Why FC Barcelona Femeni did not succeed in the 2018/2019 UWCL final?
Updated: May 10
Analysis of the 2018/19 UEFA Women's Champions League Final 18th of May 2019, Budapest
Venue: Groupama Arena, Budapest Final result: 4-1 to Olympique Lyon Marozsan 5', Hegerberg 14', 19', 30', Oshoala 89'
Barcelona's road to Budapest:
BIIK Kazygurt, Glasgow City, LSK Kvinner, Bayern Munich goals scored/ conceded: 18/3
Lyon's road to Budapest:
Avaldsnes, Ajax, Vfl Wolfsburg, Chelsea goals scored/ conceded: 29/5
Lyon's road to the final seemed to be a bit harder. In the quarter-finals and semi-finals they had to face top teams: Vfl Wolfsburg and Chelsea London. FC Barcelona's road to the final seemed to be a bit easier, admittedly Bayern Munich is a top opponent, but the other teams didn't cause any trouble for Barcelona Femeni. Of course, without belittling any of these teams, because getting to 1/16 or quarter-final is a really good achievement. Olympique Lyon is a team that I think command respect globally. On the way to the final they scored 29 goals, losing only 5. French champions are known for their offensive power, which is very impressive. Added to this is Lyon's very characteristic tactical discipline on the pitch and really tight defense. But I think, in this final, Lyon faced a team that could have definitely surprised them by winning this title. FC Barcelona is a team known for the technical skill of their players, it is a team that likes to have the ball, who likes to exchange many passes and create many opportunities to score. They definitely deserved to be in the final and face Lyon. At this point I would like to use a comparison that I think reflects well on the course of this finale. Two machines stood opposite each other, one well oiled, where all modes overlapped and everything worked at high speed, and the other, in which, unfortunately, not all valves and modes worked well, not everything clicked as it was supposed to. Lyon is this type of team, if you play against them and you want to win, then you can't make a single mistake because they will use it and they will punish you. In this match Barcelona made several mistakes, no matter if they were small mistakes or not, unfortunately these mistakes happened and it closed their way to triumph. This was the case and I will try to visualize it in the following part of my article.
First goal for OL Lyon
Let's take a look at Lyon's first goal, which was scored in the 5th minute of the match. We have to start with the fact that Lyon is also a team which like to have the ball in their possession. Their goal action began with a calm exchange of passes between Lyon's central defenders. At one point Mbock, after receiving the ball, immediately played a very long, precise pass forward. The ball landed just behind the Barcelona's defensive line.
In the picture below we can see that precise pass from Mbock from Lyon's half of the pitch.
Here we can see that the ball was played perfectly in the van de Sanden's movement path, Lyon's player had plenty of space on the wing. Van de Sanden is a very fast player, Barcelona's defenders left her too much space because in the next part of the action van de Sanden played a very precise pass into the penalty box. It is also worth looking at how much space Marozsan has, we can see that it is a virtually open highway in the penalty area for her.
Lyon players did a great job. The perfect moment of the pass and van de Sanden was definitely onside.
Barcelona's left defender - Leila, couldn't keep up with van de Sanden, Mapi Leon run to Lyon's winger from her central back position. We can see Andrea Pereira, who controls Ada Hegerberg's movement into the penalty area, but it's not the Norwegian forward who is the key element here. We see that it is Marozsan who has an open space in the penalty area because Marta Torejjon couldn't keep up with her.
Marozsan is therefore left with so much space and time in the penalty area.
Very good and accurate pass into the penalty box and good movement from Dzsenifer Marozsan set her up in a favorable position. We see Barca's central defender who was unable to catch up with Marozsan and Mapi Leon was unable to block van de Sanden's cross. Importantly, Sandra Panos - Barcelona goalkeeper - had a moment of hesitation. At first, she took a few steps forward but stopped and Marozsan directed the ball into the net. Maybe if Sandra Panos would have made a quick decision it is very likely that she would have saved the shot, also staying on the line could somehow increase the chance not conceding the goal. By this moment of hesitation, she made this situation more difficult for herself. Marozsan made no mistake. It was 1: 0 for Lyon.
The way Lyon scored the first goal was banal. One accurate long pass on the wing and another good pass into the box. The goal was very simple, only 2 passes were enough to put the ball into back of the net.
Second goal for OL Lyon
Let's take a look at Lyon's second goal from the 14th minute of the match. Lyon's second goal is almost a copy of the first goal. The action pattern is almost identical. Again, at the decisive moment, they needed only two passes and they relied on great advantage of their winger, which is her speed.
Lucy Bronze played a through ball that opened Van de Sanden a lot of space on the wing. None of Barcelona's players managed to block the pass, and they left too much space for van de Sanden on the wing. Just look at where Barca's left defender, Leila, is. She is totally out of her position. Leaving van de Sanden such a huge, free space on the wing cost Barcelona with another goal.
Below, we can see exactly the same pass from a different angle. Barca's defender wasn't positioned well and the huge space left for van de Sanden.
After reaching the ball, Lyon's winger didn't think twice, she immediately played the ball in the penalty area.
None of the two players which we can see running next to each other managed to reach van de Sanden. And Andrea Pereira didn't manage to catch up Ada Hegerbeg. This was the cost of the earlier attempt to set up an offside trap, although the idea itself was good. Lyon avoided this trap and Barca's defenders simply didn't manage to follow the quick offensive players of the French champion.
Ada Hegerberg scored and the result was 2:0 for Lyon. But it is worth noting that the first goal and this goal were almost identical. The ball has been played on the wing, where Barca's defender left too much space, quick pass in the penalty area for an oncoming player who placed the ball in the back of the net.
Third goal for OL Lyon
Let's move on. Lyon scored their third goal in 19th minute of the game. They needed only 20 mins to score 3 goals.
The third goal for Lyon was scored from the second wing. There is no very fast van de Sanden there, but there is Amel Majri. Very skillful winger, equally good in 1 vs 1 duels. Lyon again used one of their most effective weapons. A very precise long ball sent by one of Lyon's central defenders.
At this point we have to praise Barcelona's defenders because they didn't leave Amel Majri much free space. Nevertheless, Majri managed to play a very good ball to the penalty box. Barca's central back, Mapi Leon, also did a good job because she was very close to Ada Hegerberg. However, the Norwegian striker is one of the best in the world for a reason. Let's look at the move she makes, first from the ball and then immediately heading towards the ball being played. However, what bothers me is the fact how much space Barcelona has left for Marozsan right in front of the penalty box. We all know what she is capable of.
Ada Hegerberg used her shooting instinct and deceived Mapi Leon perfectly. She received the pass exactly where she wanted and scored. In this situation, there can be no major objections towards Barca's defensive line. Ada Hegerberg simply showed her class. However, as I've already mentioned, the only complaint may be the amount of space on the pitch which has been left for Marozsan. If Majri haven't played for Hegerberg, she could have easily played a ball to Marozsan who would have a good opportunity to take a shot. Neither Alexia nor Lieke Martens marked this player.
Even though Barcelona's two defenders were close to Hegerberg, none of them managed to block her shot. The result changed to 3: 0 for Lyon.
Fourth goal for OL Lyon
Lyon's fourth goal has again exposed the weaker sides of Barcelona in this match. The defense of Barcelona played too narrow, Barcelona's defenders played too close to each other. Lyon had a lot of space on the wings, and we know how dangerous Lyon's crosses are.
This time, Lyon's right defender, Lucy Bronze, played the role of a winger. In this case, we see how much free space both of Lyon's wingers has. Far too much free space.
As we can see marked in the picture below - 4 Barcelona players are pressing in the middle of the pitch, in close proximity to Ada Hegerberg. Of course, that means they know Ada Hegerberg's capabilities and take focusing on her very seriously. But I don't think 4 players are needed there. Here it must be said honestly, it was a costly mistake from the Spanish team.
The same situation from a different perspective to show how much free space we are talking about.
Here we can see too much distance between the defender of Barcelona and Lucy Bronze. And as it is written: the lack of belaying from Barcelona players.
In this situation, van de Sanden made a great move, running down to the short post and taking Barca's defender with her, which resulted in empty space in the penalty area. In this situation, Barcelona coped well with coverage, they have numerical advantage in the penalty area. And yet Ada Hegerberg managed to score. In the penalty area, we have 5 players of Barcelona and 3 players of Lyon. We see Lucy Bronze who is about to play the ball into the penalty box. Hegerberg showed a flash of genius again, even though she was well covered, she just jumped out from behind Barca's defender back, used the free space which was created and placed the ball in the goal.
At the third goal we can't blame Barcelona much, but at the first, second and fourth goals, big mistakes appeared which Lyon didn't hesitate to use and, well, they pointed out Barcelona's weaknesses that day. It was a bit surprising to me personally, because I was of the opinion that Barcelona was the right team to face Lyon and I was convinced that they can make a surprise. Unfortunately, these mistakes closed their way to success.
Barcelona's bad choices
Let's look at the bad choices and decisions of Barcelona players when the Catalan team was at the ball.
Fist example: Here we can see how much space Leila has on the wing. However, Mariona Caldentey, who is in possession of the ball, doesn't decide to play there. She has an open path to pass the ball there, to change the sector of the pitch and make use of such a large free space. Despite this, she chooses another option.
Caldentey played the ball to the teammate closest to her. But we can see that Fishlock is moving to the player who receives the pass, Marozsan will cover Aitana and van de Sanden returned to defense to cut off the possibility of passing to the wing. Consequently, the opportunity to surprise Lyon disappeared. Barcelona slowed the pace of action, the team didn't take advantage of the element of surprise and a dozen seconds later Barcelona lost the ball.
Another example: At some point in the match the Barcelona players decided to try to play long passes. It wasn't a good choice because Lyons centre defenders are well-built and Wendie Renard is 1.87m tall. Here we can see the attempt to play long pass.
The effect of this idea - a simple interception by Mbock. We can see it in the picture below.
Here we can see a very similar situation. Mapi Leon from the freekick decided to kick the ball forward. A better option would probably be to pass to the goalkeeper, who, as we can see, has positioned herself to receive the pas. Mapi Leon, however, played forward.
The pass was addressed to the Barcelona's forwards. Lieke Martens is 1.7m tall, Toni Duggan even less - 1.68m tall. Honestly, neither of them is unlikely to have a chance in the air duel with Lyon's center defender, Wendie Renard, who is 1.87m tall. And so it happened. Wendie Renard easily won a header. And this is where Barcelona's attempt ended. The ball possession was practically handed over to Lyon.
Lyon's tight defense
As I mentioned earlier, Lyon's defense is very tight and cooperation and communication between individual players in the defense line and the defensive line and the midfielders line is at a high level. This made Barcelona difficult to create their chances, especially in the middle area of the pitch.
Well-thought-out and quick decisions of Lyon defenders. Mbock left her nominal position as the central defender, jumped a little higher and interrupted Barcelona's attack. Wendie Renard follows Toni Duggan. And Mbock surprises Barcelona's player, leaving her position, she made good interception, thanks to which she interrupts Barcelona's promising offensive attack.
We have to admit that Lyon did their homework. The team knew very well how to play against Barcelona. The whole team perfectly secured the middle zone of the pitch during the whole game. Here's an example: Van de Sanden (1) cuts off a possibility to play the ball to the wing. Henry (2) controls one of Barca's midfielders. Fishlock (3) remains a player who has no player to cover. She protects the space between Lyon's defensive and midfielders line. Marozsan (4) controls the movement of another Barca player. It is worth noting that this pressing is already taking place in Barca's half of the pitch. Lyon protects the center of the pitch, it's impossible to pass the ball through the center of the pitch. Mapi Leon doesn't have good options to play the ball forward.
And again, Lyon's discipline while defending. Lyon cuts off the possibility of Barcelona's successful offensive attack. Barcelona players have very little space because Lyon doesn't give them that space. They don't let them play the ball. Fishlock still remains a player without any opponent's player to cover. She protects the space between Lyon's defensive and midfielders line.
Lyon's goal chances
Let's take a look at one of Lyon's chances, after which, luckily for Barcelona, Lyon didn't score a goal.
Ada Hegerberg in the penalty area is surrounded by 3 Barca's defenders. In the meantime, Amel Majri is left without any cover. We can see it perfectly in the picture below.
Ada Hegerberg, surrounded by 3 players, shows her great sense of awareness on the pitch. She doesn't try to shoot, she plays the ball back to Majri. We see that both Losada and Alexia are keeping an eye on their players. However, Leila's distance to van de Sanden in the penalty area seems a bit too big. Majri's shot is deflected but lands right on Van de Sanden's head.
We see that Barca's defender left too much space for van de Sanden, she didn't quite control Lyon's winger movement behind her back. This should be a goal. Fortunately for Barcelona, van de Sanden missed that chance, but as you can see the situation was very dangerous. These are quite serious tactical mistakes of Barcelona in setting and defending.
And another example.
Quite uncoordinated return to the defensive from the players of Barcelona. We all know that Lyon is a very dangerous team when it comes to fast counterattacks. Eugenie Le Sommer played the ball to Marozsan. At this point, we should praise one of Barca's center-backs, who was guarding Marozsan to the very end. But...
Marozsan played backheel pass to Le Sommer, who run down from the wing to the middle area of the pitch. We can see 4 of Barca's players close to each other on the small space, but Le Sommer is left unmarked, the same situation with van de Sanden on the right wing . Le Sommer made a shot, which wasn't far away from the target, but she also had a possibility to play to van de Sanden who also would be in a very good position to score. We have to admit that it doesn't look good - 3 Lyon's players left unmarked and 4 Barca's players on the small space of the pitch, close to each other, they're out of their positions.
Barcelona lack of enough players joining their offensive actions
In this situation, Mapi Leon started Barcelona's action by making a very good decision to play the ball through the middle area of the pitch. Mapi Leon saw the gap and played a very good pass, which later gave Barcelona a promising offensive action.
Lyon's players managed to return to defense and set up well in defense, but the number of Barcelona's players in the penalty box is quite bothering. We have only 2 Barca's players in the penalty area. And we have as many as 5 Lyon's players. It is true that in this movement Lyon players allowed the ball to go to Lieke Martens and she had an opportunity to score, but most of Barcelona's attacking moves were led by 2 or 3 players.
Barcelona couldn't find any way to surprise Lyon. They managed to break Lyon's defense only once. In 89th minute of the match when Lieke Martens' solo action ended with a certain finish by Oshoala. Barcelona actually managed to surprise Lyon once. Unfortunately, this one time was too late and it wasn't enough to change the fate of the match.
Barca's irresponsible mistakes
As I mentioned at the beginning of this article. Lyon is this type of team, if you play against them you can't make any single mistake because they will punish you. So the behavior of such an experienced and class player like Alexia Putellas in this action is slightly incomprehensible to me. Of course, it was the final game, every player certainly felt the pressure and responsibility associated with such a match, but such a simple loss in this area of the pitch is extremely irresponsible. She wanted to pass the ball for defense, but her pass was inaccurate.
I'm not worried about Alexia's single mistake, it can happen to anyone, I'm worried about the area of the pitch in which Alexia made that mistake. This led to such a situation. Le Sommer got the ball on the counterattack. A very dangerous counterattack, 5 Lyon players against 3 Barcelona defenders. Fortunately for Barcelona, Lyon didn't score a goal in this situation. But we have to admit that this loss could have cost Barcelona a lot.
And another very similar situation that happened just over a minute after the previous one I described. Losing the ball again in a very dangerous zone of the pitch, in the middle of the pitch, this time even closer to Barcelona's penalty area. In the upper right corner of the photo, we can see the consequence of this loss, Le Sommer had a situation almost alone with the goalkeeper. A very irresponsible loss and again, luckily for Barcelona, Lyon didn't take advantage of it.
In the picture below we can see that Mapi Leon's intention was to play the ball to Vicky Losada. Unfortunately for her, she played the ball straight into the path of Le Sommer. Everyone can make mistakes, but nevertheless puzzles the fact that Barcelona made several mistakes in such dangerous areas of the pitch. Mapi Leon, the last player on the defensive line, passes the ball directly to Lyon's attacker feet. Lack of concentration, nerves?
In this picture, Marta Torrejon played the ball straight to Le Sommer foot. Lyon striker was even a bit surprised that she found herself in possession of the ball without much effort. We all know that Barcelona is a world-class team, hence you have to demand a lot from them.
In this situation, the choice to pass the ball to Martens, who is standing only 3 meters from the player who makes that pass, seems to be just not completely thought out. We see Marozsan behind Martens' back, very close to Barcelona's forward. Andressa and other Barcelona players had to see that Marozsan is just behind Martens, a dangerous pass and as we can see in the picture in the bottom right corner, another loss of the ball in a situation without any pressure from Lyon's players.
Speaking about Dzsenifer Marozsan...
The last thing I would like to draw attention to is the fact that the Barcelona players left far too much free space for Lyon's midfielder. We are all aware that Marozsan is an extremely creative player with a phenomenal shot from a distance. It was somewhat irresponsible to leave her that much space on the pitch.
Marozsan has already scored in this match, I think one of Barcelona's players should stay close to her throughout the match because Marozsan is a threat every time he has the ball at her foot. As we can see, the free space left for her was a huge space on the pitch.
I think I have analyzed this match in sufficient detail. Some of the mistakes I showed were due to bad positioning, not good enough tactical awareness in the defense and sometimes quite chaotic when defending counter-attacks. But some of them, perhaps resulting from a lack of concentration and dose of stress related to the rank of the match, were mistakes that shouldn't happen to such good team as Barcelona. These small and big mistakes added up to Lyon winning the trophy for the 4th time in a row and Barcelona having to go home empty-handed. Due to such basic mistakes, Barcelona players closed their chance for success in this final. Lyon took advantage of these mistakes by scoring 4 goals, allowing Barcelona to score only one.
But we all learn from our own mistakes and I'm sure that Barcelona has certainly already drawn the appropriate conclusions from this match. It's impossible not to notice that Barcelona has made tremendous progress since this match. Barcelona players, from 31 matches, won 29 and drawn only 2. They're unbeaten and we're not just talking about Primiera Division Feminina, but also about Spanish cups and the UEFA Women's Champions League. Barca have scord 125 goals and conceded just 12 across all competition. That gives us an average of 4 goals per game and just 0.38 against. The team has really made a big improvement.
Despite the fairly one-sided result, the final was a really great game to watch. I know it because I was there and with my own eyes I saw something that warms my heart. The development of women's football and the growing interest of women's football. That day many people came to the stadium in Budapest to see in action on the pitch to see some of the best women's footballers in the world. Regardless of who we supported, we all won. Football is for everyone.