5 things we learned after Barcelona finally crack Lyon code to retain UWCL


Bilbao was a sea of blue and garnet on Saturday as two titans of women’s football went head-to-head in the UEFA Women’s Champions League final at San Mames.

For Barcelona, it was a revenge mission after they were beaten by Lyon in both the 2019 and 2022 finals of the competition. They were finally crowned champions in 2021 after beating Chelsea and produced a remarkable comeback to beat Wolfsburg last year, but the French side were the one team they could not overcome.

That was, until Aitana Bonmati produced a moment of magic in the second-half to fire Barcelona in front against Lyon. After a relatively even match-up in front of over 50,000 spectators, Jonatan Giraldez’s side displayed their quality to get themselves over the line.

Alexia Putellas took to the pitch as the clock ticked into additional time and was quick to put the result beyond doubt as she fired home the second of the night. Two goals down with minutes left to play, Lyon were resigned to their fate.

Here’s a look at five things we learned from a historic night in Bilbao.

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Barcelona players celebrate with the UWCL trophy / ANDER GILLENEA/GettyImages

Barcelona have always been technically and tactically brilliant, but their previous showings in finals against Lyon exposed frailties in their mentality and physicality. Progress was underlined in last year’s comeback victory against Wolfsburg, but Saturday’s match up against Lyon was the ultimate test.

The 2-0 win marks a coming of age for this Barcelona team as they were finally able to conquer the greatest club team in the women’s game. Goalscorer Bonmati summed up her team’s previous struggles pre-match, as she told the media: “Years ago we were more vulnerable and we found it difficult to come back in games we were losing.”

There was absolutely no vulnerability on display against Lyon this time around as they dominated possession and carved out numerous opportunities. The French club had their moments, but Bonmati was the difference maker as she broke the deadlock in the second half.

The maturity shown in the closing stages of the game to sniff out any danger as Lyon pushed for an equaliser typified the progress made by the team in recent years. Barcelona of the past may have struggled to see out the game, but not now, not this team.

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Lyon players prior to the UWCL final against Barcelona / PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/GettyImages

The disappointment among the Lyon players at full-time was palpable. This is a team who are not used to losing – they last lost a final in this competition back in 2013 against Wolfsburg.

But, the competitiveness within the women’s game is growing every year. A lot of the pre-match discussion centred around a ‘changing of the guard’ at the pinnacle of the women’s game, with seemingly Barcelona primed and ready to create the next dynasty.

However, it’s fair to say Lyon won’t be going anywhere. They are a club that will always be capable of attracting the world’s best players and they will always be a strong competitor in this competition.

This is only Barcelona’s third victory in this competition, so they’re still some way off matching Lyon’s record in Europe. With so many teams, including Chelsea, now operating at such an elite level, it is difficult to see a team dominating in the way the French club have for so many years.

Alexia Putellas

Alexia Putellas with the UWCL trophy / Catherine Ivill – AMA/GettyImages

Bonmati will, rightfully so, claim a lot of the plaudits. The midfielder, who is so accustomed to excelling on the biggest stage, was at the heart of everything Barcelona did well.

But, one of the absolute pillars of Giraldez’s reign in Putellas produced a moment of magic in stoppage time to ensure the Champions League trophy stayed in Barcelona. Her playing time has been hampered in recent seasons due to injury and the midfielder has largely been resigned to the bench this term, but she needed only a handful of minutes to put her stamp on this game.

Putellas’ importance to the club, for whom she has played since 2012, was underlined in the week leading up to the final as she committed her future until 2026. After scoring in the 2021 final to help Barcelona to their first European title, it felt fitting she was among the goals to seal a historic quadruple for the club.

Sonia Bompastor

Lyon coach Sonia Bompastor / Eurasia Sport Images/GettyImages

It likely wasn’t just Barcelona and Lyon fans tuning in to watch Saturday’s final in Bilbao. There was certainly WSL interest as Lyon boss Sonia Bompastor, according to widespread reports, is set to succeed Emma Hayes at Chelsea.

For the London club, who have reached just one final in the competition in 2021 and were beaten by Barcelona, succeeding in Europe will be high on the agenda for the new coach. Saturday’s showing arguably wasn’t the way the way the 43-year-old would’ve hoped to conclude her time at Lyon.

However, Bompastor’s pedigree in Europe, both as a player and as a coach, is impressive. Lyon’s journey to get to this season’s final, which included a remarkable comeback in the semi-finals against domestic rivals Paris Saint-Germain, will certainly whet the appetite of Chelsea fans.

Jonatan Giraldez

Giraldez with the UWCL trophy / Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/GettyImages

Speaking of managers leaving their respective clubs, Barcelona coach Giraldez is set for pastures new in the NWSL with Washington Spirit. A key figure behind the club’s rise in recent years, he will no doubt be a significant miss in years to come.

He has just a handful of league fixtures remaining before he pulls the curtain on what has been a trophy-laden tenure with the Catalan giants. Signing off with a quadruple isn’t too bad, is it?

What will satisfy the manager most is the character shown by his team to overcome an opponent who has so often got the better of them. He will trust he is leaving a team mature enough, physical enough and experienced enough to continue the success under new leadership.

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