Soccer

Kumagai helps Olympique Lyonnais capture consecutive Champions League titles

Kyodo

Japan defender Saki Kumagai lifted the UEFA Women’s Champions League crown for the second time as defending champion Olympique Lyonnais beat French rival Paris Saint Germain 7-6 on penalties after a goalless 120 minutes on Thursday.

Playing in defensive midfield, Kumagai fulfilled her duty by stopping the likes of Brazilian Cristiane and Spaniard Veronica Boquete before slotting home from the spot as Lyonnais’ fifth taker in the shootout, helping her side claim the title for the fourth time.

“I just tried not to rush things and do the work in the area I’m responsible for. I think it was huge we didn’t concede a goal,” said the 26-year-old, who joined Olympique from FFC Frankfurt in 2013.

“It wasn’t the best of performances but the result is all that matters.”

Kumagai had scored the title-clinching penalties at the 2011 World Cup for Nadeshiko Japan as well as at last year’s Champions League for Lyonnais, but in Wales she went up to the spot knowing she had to score to keep her side in the tie with Paris leading 4-3.

A recent memory was haunting Kumagai too. Olympiqe beat Paris 7-6 on penalties after a 1-1 draw in the French Cup final on May 19 — when Kumagai scored the equalizing penalty in regular time — but her spot kick in the shootout hit the post when she could have clinched the title herself.

“In previous occasions, it was all over once I score. This time there was pressure,” said Kumagai, who extended her contract with Lyonnais last month for another three years. “I thought the ‘keeper was going to move (before I take the kick). I could see her move and am glad I scored.”

Olympique Lyonnais, who won the French league for the past 11 seasons and the cup for the past six, secured the treble for the second year running. They will be bidding to win the Champions League for the fifth time and three seasons in a row — both a new record if achieved.