Bonmatí and Putellas fire Barcelona to Champions League glory against Lyon

Estimated read time 4 min read

Bilbao is used to being decorated in stripes, the flags of their beloved Athletic Club hang from every other window, but on Saturday the city found itself swamped in less familiar colours, Barcelona’s red and blue filling every bar and populating every square as travelling fans celebrated beating Lyon in a Champions League final at the third time of asking.

It was their talismanic duo, the playmaker Aitana Bonmatí and their superstar Alexia Putellas, who delivered in front of 50,827 fans. Bonmatí’s effort took a deflection off Vanessa Gilles to take it past Christiane Endler shortly after the hour mark, before Putellas added the second three minutes after coming on deep into added time. It was deserved, the French champions were unable to handle the guile of the world’s best passers of the ball who secured a historic quadruple.

This was never going to be as emphatic as the two previous finals between these sides. In Budapest, in 2019, the French champions were four goals up within 30 minutes, going on to win 4-1. In Turin, three years later, it was a familiar story, with Lyon three up inside 33 minutes, going on to win 3-1.

Since that first meeting, the Blaugrana had lifted the trophy twice, prior to their third victory in Bilbao. According to their forward Caroline Graham Hansen: “We’ve matured hugely and learned over the years, particularly from the finals we lost. So, we’re happy to be back with another chance to win one and to show how we’ve changed and toughened up.”

Lyon have been the thorn in the side of the Liga F champions but the tide is turning in European women’s football. Barcelona, stacked with World Cup winners, are now in the ascendancy. Both managers are set to depart their clubs following this final, with Jonatan Giráldez already committed to Washington Spirit (the team owned by the Lyon owner, Michele Kang) and Sonia Bompastor expected to be unveiled as the new Chelsea manager imminently.

“My press officer is threatening me, I’m not going to say anything,” said Bompastor of her future.

The Barcelona players can fans celebrate their women’s Champions League triumph over LyonView image in fullscreen

Barça’s dominance was on display, 66.3% of possession in the first half a testament to the style of football that looks set to rule for decades. They had nothing to show for it though, their best chance coming 29 minutes in. Lyon handed them possession on the edge of their own area, allowing Mariona Caldentey to break into the box only to send her effort straight at Endler.

Lyon would arguably have their best chance to take the lead early in the second half, but Gilles was unable to steer her header from Selma Bacha’s free-kick past Catalina Coll.

“It’s obviously a big disappointment [to lose the final],” said Bompastor. “They’re a great team, we would have needed to play a perfect game but, above all, we should have been more efficient in attack in order to get a better result.”

The French club would be made to pay for their profligacy on their rare forays forward just past the hour mark when, taking the game by the scruff of the neck, Bonmatí collected the ball on the overlap before firing in from the tightest of angles, a deflection off Gilles taking the ball past a well-placed Endler.

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Overhead shot of Alexia Putellas’ goal for BarcelonaView image in fullscreen

The roar from the fans was deafening, their engine, starlet, Ballon d’Or and World Cup winner, delivering for them on the biggest of stages once more.

Lyon brought on the competition’s record goalscorer, Ada Hegerberg, as they sought an equaliser, but they could not land their punches and the substitute Putellas would put them to the sword, powering in before ripping her shirt off in celebration – mirroring the celebrations of Brandi Chastain at the World Cup in 1999 and Chloe Kelly at the Euros in 2022.

Project Barcelona marches on, physicality and street smarts added to their fluid style to secure a third Champions League title.

“It’s one of the best days of my life,” said Giráldez. “We did an amazing job, with the ball and without … When I decided in December to leave at the end of the season, people thought the team’s performances might dip. We showed that wasn’t the case today. An amazing performance and a deserved victory.”


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