Barcelona crumble, Lyon fight back, Man City go top of WSL

With domestic leagues starting to wind up across Europe and some teams edging closer to landing silverware in cup competitions, the main focus of the weekend was the first legs of the UEFA Women’s Champions League semifinals.

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Barcelona crumble at home against Chelsea

Champions League holders and hot favourites to retain their crown this season, Barcelona were stopped in their tracks on Saturday by an impressive Chelsea team who came away from the semifinal first leg in Spain with a huge 1-0 win thanks to Erin Cuthbert‘s first-half goal.

Emma Hayes’ side leaned into every bit of their experience to tip the scales in their favour as their back five clogged up the final third and they pressed hard all around the pitch. But rather than rise to the occasion, Barça buckled to put in one of their worst performances in recent memory.

Barcelona had been unbeaten at home in five years, while the last time they failed to score was back in April 2022. But world-class stars like Caroline Graham Hansen and Keira Walsh went missing and Barça’s match was typified by Alexia Putellas‘ last-minute effort from the centre of the area, which the two-time Ballon d’Or winner somehow managed to slice wide. Such a mental capitulation is a world away from the team Barcelona have evolved into, but they could do nothing as Hayes’ team had one of their best games of what has been a questionable season so far.

Barcelona have reached the UWCL final in four of the past five seasons, but they will take on the unfamiliar role of underdog as they try to do so again next week in London. — Sophie Lawson

Lyon fight back vs. PSG

At 2-0 up, thanks to a Marie-Antoinette Katoto brace, Paris Saint-Germain were cruising in Lyon as the 79th-minute ticked over. Their gameplan was working to perfection but, in what was their third meeting with Lyon so far this season, manager Jocelyn Prêcheur showed his naivety. This wasn’t just a Division 1 Féminine meeting, this was the Champions League semifinals — something eight-time winners Lyon know all about. And when Les Fenottes get close enough to taste the final, they always seem to find another gear.

PSG sunk deeper, inviting pressure from the hosts, and three goals in six incredible minutes saw Lyon turn the deficit into a 3-2 advantage thanks to Sonia Bompastor’s canny substitutes and goals from Kadidiatou Diani, Melchie Dumornay and Amel Majri.

Earlier in the day it looked like Barcelona had reverted into a former version of themselves against Chelsea and the same could be said of PSG as they struggled to show the experience and understanding needed to beat Lyon. It was a demise that was entirely their own making but the manner in which it happened makes a potential comeback at home all the less likely. — SL



How Lyon turned UWCL semifinal around in ‘devastating six minutes’ for PSG

Sophie Lawson reacts to Lyon’s 3-2 victory against PSG in the Women’s Champions League in which they scored three goals in six minutes to grab the win.

Man City’s fast start makes statement of intent for WSL title

With Chelsea occupied by European football, Manchester City saw the perfect opportunity to make a statement of intent in the Women’s Super League title race, and they did just that. Having played a game more, City went three points clear at the top of the table after a clinical and ruthless 5-0 win over West Ham United. But it was their rampant start, with Leila Ouahabi netting within 24 seconds and Khadija “Bunny” Shaw adding a second in the fourth minute, that orchestrated the perfect demolition job.

Every goal counts in a title race as close as this one and if both sides win their remaining games, it will come down to the all-important goal difference. By City extending theirs to +3 over the Blues, it piles the pressure on Hayes’s side to churn out some show-stopping performances in their remaining four games.

City’s assertion of dominance over West Ham will provide a pressure release now that they have confirmed Champions League football again after missing out last season. All that is left is to try and seal a first WSL title since 2016. — Emily Keogh

Tottenham learn lessons vs. Man United

With Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United heading to Wembley next month for the FA Cup final, this WSL matchup was a chance for each to learn from their opponents and, in particular, for Spurs to figure out how to play without loanee Grace Clinton.

Clinton will be ineligible to face her parent club when Spurs make their inaugural appearance in an FA Cup final, but she has arguably been their most important player this season as so much comes through the midfielder. And the last time Spurs faced United without the 21-year-old they were handed a 4-0 drubbing.

But Spurs boss Robert Vilahamn might have an idea how to play without Clinton now as his side were cruelly denied their first-ever win over United as Maya le Tissier scrambled home a stoppage-time equaliser. Spurs had come from behind after Melvine Malard gave United the lead, with two goals in three minutes from Bethany England and Jessica Naz, but were denied at the death as it finished 2-2.

Nevertheless, it was a clear improvement from the season’s first meeting and would have provided key information on how to dampen United’s threats, capitalise on their weaknesses and, most importantly, how to set up for victory without Clinton. — EK

Fox dazzles for Arsenal

Emily Fox has had several months to adjust to life in the WSL and has seemingly taken to it like a duck to water. After impressing during the Conti Cup final and winning the Player of the Matcha award in the WSL win over against Liverpool, Fox has been showcasing her athleticism and talent in recent weeks and the USWNT defender put in another five-star performance in Arsenal’s 3-0 win over Leicester City.

The right-back used her pace and burgeoning partnership with centre-back Leah Williamson to dictate flow from the back, and almost picked up her first WSL goal after twisting to take aim from the edge of the area, only to be denied by an acrobatic save from Lize Kop.

If her quick adjustment to the WSL is any indication of the longevity of her talent, Fox will no doubt be one of Arsenal’s most reliable players next season. Six points off top spot, and UWCL football confirmed, next year the club’s title aspirations will be higher than ever. — EK

Juventus delay Roma’s celebrations

Having succumbed to a late Roma winner last Monday, Juventus had to win against Sassuolo to keep their increasingly narrow Serie A title hopes alive. And, going a goal down just before the hour, it looked as if the Bianconere‘s forgettable season had drawn to an early close.

However, the hosts fought their way back to win 2-1, with Lisa Boattin‘s cute free kick cancelling out Chiara Beccari‘s opener before Paulina Nystrom fired home the winner at a corner. It’s the type of fight Juventus have been lacking this season as they sit nine points off top spot with four games left, but they are still without a permanent manger following Joe Montemurro’s departure and their general direction continues to raise questions.

The win, combined with Roma’s 0-0 draw — their first of the league season — away to Fiorentina later on Saturday has postponed the Giallorosse‘s title party, but it only feels like delaying the inevitable. — SL

Hoffenheim falter

With the Frauen-Bundesliga title set to end up with either Bayern Munich of Wolfsburg, the race is on between Eintracht Frankfurt and Hoffenheim to see who can claim the third Champions League berth.

Having claimed the upper hand last month, Hoffenheim’s 2-1 late loss to Essen allowed the Eagles to leapfrog them back into third with their 4-1 win over Nurnburg, and now a single point separates the two teams heading into the last three games of the season.

Hoffenheim had been leading but then Benke Sterner’s 88th minute equaliser stunned them before Natasha Kowalski’s penalty two minutes later put the ball back in Eintracht’s court. — SL