with five.
Potsdam coach Bernd Schröder said: “We’ve got stronger, but Lyon have also got much stronger. We are very well prepared, in general the quality of the women’s game has improved a lot–that will be good for the fans to see some quality football.”
Lair is full of admiration for counterpart and his team, but admits he is determined to become the first French coach to win the Champions League.
“It is a challenge,” Lair told Uefa.com. “The president hired me to win the European Cup. I want to become the first French coach to win the trophy with a women’s team. I hope it will be this year; if not, then next. On a personal level, I am in a hurry and would love to win it this year.”
Despite Lyon goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi saving the first two Potsdam penalties last year as the French champions took a 2-0 lead on penalties, they went on to lose 7-6 as German counterpart Anna Felicitas Sarholz, just 17 at the time, also made saves to turn the shoot-out around and steal the glory.
Lyon’s record in penalty shoot-outs doesn’t make for happy reading, with defeats on shoot-outs in the French Cup, and the Bouhaddi is keen to avoid another shoot-out in London.
“I think we have something of a psychological barrier to break when it comes to penalties,” the 24-year-old said. “I hope it won’t be the same story again. I really want us to finish the job off before it goes to a shoot-out.
“It’ll probably be a different story. We’re more attacking this year and we also have Lotta [Schelin –who missed last year’s final through injury] up front. It could go well for us if we play our natural game.”
Bouhaddi has been compared to French legends Mickaël Landreau and Fabien Barthez by Lyon’s goalkeeping coach, and Lair insists that “she is by far the best goalkeeper in France”.
Lyon’s squad boasts no winners of any major title outside of France, however, Potsdam’s squad boasts players with winning experience as captain Jennifer Zietz, Viola Odebrecht and Anja Mittag all featured in their 2005 UEFA Women’s Cup victory, with Bajramaj and Corina Schröder winners in 2009 with Duisburg.
They can also call on Babett Peter, Bianca Schmidt, who join German colleagues Odebrecht, Bajramaj, Mittag and Zietz in winning either or both of the FIFA Women’s World Cup or UEFA European Women’s Championship.
“If you look at the stadium it’s just unbelievable,” Zietz said. “We don’t have a stadium like this in Germany, with all the tradition that you can feel when you enter, and outside when you arrive.”
The difference from last year for Lair is that his squad is vastly more experienced from the one which went to Getafe last year, adding experience with defender Sonia Bompastor and midfielder Camille Abily, while forward Eugénie Le Sommer has impressed after stepping up from the French second division as Lyon sit unbeaten after 21 of 22 games in the French championship, scoring 101 goals, with just five goals conceded.
England manager Hope Powell is the game’s ambassador and hopes it will be a thrilling final, and will showcase women’s football.
“It’s great. It shows women’s football is valued and the Women’s Champions League is valued,” she told Uefa.com. “We know that from the outset because we have the two finals in the same week and in the same country.”
“Looking at the final last year, it was a fantastic game,” she added. “I’m just hoping that it’s another great spectacle and that it showcases women’s football for what it is–good skill, good technical ability, a good professional approach. I hope it’s a good game and as dramatic as it was last year.”
With both teams in free-scoring form this season, Bouhaddi and Sarholz will do well to remain unbeaten for another 120 minutes of Champions League final action.
Referee: Dagmar Damková (CZE)
Assistants: Adriana Šecová and Lucie Ratajová (CZE)
Fourth official: Jana Adámková (CZE)
European television coverage: British Eurosport/Eurosport 1 from 19:45 BST, additional channels in France and Germany.