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Player ratings as She-Wolves reach UWCL last four again
Wolfsburg are into the semi-finals of the Women’s Champions League for the third time in four seasons after holding off Paris Saint-Germain in a 1-1 draw at the Volkswagen Arena.
The German came into the second leg in possession of a slender 1-0 aggregate lead thanks to a Dominique Janssen penalty in Paris last week.
Alexandra Popp’s stunning first half goal, her first in this competition for more than two years, was ultimately what decided the tie. The veteran forward struck a sweet first-time shot from the edge of the box that looped over PSG goalkeeper and eight-time UWCL winner Sarah Bouhaddi.
Wolfsburg had plenty of chance to build on their lead throughout the game, with Popp seeing a diving header saved not long after her goal and later missing other chances.
PSG equalised through Kadidiatou Diani in the first half to get them back within one goal of tying the aggregate score, flicking a header in from six yards.
To their credit, both sides went at it trying to get the next goal, with Popp going closest of all in the second half when she hit the post from point-blank range when it might have been easier to score.
Wolfsburg have now reached eight Champions League semi-finals – only Lyon have played in more – and have gone on to lift the trophy twice. With the entire knockout bracket already mapped out when the quarter-final draw was made, they will face Arsenal after the Gunners emerged victorious over two legs against Bayern Munich. The tie will be played in late April.
GK: Frohms (6); RB: Wilms (7), CB: Hendrich (7), CB: Janssen (7), LB: Rauch (8); CM: Oberdorf (7), CM: Lattwein (6) ;RM: Huth (8), AM: Roord (7), LM: Jonsdottir (6); ST: Popp (9)
Subs: Pajor (6), Brand (N/A)
GK: Bouhaddi (7); RB: Lawrence (7), CB: Jean-Francois (7), CB: Geyoro (8), LB: Karchaoui (7); CM: Fazer (6), CM: Hamraoui (7), CM: Bachmann (6); RW: Baltimore (6), ST: Diani (7), LW: Martens (7)
Subs: Vangsgaard (6), Li (6), Albert (6), Traore (6)
Player of the match – Alexandra Popp (Wolfsburg)
Jonas Eidevall reveals Edu message after Arsenal Women reach UWCL semis
Arsenal Women manager Jonas Eidevall has revealed sporting director Edu sent him a message congratulating his side for reaching the semi-finals of the Women’s Champions League.
The Gunners overturned a goal deficit to beat Bayern Munich 2-0 at a rainy Emirates Stadium on Wednesday night, cementing a place in the last four of European football’s primary club competition for the first time in a decade.
Frida Maanum and Stina Blackstenius were the goalscoring heroes on the night, with the former scoring a tremendous opening goal to wipe out Bayern’s advantage from the first leg.
Speaking to the media after the game, Eidevall admitted that he’d received a message from Edu to congratulate him and Arsenal’s players, before revealing the tremendous camaraderie at the club.
“I got a very nice message from Edu after the game,” the Swede said.
“The support from the whole club is magnificent. There is a lot of talk about always acting with class – you really understand the meaning of that when you’re inside the organisation.
“It’s ingrained and it spreads down in the organisation. Communication and belief from them is amazing.”
Barcelona also secured their place in the last four on Wednesday, crushing Roma 5-1 in the second leg of their quarter-final encounter at Camp Nou, but Arsenal’s opponents are yet to be determined as Paris Saint-Germain still need to take on Wolfsburg for the second time – the latter won their first leg meeting 1-0.
“It’s been a long-term goal to reach the semi-finals of the Champions League,” Eidevall continued. “I am very happy that we’re going to the semi-finals. It’s an incredible achievement that we are so proud of – I told the players before the game, we have the potential to beat any team when we hit all things perfect.
“That doesn’t mean it’s easy or we can do it every time. But we now have that potential. So if we have that wouldn’t it be incredible and beautiful if we can bring that to one more stage in this competition, to see how strong our wings are, and how high we can fly together.
“We managed to do that today, that’s a proud moment for the whole club. If we hit it right we can beat any team. It also means there is a lot of work going into performances to be consistent. I don’t take anything for granted.
“We need to deal with every situation and do our very best.”
Arsenal have tasted success in the Women’s Champions League before, but their win over Swedish outfit Umea in the 2007 final feels like a long time ago.
Beth Mead and Vivianne Miedema may be sidelined with serious injuries, but Arsenal certainly have the firepower to lift the trophy again. Couple that with the confidence on display from captain Leah Williamson and you’d be foolish to rule them out of contention despite the strengths of the other’s remaining in the competition.
“Historic for this current group of players,” Williamson told Sky Sports of Arsenal’s win. “A place that hardly any of us have played before, in the semi-finals of the Champions League.
“It’s a step forward in the right direction. We’re ready.”
Luis Figo snubs Real Madrid when picking his favourites to win the Champions League
Luis Figo has snubbed former clubs Real Madrid and Inter when picking his favourites to win this season’s UEFA Champions League.
Real Madrid are the defending champions in the competition, having beaten Liverpool in last season’s final to claim their 14th European crown.
Despite that success, and their ability to sweep aside Liverpool with ease in the round of 16 this season, club legend Figo has picked Manchester City and Bayern Munich as his two favourites to win the tournament.
Speaking at the opening of a new campus of the Vicente del Bosque Academy, Figo said: “In the Champions League, you always have to count on Real Madrid, but my favourite is between Man City and Bayern Munich.
“Inter have it a little more complicated and my level of favouritism for them is a little lower”
Real Madrid will face off against Chelsea in the quarter finals of the Champions League, and will face off against the winner of the Bayern – Man City tie if they progress to the semis.
One of Figo’s other former clubs Inter are tasked with a tricky two-legged tie with Benfica – who have impressed in the tournament this season – before potentially playing either Serie A leaders SSC Napoli or inner-city rivals AC Milan in the next round.
It’s fair to say that Figo’s move from Barcelona to Real Madrid in 2000 was a rather controversial one, and one that wasn’t exactly welcomed by Barca fans who later threw a pig’s head at their former hero upon his return to Camp Nou with Los Blancos.
Pig’s heads aside, Figo enjoyed a successful five season spell at Santiago Bernabeu, winning two La Liga titles, one UEFA Champions League and a Ballon d’Or and the FIFA World Player of the Year award.
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