The Parc des Princes was vibrant on a chilly evening when the PSG ladies hosted their counterparts from Olympique Lyon.
If the men fail to get to the semi-final of the champions league, the women have been there a few times, though never won the tournament. The opponents on the night were Olympique Lyon who have dominated the competition in the last years, winning it five times in a row between 2016 and 2020, thus equaling the record set by Real Madrid in the 1950s.
This was the second leg; Lyon have won the first 3-2 and would have been content with a draw. At first it was PSG who played and had four corners inside the first five minutes. Nothing came off them and the game ebbed back and forth, mainly between the penalty boxes. PSG were let off the hook early as their keeper slipped and Lyon could not benefit from it. This neutrality lasted until the 14th minute when the ubiquitous Ada Hegerberg opened the scoring after a pass from midfield that hung in the air for a considerable time yet no one could prevent Hegerberg from rising up to connect with her head and lob it over the keeper into the far corner. Excellent goal from out of nowhere but proof that Lyon are one of the best teams in Europe at the moment. The cross was played right between the two Parisian defenders who were also smaller than Hegerberg and simply had no chance.
If anything it stirred Paris who from then on dominated possession but failed to convert this into any meaningful chances. Lyon were boxed in and they felt well sitting back and occasionally going forward. This was the malaise of PSG on the night: they lacked precision and the ultimate speed of thought which allowed to make the game fast and maybe surprise Lyon. They just could not overwhelm them.
The home team were forced to substitute their keeper at the interval but either side remained otherwise unchanged. Nothing changed in the outlook of this game: PSG pushed Lyon back who were comfortable in sitting back. And stung when it was needed. So it happened after 56 minutes. Again it was Hegerberg who scored after a melée in the PSG penalty area. Her header flew into an empty net and she turned towards the Auteuil end to celebrate and fist pumped the Lyon crest on her shirt. The disrespect seemed to be mutual as there were whistles and jeers towards her for this gestures from the crowd. In fact, each time she had the ball, there were jeers. Alas, all this was futile as the referee got a call from VAR that Hegerberg was offside. Relief on one side, frustration on the other.
With a little less than half an hour to go, PSG equalised through a labourious goal from Katoto. The ground erupted and the crowd sung her name as though she was the queen of Paris. With just 15 minutes to go Christine Endler in the Lyon goal performed THE save of the match when she simply held out a hand and punched the ball away from close range. Had the ball crossed the line for a goal, it would have meant extra time. They got a corner which brought nothing. With the clock ticking away, this match increasingly looked a certain draw which would have eliminated Paris. Lyon however, were not finished for the evening. A very fine corner kick met the head of the towering Wendy Renard. She barely jumped – she just needed to be there to score since she is at least a foot taller than most her colleagues.
take home points
At the end this was a deserved win for Lyon who were simply cleverer when it mattered. However, the Parisian, at least in the Auteuil end. This end was noisy. It is the ultra’s place in the ground and they were there in their droves! And they sung and jumped and supported their team throughout the 90 minutes of play and even after the final whistle. The players came towards the stand afterwards and the people praised, applauded and cheered them and did not cease to sing for a good 10 minutes after the match. The women appeared surprised and touched by the appreciation they received.
While the Auteuil fêted, the large part of the ground remained seated and relatively calm throughout the match. This was nonetheless a great advert for football since it comprised passion and noise and some fine football. The number of kids was astonishing. The atmosphere certainly converted a few of them to become football fans, regardless which game.
There were more than 43000 people in attendance which constitutes a record crowd for a women’s football game in France.
All in all a very nice experience, an atmosphere that was cracking with a deserved winner.Good writing does not come by chance, so consider a little tip: