• AFP-Jiji, KYODO Staff Report


Lyon continued its reign as Europe’s dominant women’s team Sunday, beating Wolfsburg 3-1 in the Champions League final to win the trophy for the fifth consecutive year, with a goal by Japan star Saki Kumagai proving crucial.

After Eugenie Le Sommer gave Lyon the lead in the first half, Kumagai became the first Asian player to score in a UEFA Women’s Champions League final with a stunning long-range strike to put the French champions up 2-0 right before the break.

That left Wolfsburg with too much to do, even after Alexandra Popp pulled one back in the second half.

Icelandic midfielder Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir’s late effort nailed down the victory for Lyon, whose fifth consecutive Champions League crown is its record seventh overall.

“I hope to keep showing what I can do as a Japanese player at the top level,” Kumagai said after the match.

She had played in each of Lyon’s four previous championship victories, but scored in a final for the first time on Sunday. Earlier this year, the 29-year-old defensive midfielder extended her contract with the club until next June.

“Playing on this stage is a dream, and it means a lot to keep producing good results,” she said.

By winning five straight, Lyon equaled the feat of the Real Madrid men’s team, which won from 1956 to 1960 in the early days of the European Cup. French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted his congratulations at the end of the game.

“Now we need to win a sixth in a row to beat the record,” said captain Wendie Renard, who along with Le Sommer and goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi played a role in all seven titles.

“It is hard to win this trophy, but we give everything to win it every year.” Lyon’s latest triumph confirms its status as the top club team, even as rivals across Europe step up their own investment in the women’s game.

Jean-Luc Vasseur’s team had previously edged Bayern Munich and Paris Saint-Germain in the “Final Eight,” which was held behind closed doors in Spain’s Basque Country because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Lyon also topped PSG to claim a 14th successive French title this year and defeated its rival on penalties in the French Cup final.

This victory, against a side that won a German domestic double and was unbeaten in 40 games, put Lyon’s depth on display.

Lyon was missing four of its top players, with French duo Griedge Mbock and Amandine Henry injured and Norway’s 2018 Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg not fully fit. England forward Nikita Parris was suspended.

But Lyon’s long-serving president Jean-Michel Aulas continues to be rewarded for his heavy investment in a women’s team, despite the prize money for winning the Champions League being a mere €450,000 ($535,000), a tiny fraction of what the winner of the men’s competition receives.

“It is the stuff of legend because we have had to rebuild and innovate every year, but the team showed great resilience and to win a fifth Champions League in a row is absolutely incredible,” Aulas told Canal Plus.

Lyon was still able to call upon a host of French internationals and foreign stars like Kumagai, Germany’s Dzsenifer Marozsan and England right-back Lucy Bronze, who is expected to return to play in her home country.

Lyon is now unbeaten in 65 matches stretching back over two years. This is also the third time Lyon has beaten Wolfsburg in the final, leaving the Germans still searching for a third Champions League crown to go with titles in 2013, when they beat Lyon, and 2014.

Previous finals between these sides have been close affairs, although on this occasion the defending champion started strongly and was rewarded with the opening goal in the 25th minute.

Delphine Cascarino cut the ball back for Le Sommer, and she pounced to convert the rebound after her first shot was blocked by goalkeeper Friederike Abt.

The second goal came in the 44th minute. Ingrid Engen stopped Amel Majri but only succeeded in setting up Kumagai, who scored with a terrific left-footed strike from 23 yards.

“I am proud of my team @ol,” Kumagai wrote in French in an Instagram post before continuing in Japanese. “Thank you to all of my teammates, and to everyone for your support.” Wolfsburg pulled one back just before the hour as Ewa Pajor set up Popp to head in from close range, but Lyon made it 3-1 in the 88th minute.

When a corner was not properly cleared, Le Sommer went for goal and her wayward shot was deflected in by Gunnarsdottir.

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