Lyon will aim to match FFC Frankfurt’s record of four European titles when they face compatriotis Paris Saint-Germain int he UEFA Women’s Champions League final on 1 June in Cardiff. UEFA.com looks at Lyon’s rise to dominance.
Although FC Lyon claimed four French titles in the 1990s, it was after their takeover by Olympique Lyonnais in 2004 that the future European champions really took shape. Coach Farid Benstiti was already in place and after they won the championship in 2006/07 to earn a debut in the then UEFA Women’s Cup, Lyon signed a raft of world-class players including Élodie Thomis and Louisa Necib to add to earlier reinforcements such as Sonia Bompastor and Camille Abily. They have not been deposed as French champions since, lifting their tenth straight title this season and a fifth consecutive double.
Beating Slovan Šaľa 12-0 on their European bow in 2007/08, Lyon really came of age when they knocked out holders Arsenal in the quarter-finals with a 3-2 away win. They were then pipped by 2007 runners-up Umeå in the semis on away goals. With Lotta Schelin added, Lyon were also semi-finalists 12 months later, only to fall to eventual winners Duisburg.
When the UEFA Women’s Cup became the UEFA Women’s Champions League for the 2009/10 campaign, no French side had ever reached the final. Lyon immediately put that right and dominated against Turbine Potsdam in Getafe. But they could not score and would lose an epic penalty shoot-out 7-6 due to inspired Potsdam goalkeeper Anna Felicitas Sarholz.
That did not stop Lyon in their tracks as Benstiti was replaced by Patrice Lair. With Abily and Bompastor returning after spells in the United States, OL promptly stormed into the final again. Potsdam awaited once more at Craven Cottage, Fulham, but Lyon were superb, controlling matters and winning through a Wendie Renard header and late strike by substitute Lara Dickenmann.
A year later, after registering 33 goals in eight games to advance to the 2011/12 final, Lyon faced sole three-time winners FFC Frankfurt in front of a competition-record 50,212 crowd at Munich’s Olympiastadion. Eugénie Le Sommer converted a penalty and Amandine Henry added another on 28 minutes for a 2-0 lead which Lyon never looked like losing.
The following May, Lyon were tipped to see off debutants Wolfsburg at Stamford Bridge, having scored 40 and conceded just once in their eight wins on the road to London. But Wolfsburg withstood a Lyon team unbeaten over 90 minutes in Lair’s three seasons to snatch victory through a Martina Müller penalty. And for the next two seasons, Lyon started the campaign as favourites yet somehow managed to go out in the round of 16, first to Potsdam, then Paris Saint-Germain
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Gérard Prêcheur took over as coach in 2014 and Lyon continued to bring in star names like talented Norway forward Ada Hegerberg. They may have missed out in 2014/15 but they made no mistake this term, underlining their brilliance with a stunning 7-0 semi-final first-leg thrashing of Paris, to make it 16 goals in two European outings at the new Stade de Lyon. With a tenth straight league title and fifth consecutive double secured – and more than 100 goals scored – they avenged their 2013 loss to Wolfsburg by winning on penalties in Reggio Emilia after a 1-1 draw.
That was the last Lyon game for Schelin (returning to Sweden with Rosengård ), Necib (retired) and Henry (now at Portland Thorns), but with German international Dzsenifer Marozsán arriving in summer 2016, Alex Morgan following in the winter and the bulk of the current squad on long-term deals, they are now in a joint-record sixth final having also made it 11 French titles in a row. Despite the well-resourced efforts of the likes of Paris, Wolfsburg and more recently Chelsea and Manchester City, European women’s football has probably never sene a force like Lyon.