Another season of the UEFA Champions League comes to an end where the margins once again got tighter. And we assume it was for the first time ever that both of the finalists had to suffer defeats already early on in the competition in rounds prior to the semis.
While the development of the top teams have slowed down the chasing pack is still improving at good speed. Still it has only the then already bankrupt Swedish side of Tyreso been able to prevent the French and German clubs from being the only ones in the eight finals since the first one of this format was kicked off in 2010. This season Manchester City and FC Barcelona came closest.
And Paris Saint-Germain had to win the match to return to the Champions League next year because they missed to be in the top two of this past season in France for the first time since years. That is where the development is coming from. The increased amount of players who are now able to prevent the very top players from marching through like they did in the past.
Both teams interestingly faced each other for the third game within the last for weeks after the league and the Cup match. We had analysed the Cup final here and were keen to see if any team would have a come to a good conclusion of how to use the aftermath of the last games to improve their chances.
Headline: Not improved but unfortunately they both declined
It was the expected match with the expected main battle grounds. Not that this was very difficult to project. The individual technical skills and athletics of the players were fascinating at times. While the tactical understanding of management and players sometimes leaves a lot of questions to be answered.
And thus we saw a game on a high athletic and technical level of the players but with a rather low entertainment level. At least it was tight. Paris tried to offer no free spaces to the Lyon offense. That was – as often is – the part which was executed quite ok because it is relatively easy to achieve. But it also was because Lyon was even weaker than before in their efforts to open up the spaces. You didnt expect them to be able to play more static than they did in the Cup final.
However sometimes the individual skills of the players have been absolutely extraordinary. (except the tactical ones) Though amongst the best of the best this match was the one of Shirley Cruz Trana to stand out. She was not only the main force in the center but also the only player who was able to create chances on either side. And thus it looked like there have been two matches going on. One with – and one without her. As long as she was on the pitch, Paris was even the slightly stronger team and had the far better chances. As soon as she left, it switched to Lyon being utterly dominant. You would expect she could only be subbed out because of an injury? Wouldnt be too sure. Remember for example coach Bergeroo subbing out Elodie Thomis when she was the biggest threat against Germany in the WC 2015?
What happened on the pitch
The match unfolded like expected. Paris kept the spaces tight in their own half. And Lyon tried the same strategy like what they could have seen in the previous match didnt work at all. Only this time they tried it even worse and it worked even worse. There was absolutely nothing worth talking about regarding creating chances from open play during the complete 120 minutes from Lyon.
Paris also missed to improve their counter attacks like we would have liked to see. But at least two or three times in the game they could create big chances from open play when the Lyon defense looked very poorly organised. The first came in the first half when Cruz was suddenly running alone towards the goalie after a long ball and a lost header duel in midfield. Starter level mistake. So midfielder Cruz was at the top of the counter attack and stopped by ? – midfielder Abily in the own box of Lyon after Cruz lost a few meters in the footrace because she isnt the sprinter type of player. But she is a good footballer type of footballer so she managed to either way twist and turn again – as so often during the game – out of the reach of the Lyon defenders. But finally Lyon had managed to do just enough to get her off balance so Bouhaddi finally could make a fine safe.
The second very big chance of the game came in the second half. And again Cruz played the main role. Once again controlling the ball at her feet masterly and being able to shrug off the opponents trying to steal it from her she played a well timed through ball to Delie. Who was unmarked and with enough time in front of Lyons goalie. But from about the penalty spot she missed the goal and her shot went just a few inches wide.
With the two big chances of the game missed from Paris you kind of waited now for one odd situation on the other side to hand the 1:0 win over by a strange product of randomness. But the chance Hegerberg had earlier in the game after a set piece should remain their only one of Lyon on the day. They didnt get even close to make a lucky goal somehow later on after Cruz was subbed out and the game was played mainly in the Paris half only.
Thus it had to be penalties again. And Lyon got lucky for the third time. After winning the Cup final 7:6 they did the same here. And after the win on penalties in last years final you felt it would be time next year for a team to step up again and win a Champions league final not by good luck but by a good performance.
We could pretty much copy the French Cup final match’s tactical description here again. So you might re-read it if you want. Though we have to admit we still had some hopes that someone would come up with some clever conclusions from the other games and find some tactical improvements to outmanouvre their opponents. There was one micro – improvement that shouldnt go unnoticed and could have taken as example. Though given nothing else changed it looks like a random development also. Majri didnt focus as much as in the Cup final on getting through on the side line only but cut in the center every now and then to get herself into a shooting position.
But Lyons only main change was to replace Elodie Thomis by Alex Morgan. Morgan unfortunately got injured in their first match about four weeks ago and playing probably was a gamble. It didnt need long until it was over though.
And Paris Saint-Germain surprised with the idea to break up their strong three women back line by benching Laura Georges. What a decision. Grace Geyoro is a very strong young and upcoming player and might be one of the best young faces of the season. We had her already in our team of the tournament of the U20 WC 2016 while she there unfortunately stayed under the radar for others. But her inexperience as a center back at that level nearly messed it all up in two situations.
But not only the back line was weakened without Georges, also Geyoro was missed in midfield. Though also Diallo played quite well and we can look forward to seeing her more often in the future. While Christiane was back again to the same tactical problems she often adds to the Paris team against strong opponents: Not providing width by running into the free spaces behind the high line of Lyon like she did so well in the only goal for Paris in the Cup match. But instead narrowing the midfield even more by looking for short passes within the own half to be played into her feet and making it much easier for Lyon to chase the ball down.
Summary and Resume
And if you havent already read our article here again is the chance what we hoped they could do better in Cardiff after the Cup final. It is not the first time though we experienced that there is absolutely no Once again an example for how tight it has got. Granted, Paris even beat Lyon two or three years ago. But that was when OL was weaker and still it was more kind of an exception. Because the level of the players is more even now and the wins have to be grinded out based on much smaller margins.
There was nothing new to experience in this game that we havent already talked about. But it is not that we would be overly proud of that. Quite the opposite. We would very much like to be surprised by any further development.
As it stands it is not easy to see from where it should be coming. Having a new coach in Lyon next season at least opens up a little chance for them. But we will have to wait and see. Otherwise their lucky streak might probably come to a hold. VfL Wolfsburg were already the better team this season. And especially the English and Spanish teams are close enough to beat them on a good day. And that is especially astonishing with the Spanish not buying any international top stars at all. But they have already been the main driving force in womens football regarding development of young players over the last years. It seems finally this is paying off. Though we have seen Paredes making a big step forward during the last year since moving from Real Sociedad to Paris Saint-Germain. But this years competition also showed that the Danish teams could also keep pace with the development. Unfortunately we still have to wait for Italian teams to go deep in the competition. Unfortunately in the poorer(?) east European countries womens football is still quite a bit behind not only in national teams but also on club level. Interestingly Romania (besides Russia) the only country at least getting very close to participate at the European Championships.
Domestically in France we have to see how Paris will react to the fact that they are out and Montpellier that they are in the CL next season. Paris often sees the bigger changes in their squad. Given the display here it would be a pity to see their team disassemble. Otherwise the fight for the next French title might be more open than in any of the last 10 years.
Much less to do than Kiedrzynek. One great safe against Cruz. But also usual blip
Ok in defense. But not enough going forward
Overall as dominant as usual but could have done better at the Paris chances
Solid in defense
Very active also in offense
Solid without sparkle.
Solid midfield fight. Could there be more
Again not enough impact on the match for a “10” role
Unlike the Cup match never got past Lawrence
Not many useful balls in the box
Tried but Most lively offensive player in a white jersey
Good performance without very big questions asked
Strong and stable performance.
Very much improved athleticism during the last year
Solid. Good positioning as always
No problems against Thomis but no effect in offense
Also solid in midfield
Solid holding her ground
A goal would have been the tip of the cake
Not enough impact. Back to making the field narrow
Good work rate in defense.