On an evening when the Empire of Barcelona threatens to burn itself to the ground, their football project suffered a serious blow with Barcelona Femeni crashing out of the Champions League, beaten in the semi finals by VfL Wolfsburg.
Fridolina Rolfo’s goal, the first Barcelona had conceded in over 800 minutes of football, condemned them to their first defeat of the season, in perhaps the most important game of their season. Rolfo’s goal was the difference, and it arrived courtesy of a botched Barcelona clearance, which looped the ball in the sky for Ewa Pajor to try an outrageous overhead kick to score. Pajor’s attempt was weak and fell to Rolfo, who was a yard from goal when she poked it in.
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“We were a tad fortunate to win in the end,’ Rolfo said in a post match interview, and that would be understating the point. Barcelona created more chances, played the more controlled football (at least till the end) and missed opportunities in buckets.
Wolfsburg were lucky in more ways than one, the most glaring when the referee missed Kathrin Hendrich’s handball in the box — off an Asisat Oshoala header, from a Barcelona corner in the first 25 minutes. Friederike Abt saved brilliantly, but a penalty shout seemed warranted.
Barca’s best chance to take the lead fell early in the second half when Jenni Hermoso released Graham Hansen with a brilliant through ball. Rather than shoot, the Norwegian tried to cut back to an onrushing but rather than shooting she tried to pull it back to Oshoala, and just like that Wolfsburg cleared their lines. The miss would prove to be costly minutes later when Wolfsburg struck
The game had been built as a clash of styles, Barcelona’s smooth passing, slow build ups matched against Wolfsburg’s vertical movement, counterattacking game.
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Barcelona, predictably, kept coming, increasingly looking desperate, going forward in numbers, racking up 16 shots in process. And yet, Abt was forced into a save just once throughout the game, that one stat illustrative of what Barca were missing.
Kheira Hamraoui’s piece was squeezed wide, Mapi Leon’s blocked by a strong Wolfsburg defence, and then, Jenni Hermoso’s superb footwork found Mariona Caldentey five yards from goal with the net staring at her. She put it over. Wolfsburg were going through, but Barcelona had bombed more than lost.
“It says a lot about the club that everybody wants to win and has a strong winning mentality, even if we didn’t play our best today,” Rolfo said later. “We were a little bit lucky but I'm so proud that we did it.”
Wolfsburg are two time UEFA Women’s Champions League winners and will look to add a third as they take on either Paris Saint-Germain Lyon — who play the second semifinal later today. It won’t be the only third they will add to their name with a victory though. The team are Bundesliga and German Cup Champions, prime placed for a treble unique to football, and coveted by all.
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