Barcelona recovered from a two-goal deficit as they defeated VfL Wolfsburg 3-2 to win the UEFA Women’s Champions League in a thrilling final at the Philips Stadion in Eindhoven on Saturday.
Fridolina Rolfo struck the winning goal in the 70th minute after Patri Guijarro struck twice in two minutes early in the second half and Barca fought back to lift the trophy for the second time in three years.
Goals from Ewa Pajor and Alexandra Popp had given two-time winners Wolfsburg a comfortable lead by half-time, but the German side collapsed after the break as Barca increased the pressure.
Barca have reached a final for the fourth time in five years and the manner of their comeback will give way to arguments that they are now the dominant team in European football.
However, Lyon will rightly deny this. They have won six of the last eight Champions Leagues and have never lost in this competition to Barca, who they beat in the 2019 and 2022 finals.
However, Jonatan Giraldez’s side are here to stay. In Spain, too, they won their fourth straight Liga F title and recently ended a 64-game unbeaten run in the league.
Meanwhile, Wolfsburg’s season ends in disappointment. They also missed out on qualifying for the women’s Bundesliga and were relegated to first place by Bayern Munich, despite winning the DFB-Pokal women.
“I’m so emotional… I never thought this would happen,” Rolfo said after the game. “When it was 2-0, I thought at first that we could do it. It was really difficult but we showed so much mentality today and I’m so proud of the team.”
Barca, who beat Wolfsburg 5-3 on aggregate in last year’s semi-finals, started the game as favourites, but produced a first-half performance that brought back memories of last year’s final defeat by Lyon, when they lost 33 minutes behind with 0:3.
It only took three minutes for Wolfsburg to take the lead. Lucy Bronze was caught on the ball by Polish striker Pajor, who scored her ninth goal of the competition from the edge of the box.
Irene Paredes and Caroline Graham Hansen both missed great chances to equalize before Barca were once again caught by the defence. Popp got the better of Mapi Leon, finding space in the penalty area and heading in Pajor’s cross in the 37th minute to score in her fourth Champions League final.
Salma Paralluelo almost equalized before half-time, but Merle Frohms failed with a great save. However, Frohms was unable to save Wolfsburg in the second half as they gave in under heavy pressure in the first five minutes after the break.
Graham Hansen did a brilliant job of getting Guijarro to score in the 48th minute and two minutes later the midfielder scored her second goal of the game, heading in from Aitana Bonmati’s cross.
From then on, Barca took control of the ball, but Wolfsburg also remained dangerous on the counterattack. Pajor saved twice against Sandra Panos.
However, it always seemed like the Spanish champions had a chance to go on and win the game and it proved so as Sweden international Rolfo capitalized on a hesitant defense to break through against her former side with 20 minutes remaining and to decide the final.
Two-time Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas, who had recently returned from an anterior cruciate ligament injury, came off the bench late and helped Barca get through seven minutes of added time, sparking cheers from the crowd of more than 10,000 Blaugrana Supporters in Eindhoven.
“I think that game had all the emotion one could possibly have,” said Graham Hansen. “After two goals behind, we score two quick goals and then you have to wait … but champions again. I’m so happy.”
“At half-time, when I was 2-0 down, I had a great look back at the last final and thought it won’t happen again. We go out, turn the game around and win it.”