UEFA Champions League Quarter Finals, final resume

UEFA Champions League 2016/17 Quarterfinal second leg:
(teams in fat print are through to the next round)

home away result
Wednesday, Mar. 29nd
FC Barcelona (ESP) FC Rosengard (SWE) 2:0 (3:0 on agg.)
Paris Saint-Germain (FRA) Bayern Munich (GER) 4:0 (4:1 on agg.)
Olympique Lyon (FRA) VfL Wolfsburg (GER) 0:1 (2:1 on agg.)
Thursday, Mar. 30rd
Manchester City Ladies (ENG) Fortuna Hjoerring (DEN) 1:0 (2:0 on agg.)

Headline: Strong development confirmed again

Again the matches confirmed a lot of the developments we already talked about. Mainly here

they are again:

  • Not too much between the teams anymore
  • Lyon no longer the number 1
  • Spain is coming
  • Hjorring brave
  • Decent progress made regarding individual development of the players.

The point though where we were happy it didnt go at all along to the expectations was that even Paris Saint-Germain could develop – and find a way to put the ball into the net. Not so sure though if that is already sustainable enough. But unexpectedly this turned out to be the pairing with the largest gap between the two teams again.

Attendance also got better

As expected we had higher attendances throughout. Double the numbers in Paris and Barcelona to about 14000 and 7500. And quadruple in Lyon to about 14000. Only Manchester was about the same as in Hjorring (2200). So the numbers dont sound at least that bad now. Though still not convincing.

The matches:

FC Barcelona – FC Rosengard (Malmo)

Finally FC Rosengard rather comprehensively got beaten by FC Barcelona. It was the 5th quarter final fare-well in 6 years for Rosengard and it had been tighter in the recent past. But it was also tighter again than the 0:3 on aggregate would suggest. Though Barcelona in both matches seemed to have that little bit advantage mainly in technical skills and they used it to their full advantage to put the ball away with excellent precision when it mattered.
And Marta’s – one of the all time greats in womens football – big time is also coming to an end. Not so much that she would get weaker. But the overall development of the players is also swallowing her kind of slowly up. She is still very good but with increasing skills of the opponents no more able to create the decisive moves for her team like before. Lieke Martens though could proof again she is on a good way back to her old level from before she suffered a concussion early in 2016. She hadnt been back there all year long in 2016.
We also loved to see Barbara LaTorre back in action. Not only because her wonderful Spanish-Italian name is so nice for a womens football player. She usually never fails to make an impression when she is subbed in late. Simply because she is such a typical example of the late match addition of a small super speedy wing running energy injector.
Often though you see these kind of players act so fast and just simply use their speed until the situation is over. Giving you the impression the feet are sometimes acting a second in advance to the brains and they start to think of it only afterwards. Barbara here is significantly different and has improved her technical skills to make much better use of it (though we look forward to further improvements). It was really a pleasure to watch how she always tried to have her head up to scan the development of the situation around her. Instead of looking for a running solution at first like many others do. And thus she also could launch her team mates. Like for the second goal in overtime. A smart wait for the right constellation to develop and then the right pass at the right moment like a true number 10 player. Not quite understandable why she doesnt get the start more often.
And the player to watch from the first resume Leila Ouahabi? Oui-oui, seniora Ouahabi actually really is enjoying her football. Impressive – especially when you are used to see the wonderful German womens Bundesliga workers doing their duties. Clearing a dangerous cross with a back heel around the attacker who came running in behind her though might come back at her sooner or later. But it is really a joy to watch players who have some fun out there. And of course it requires some decent skills as well.

Paris Saint-Germain – Bayern Munich

That was not at all like we expected. Paris suddenly found a way to screw the biggest screw of all: Finding the net. First Bayern helped a lot. And often thats the only initial trigger you need getting into a nice flow. Pity we arent smart enough yet to know more about why this happens or not. This time the ball just bounced like Paris wanted it and even from the crossbar into the net where it last week certainly would have bounced just out again. How much did the Paris players’ determination and impetus help? They all looked so much more determined to individually make the best of every single ball in the opposite half no matter where and what.
And then – like in the last WC final and like in the SheBelieves Cups french win – it can suddenly happen to you on both of the two very first occasions in a game. Two lucky punchs in the first twelve minutes and a massive boost of confidence. Delivering in a few minutes what you so desperately missed in hundreds of minutes before. Football is a fantastic game.
Munich however once again delivered in the section: They cant play that bad again. Usually they are at least relatively stable in not making too many big mistakes in defense like in game1. But even that went massively wrong here. And they didnt find an answer. Not in playing better all season long. Not after the 0:2 or at least at half time. And also may be not after the match? Blaming the roster was too weak and the lack of money might be part of the explanation why they didnt find an answer at half time at least. Hopefully thats developing.
And the situation for them might be quite explosive. There are a lot of cracks in a team whos performance goes down that straight. Hopefully they will get them covered and get their act together soon. For Paris though it is also only a small compensation yet. The chances to start in this competition next year are still slim. And that reminds us unforgiving of the big problems in acceptance of this competition. If they afford to leave teams like PSG out the whole CL competition suffers. You cant prevent these things always but this competition needs to have the most attractive matches possible to promote womens football and to boost club football internationally as well alongside the national teams.

Olympique Lyon – VfL Wolfsburg

We expected it to be the best match of the year in womens football. It might have been even more. Depending on how you want to define “best match”.
We mentioned how much Olympique Lyon are the best from the French N11 added by some international top players (though they might miss Georges and Karchaoui).
And how much better VfL Wolfsburg is compared to the German N11. Not always the ultimate proof but it is symptomatic: Anja Mittag is still a regular starter at the German N11 but doesnt even play at Wolfsburg when forwards Janette Jakabfi and Tessa Wullaert are missing and they are desperate for a goal. And the defense from the German N11 was identical lately to Wolfsburg only missing the main anchor player Fischer and replacing her by Henning. And no Harder, Hansen or Dickenmann in the German N11 as well.
We wouldnt go as far as to say more or less it was the match between Pernille Harder and Caro Hansen and a few supportive players against Olympique Lyon. But it is also not the worst starting point to describe the match. Lara Dickenmann was the third player who was a strong factor because she also was able to get the better individually of some OL players. The others more or less of course managed a good performance against the ball – but only that. Not enough they managed though with the ball and that proofed finally not enough again. At some point Wolfsburg might realise that.
It was interesting again to watch how clearly sometimes these sorts of very top level games exploit strenghts and weaknesses of players that are usually much more difficult to understand. Simply for instance because a lot of the players are good enough to dominate the average league player they usually face and even average international players. But not so much other top players. Also you can make up often for technical problems against average teams. But against top players inaccuracies or weaknesses become much more evident. Though sometimes a certain duel is just a mismatch for one player.
That fits for the duel Hansen/Majri. We have Majri in our world top11. But as midfielder. Here (only) you saw her lack of experience as defender. She just wasnt used to play forwards like Hansen who made her look very average in defense at times. Majri simply isnt used to needing these skills as a defender in Lyon.She is a good dribbler herself and yet fell too easily for the speedy body movement dummies from Hansen.
Griedge MBock on the other side has more experience in defending. And it was very nice to see how well she adapted to the situation. Initially she also was outplayed by Dickenmann heavily including a punishing nutmeg. That left the audience in the stands with Ahs and Ohs. But MBock learned quickly how to set the pieces together of her own speed, her opponents speed and their abilities to touch the ball and turn. Could make some good interceptions later on by sliding tacklings and prevented her side from being the achilles heel it had been initially. We sometimes miss that ability and also the proper reactions from players and also from the coaches in womens football.
And then there was a nice penalty puzzle to decide. Initially like a ref without replay we would have seen it as a clear penalty. But after looking in slow motion there were some arguments for but also some against a penalty depending once more heavily on the angle you looked at it. Kerschowski missed to touch the ball first and blocked Hegerbergs move at it. But you could argue Kerschowski finally got closer to it and Hegerberg kicked Kerschowski in her try to play the ball as well. We are more on the first side but enough to give penalty and a red card? Dont know and happy not having to decide.
Another aspect how much this encounter has turned around compared to recent years was that Lyon now was the team who defended with determination and fighting spirit, and were the more compact team working mainly close together in defense. And they now were the ones forced to play for direct counter attacks.

But. The advanced tactical details showed the development unfortunately also massively going towards the “combination prevention” style. Playing for “second” balls and forwards being the “upmost defenders” of your team being the latest highlights of creative wording for defend, destroy, kick and look what happens. Lyons style now is the latest casualty of being destroyed. No control any more by technical superior skills and securing control of a game by possession of the ball. Alex Morgan played really well. Somewhere was chosen as the player of the match by Lyon? (Not sure if we wouldnt have chosen Renard though).
But why was that?
One or two offensive actions up front created on her own and not to even a small degree by team play. But mainly because she was so good in defending and preventing Wolfsburg. Will we see days in football where it is unthinkable again that a striker gets the merits for being so engaged in destroying the opponents game? Lyon have come away with it this time because Wolfsburgs defense gifted it away in game one. And they might still be good enough for another year. But the development goes on …

Wolfsburg the same by the way. Harder, Hansen and Dickenmann are able to combine beautifully. But they simply nearly dont do it any more because they are urged into an individual only style of football. Getting around the opponent in a 1vs1 situation. Should we say “of course” none of the three goals scored over the 180 minutes have in any way been a combined team effort. Not even by two of a “team”.

Manchester City Ladies – Fortuna Hjorring

This was unfortunately very much the forgotten match because Hjorring was considerably the least known name and has no international top star players. However it was very important to see how close they came here again. Even given Citys problems in offence. That was much more on the edge than expected. Hjorring had maybe the bigger opportunities in the first half. And a penalty and red card for Houghton and the upset was absolutely not that far away. But it is more about the general development here again that showed how close players everywhere are getting now to the top level players.

 

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