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3 Jun 2023

FC Barcelona v VfL Wolfsburg - UEFA Women's Champions League Final

EINDHOVEN, NETHERLANDS - JUNE 03: FC Barcelona players celebrate with the UEFA Women's Champions ... [+] League Trophy after the team's victory during the UEFA Women's Champions League final match between FC Barcelona and VfL Wolfsburg at PSV Stadion on June 03, 2023 in Eindhoven, Netherlands. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

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With a superb comeback and a second-half brace from Patricia Guijarro, FC Barcelona defeated Germany’s Wolfsburg 3-2 to claim a second Women’s Champions League title.

In the end, they hugged and danced in a moment of sheer ecstasy, one that represented the culmination of a long season and the zenith of the European club game. Barcelona had however not done it the easy way in a final that was thrilling and often relentless, with the Spanish ultimately prevailing.

Once again, Barcelona fell behind moments after the kick-0ff. In last season’s final, the Spanish club conceded three times in the first half en route to what star player Alexis Putellas called a ‘traumatic defeat’ against Olympic Lyon, but it seemed they had not learned their lesson. In the fourth minute, Ewa Pajor, the competition’s top scorer, robbed Walsh off the ball and capitalized with a fine strike, 1-0.

It got worse in the 37th minute. Alexandra Popp’s low bullet header left Barcelona goalkeeper Sandra Panos with no chance, 2-0. Wolfsburg was in the driving seat, even though the German XI had done precious little. They sat back and soaked up the pressure and Popp’s goal came at the end of textbook transition.

Memories of the Lyon final flooded back, the last game Putellas had featured in for her club, but Barcelona only had itself to blame. Following Pajor’s early strike, the Catalan club

poured forward and exposed the German rearguard several times before Irene Paredes, inexplicably, failed to equalize with a free header at the far post from a set piece. Just after the half-hour mark, Barcelona wasted another standout opportunity when Graham Hansen didn’t connect cleanly a few yards out.

The Spanish champion was wasteful, its counterpart ruthless and clinical. On the bench, Putellas looked pensive as Salma Paralluelo again found no way past Wolfsburg goalkeeper Merle Frohms, and so Barcelona was down 2-0 at half-time.

But as good as the first half the Germans had enjoyed, as bad their second was to become. Barcelona was no longer stunned. Instead, rejuvenated, Guijarro and her team waltzed past the opponent with two goals inside two minutes by the number 12. Transformed, Barcelona played with pace and precision. The Spanish were in total command and it was hard to not see the team win the final.

Wolfsburg’s defense - so diligent for much of the game - simply collapsed. Lynn Wilms failed to clear the ball, allowing Fridolina Rolfo, who played higher up the pitch in the second half, to pounce, 3-2. This had been one scramble too many in front of the German goalmouth. Wolfsburg’s luck had run out at least and Barcelona, deservedly, was crowned the new champion of Europe.

Caroline Graham-Hansen said: “This game had everything you possible could have. At half-time, I had a big flashback from last year’s final (after being down two-nil against Lyon at the half). I said no, its not going to happen again. We scored one, then we scored two, and then the whole stadium exploded.”

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