UEFA Champions League Quarter Finals, resume first leg

UEFA Champions League 2016/17 Quarterfinal first leg:

time(CET) home away result
Wednesday, Mar. 22nd
19.00 FC Rosengard (SWE) FC Barcelona (ESP) 0:1
Thursday, Mar. 23rd
19.00 Fortuna Hjoerring (DEN) Manchester City Ladies (ENG) 0:1
19.00 Bayern Munich (GER) Paris Saint-Germain (FRA) 1:0
20.15 VfL Wolfsburg (GER) Olympique Lyon (FRA) 0:2

 

Headline:

Yes! Development continuing and some decent steps again.

The gap is closing between the teams was the old headline. Now you might be tempted to ask: What gap are we talking about? There is none anymore.
But that would possibly be too much. Only partially. Not between OL and Wolfsburg though. And still only one goal between Manchester City and the brave Danish side from Fortuna Hjörring. And not any more between FC Barcelona and FC Rosengard. Maybe the biggest between Bayern and PSG?
But that is football too:
Sometimes the match with the most different performance levels of all end with a draw. Sometimes even the worse team wins. Goals are what count at the end.

The average level of the players increased again. However. The premature final talks on Olympique Lyon against Wolfsburg were pretty much confirmed especially with Bayern and PSG both showed quite some significant problems. So there was still a gap left between the level of the top game and the rest.

But some other numbers first. Visitor numbers:
1. Munich 7300
2. Rosengard 5000
3. Wolfsburg 3700
4. Hjorring n/a (est:2500)

For Hjorring we couldnt even find numbers so far via UEFA or their site. Poor. In previous rounds the numbers there had been between 1000 and 1500.
For all encounters we can expect significantly higher numbers in the upcoming second leg as all pairings have the teams with the usually higher attendances now at home.
Munich have done a huge campaign and aimed for 10000+. Wolfsburgs 3700 are hugely disappointing given the importance of the match and that it has been the revenge for last years final against Olympique Lyon. They havent done a lot of additional advertising.

And here are some player numbers:
1. Wolfsburg: 7 nations
5 German
1 Swede
1 Danish
1 Norwegian
1 French
1 Swiss
1 Icelandic

2. Lyon: 6 nations
5 French
2 German
1 Swede
1 Canadian
1 Japanese
1 American

3. PSG: 6 nations
6 French
1 Pole
1 Brazilian
1 Canadian
1 Spanish
1 Costa Rican

3. Bayern: 6 Nations
6 German
1 Austrian
1 Fin
1 Dutch
1 American
1 Swiss

Top match: VfL Wolfsburg – Olympique Lyon

Yep. Still happy we got 2 matches instead of one final between these two. So we can get another confirmation of what we saw.
We mentioned the unexpected problems of the French NT during the SheBelieves Cup already. It kind of was confirmed here. It has been visible as an overall development over the last years already but it was blurred often especially by the poor performances of the German national team not proceeding according to the Bundesliga teams. Once the OL players looked simply the better in their ability to handle the game and the ball with high speed and technical precision. And this margin once was quite eye-catching. The German teams could only defend that with good organisation and mostly defensive battles – supported by the French problems to convert their dominance into goals. Remember especially the first CL title from Wolfsburg 2013 against Lyon. However that gap started already to decline the following season when Lyon was ousted by Turbine Potsdam.

But now it has turned around. Last years final already saw Lyon being able to get through and create chances only very sporadically and there was not much between the teams any more though Wolfsburg was even less dangerous in attack and still happy to defend. Apart from the last 15 minutes when they had to push for an equaliser. But this time the speed and athleticism of Wolfsburg have been quite obviously the better one. Wolfsburg at times seemed to play and act half a gear faster than Lyon did. It had been rather unthinkable before this day you would have said Lyon was just not good enough technically and lacked the precision to play through any defense. And Lyon was not strong enough to control the game by controlling possession of the ball in midfield either.

Though still Lyon could make up for their slower speed by their fine technical abilities and especially the fact that their individual players were very much on level and they had top players who could add to the performance at every position. But their chances came mainly from counter attacks instead of combination play. And of course then finally this time from Wolfsburgs faults instead of Lyons. Some might remember when Wolfsburg lost against PSG in the semis? An unnecessary penalty? Here it was a poor positioning of a Wolfsburg defender again. A unnecessary foul play to follow against Morgan who was heading towards the corner flag. A dangerous free kick. And Schults fault was the second and proofed to be one too much. 0:1 came rather surprising at that point.

Wolfsburg coming from 2 decisive matches against Bayern in the last 4 days. That is draining. But they still remained in the drivers seat and Popp missed two golden opportunities you cant afford to miss in such games no matter how tired you are.
But it was again the defense that was Wolfsburgs weak link. Lyon scored twice for the first time in (5?) years against German sides and had more good opportunities. Especially interesting that 4/5 of the weakest part of Wolfsburg is what the German N11 has choosen as their defense. – Missing the best and main anchor player Fischer.

But good to have a second game. Will Wolfsburgs offense again be good enough and this time convert this into goals despite yet another difficult and energy consuming match at the weekend. Or will Lyon once again punish the faults in Wolfsburgs defense and bring this to bed comfortably? We will have a special preview.

Bayern Munich – Paris Saint-Germain

First we want to have a look at the gap between these two and the clubs leading them in the league. Again: At the moment both are set to reach 3rd place only this season. Which would not be enough to play in the next CL competition unless they win it. We remember the match between OL and PSG back in December. Though PSG won. OL was as dominant as ever or even more. And Bayern came just from two defeats at the hands of Wolfsburg in Championship and Cup. And this is reflecting that there is a considerable margin to the other two. However. The low interest and visitor numbers are probably also due to the fact that the quality of the competition suffers heavily from having these teams not taking part next season.

The match though was on a considerable lower level. Mostly because the other was so good. This here wasnt bad. But Bayern at the moment are not the team they used to be and couldnt add much more than a good resistance against a Paris midfield that was widely in the control of the proceedings. And they could create some big chances too. But had to look at the other end and once again Viviane Miedema how to make a goal out of nothing. That is another beautiful aspect of football – as long as you are not the better side who loses.

But there are still 90 minutes to go in Paris and based on the performances here that seems to be enough time should Bayern not be able to find another level.

Fortuna Hjorring – Manchester City

Unfortunately Manchester City continued to confirm again their problem in offensive capabilities. Again a narrow 1:0 win that still leaves opportunities open for Fortuna Hjorring. One goal can always happen even if the chances for Fortuna came very sporadic even at home. Though the Danish players have been not quite as fit as the City players. But like everywhere else this gap also has closed massively. Remember the 0:6 and 0:7 from Brondby only two years ago in the semis against Frankfurt? Seems already like a far distant thing from different times. Now the differences are getting thus small that a good organisation around the own box is nearly levelling out the individual advantages and is giving the bigger clubs quite a tough task. Nevertheless this remains the match were a bet is most save out of the four.

FC Rosengard – CF Barcelona

Also a yes here. Barcelona could confirm it has moved quite a good step forward. FC Rosengard did only fall to a top team from Germany or France at least in the last few years. (last season to Frankfurt on penalties). And still we have a second leg to play though. And a team like Rosengard with Marta is able to turn this around. But it wont be easy in Barcelona and they need a better performance. Then we will have another good test to see how the Spanish team can defend a slim margin. Especially it seems there is still a slight margin though in athletics that the Barcelona defenders have to compensate for against top forwards. But it worked for them in the Algarve Cup and in Rosengard. So why not in the second match.

 

Players in the spotlight:

Leila Ouahabi

To start with the most unknown name here. Leila whout? Ok, one of the many talented youngsters from the Spanish U-teams we thought first when we saw her score the only goal smashing a shot from 25 meters into the upper90 in the Algarve Cup final for Spain against Canada. And one we struggled to tell a lot about when we last week talked about the changes in the Barcelona squad. Possibly one of those who we saw, but probably not remember because they switch too often between using first, second and nicknames? Not true. She turned already 24 on match day in Malmo was the astonishing answer. Had played in the Spanish U-teams but a while before that got on the screens. Her first senior cap for Spain was only in 2016 when she played for Valencia. Having played there previously she rejoined Barca last summer. And now also the only goal in Rosengard to leave her team with good chances to reach the semis for the first time made us look closer and gather these infos.
Leila Ouahabi El Ouahabi. A name that – to a non-specialist – sounds a little bit like music and a little bit Arabic or/and from the Iraq/Iran area? And thus also like another example of the wonderful diversity of human communities. Football players who all over the world probably nearly all know some similar cases in their teams need to tell that to those who are so afraid and desperate of it. Before it gets a real danger and a threat at some places to be cut off. Maybe we should also be happy no further incidents have been reported from Malmo in Sweden which some politicians wanted to sell as a dangerous city in a dangerous country.

Leila though still yet on her way to secure her starting line-up spot in the Spanish team has still a little bit work to do to finally reach the level of the two others here. Because it isnt the case that as interesting as Ouahabi sounds all Danish girls with long blonde hairs on the other side are lacking diversity too much. Quite the opposite. Some are Danish dynamite and remember us of that nearly forgotten motto.

Pernille Harder

We expected her to be of more help for Wolfsburg than Swiss Ramona Bachmann (article in German). But you never know as a lot of players (including Bachmann) are not used properly by new clubs when they move. So we all knew she is an excellent player from the Danish N11. Now we have seen her twice in Wolfsburg and she exceeded our high expectations. With her mix of speed and technical skills and especially her good movement she looked even better here than the world class strikers Morgan, LeSommer and Hegerberg on the other side. Some breaks to recharge batteries in her performance immediately switched the proceedings on the pitch towards Lyon. Same happened when she got tired during the second half. But it was the third extremely energy consuming match within a week for a player previously not used to go that level. It was more kind of surprising how she could have still left so much in the tank (Ok. Sorry. Damallsvenskan is overall very good too, but rarely quite on the Wolfsburg, Bayern, Lyon – level) And after having to adapt to the Wolfsburg training intensity level in the last two months too. So if that wasnt just a few of those extraordinary days where everything goes well we might have another new contender for the very very best spots in women’s football here.

Ashley Lawrence

The next player who could fully confirm or even exceed high expectations. We also already had her on the radar to be the one to make the new magic Canadian duo of Fleming and Beckie a magic trio. But we expected that needed more time. Its already gone far enough. Though all three are still young and hopefully still developing further. Hopefully they can continue to do so even under the spotlight where it will be much more difficult. Lawrence has improved her touch of the ball a lot after being a player with heavy focus on her speed. A school book example how much improving technical skills can make your speed advantages count for a lot of players. She is now only in her first few months at senior level and fortunately in a squad where she has players from whom she still can learn a lot. Also nice to have a second match to see more of her.

 

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