Barcelona, Lyon book UWCL final rematch; Roma reign in Serie A

Lyon and Barcelona both dug in over the weekend to secure away wins that set up a third Champions League final between the two sides in six years. Elsewhere, Roma claimed the Serie A title and Crystal Palace earned their promotion to the Women’s Super League, where leaders Manchester City felt the absence of their star striker.

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Bonmatí dazzles for Barcelona in UWCL comeback

Of course, it would be Aitana Bonmatí to ensure Barcelona fought back to overcome Chelsea and reached their fourth consecutive Champions League final. The holder of the Ballond’Or proved precisely why she is on track to be the front-runner for the award for a second year running.

After Bonmatí slammed Chelsea for playing “ugly” football after Emma Hayes’ team won the first leg in Spain 1-0, the second leg in London was not any prettier. However, the impetus and raw talent that Bonmatí brings to the Catalans make her and her team the best in the world. What makes Bonmatí such an integral player is her dominance with both feet, her vision and her versatility; without her, Barcelona would sure be far less of a threat.

The 26-year-old netted the first of the evening almost out of nowhere. It might have taken a deflection, but her ability to create the opportunity to strike wowed the hosts. Keeping control in midfield to orchestrate a struggle for the Blues, she earned her side the crucial decisive penalty that sealed a 2-0 win on the night and booked Barcelona their plane ticket to Bilbao next month.

Bonmatí is not slowing down anytime soon, and her performance will undoubtedly have helped to pip her to another Ballon d’Or, but what stands as more important is that it gives her and her beloved side another shot at being crowned the best in Europe.

Lyon show experience to power past PSG

After a rousing second-half performance to win the first leg 3-2, Lyon dug into their vast experience to turn the screw at Paris Saint-Germain in the second leg and book an 11th Champions League final berth. Selma Bacha‘s third-minute goal was enough to settle any early nerves and keep Lyon’s noses in front, even allowing for PSG’s fightback and late first-half strike from Tabitha Chawinga.

A second half that should have seen sparks fly ended up all a little flat for the hosts whose late capitulation in Lyon had left them behind the eight ball coming into the second ball. Ultimately, for all the progress PSG have made over the last few years, the match carried the familiar look of an inferior team struggling against Lyon’s nous, experience and sheer quality.

There were, however, bright sparks for the hosts, Sakina Karchaoui‘s running, Chawinga’s willingness to take on the Lyon defence, as well as a pair of eye-catching saves from Constance Picaud. But the victory for Lyon was all to inevitable, too much like the majority of their shared history with the team from the French capital looking the welterweight against the heavyweight champion.

Inter outshine Juventus (to hand Roma the title)

Enduring something of a mixed season, Internazionale were back in action on Friday, visiting a Juventus team who had to win to keep any hopes of a title alive. For the visitors, who’ve shown good endeavour this season, the match was a chance to test their growth against a team they’d never beaten before.

A flowing move halfway through the first half had the visitors on top when Agnese Bonfantini set up Elisa Polli to poked the ball home before Haley Bugeja doubled the advantage as half-time approached. With it all to do, Juventus laboured in attack, and their best chances were denied by Sara Cetinja as the clock ran down on the match and their title hopes. Having parted ways with manager Joe Montemurro last month, the Bianconere have continued their frustrating form and are in need of hitting the reset button over the summer. Conversely, Inter seem to be moving in the right direction with balance across the team and an increasingly exciting attack, hopefully making for a more competitive Serie A next season.

The upshot of the result? Roma have claimed a second-successive scudetto, with four games to spare.

Man City struggle in Shaw’s absence

Manchester City have led the way this season with dominant, controlled and goal-filled performances this season. Yet WSL top goal scorer Khadija “Bunny” Shaw had been integral to this, scoring 21 goals in 18 matches. With the Jamaica international now ruled out for the remainder of the season, it took City over an hour in their clash with Bristol City to make a breakthrough.

Shaw’s absence left a gaping hole in Gareth Taylor’s side, who was visibly disappointed with their first-half performance, and it took over an hour for the league leaders to find the back of the net.

City are not without a plethora of attacking talent, but it was clear that the side relied far too much on the 27-year-old’s instinctive nature and clinical finishing. Whilst the afternoon ended in a 4-0 victory, the seven big chances missed reveals a worrying narrative for the end of the campaign.

The remaining players must seize the chance to elevate their performance and fill the void left by Shaw if they want to keep their hopes alive for securing their first WSL title since 2016. Facing third-placed Arsenal next weekend, City must significantly reduce their wastefulness to prevent the league title from slipping out of their grasp.

Athletic Club claim Basque honours

In the early Sunday kick-off at Ipurúa, Basque Country rivals Eibar and Athletic Club clashed in Liga F with the visitors from Bilbao coming out on top thanks to goals from Ane Azkona and Jone Amezaga. Much like Athletic’s season so far, the match ebbed and flowed with the hosts finding enough to claim the 2-0 victory and revitalise their hopes of finishing in a Champions League berth, sitting four points adrift of third-placed Atlético Madrid.

Despite the loss, there was still plenty of for the hosts to celebrate later in the day as Real Madrid snatched a stoppage-time winner against Levante, leaving Eibar mathematically safe from relegation and keeping the Basque contingent in Liga F strong.

Palace promoted as Championship wraps up

In England’s usually unpredictable second tier, Crystal Palace claimed the only promotion spot with a draw at home against third-placed Sunderland. Aside from a wobble or two throughout the season against promotion rivals, the Eagles stayed the course and although they couldn’t close the season out with a win, the promotion is richly deserved.

Although the party is likely to be continuing through the week, it will be a swift return to business for Eagles’ boss Laura Kaminski, who will have a busy summer ahead to ready her team for the rigors of WSL life. On the same day, Bristol City’s relegation to WSL was confirmed — the Robins boomeranging back down after a season of struggle in the top flight.

The precarious nature of life outside the wealthiest clubs in England is evident amid rumbles that Palace’s promotion rivals wouldn’t have been likely to fulfil the financial side of the Football Association’s licencing requirements for a WSL berth. Palace ending up top may have rather spared the FA’s blushes.

End-of-season fatigue finally sets in

The lacklustre displays on Sunday indicate that fatigue, typical towards the latter part of the season, has taken hold. With an overwhelming amount of football played since last year, its effects are becoming evident, leading to a string of subpar and weary performances on Sunday.

Three games — Tottenham Hotspur vs. Brighton & Hove Albion, Arsenal vs. Everton and Aston Villa vs. West Ham United — all finished 1-1 before Manchester United struck late at Leicester City to avoid a goalless draw. All four games were less than enthralling. Arsenal put in one of their worst attacking displays, taking them until the 80th minute to score, whilst Brighton and Villa squandered their early leads. Five of the seven goals were conceded in the closing stages of the games as the defence’s energy was sapped across the board.

Given the relentless demands of the gruelling schedule, it is no surprise that the toll on players has become increasingly palpable. With two games left this season, it is understandable why there are so many tired legs, worn-out expressions and sleepy passes.