Barcelona make winning start in Women’s Champions League

Paris (AFP) – Holders Barcelona got the defence of their Women’s Champions League title off to a impressive start on Tuesday with a crushing 4-1 win over Arsenal while former women’s Ballon d’Or winner Ada Hegerberg made her long-awaited return for seven-time champions Lyon.

Crowned champions after thrashing Chelsea in a clash of first-time finalists last May, Barcelona made short work of another London team as Mariona Caldentey and Alexia Putellas, the reigning UEFA women’s player of the year, put them 2-0 up by halftime. 

Two minutes into the second half Asisat Oshoala latched on to a raking through ball and calmly slotted past the advancing Manuela Zinsberger in the Arsenal goal.

Frida Manuum got on the end of a setpiece cross to pull one back for the Gunners in the 74th minute but six minutes from time substitute Lieke Martens lifted the ball over Zinsberger to make it four. 

The Austrian goalkeeper had some late comfort when she saved a penalty from Putellas in added time.

The other game in Group C saw Belgian international Tine De Caigny scoring twice as Hoffenheim thrashed Danish side Koge 5-0.

In Group D, Lyon cruised to a comfortable 3-0 win against Hacken in Sweden. 

Melvine Malard put the French side ahead in the tenth minute with Catarina Macario adding a second three minutes after the break. An own goal from Stine Larsen secured the points.

The most significant moment of the match, though, came in the 78th minute when Hegerberg, the inaugural women’s Ballon d’Or winner in 2018, ended a 20-month injury absence, coming on for Macario. 

With 53 goals, Hegerberg is the all-time top-scorer in the competition but the 26-year-old Norway attacker has been out of action since January 2020 after rupturing a cruciate ligament in her right knee and then suffering a left tibia stress fracture.

Lyon’s streak of five straight Champions League titles was ended in the quarter-finals last season by Paris Saint-Germain, who also pipped Lyon to the French crown.

In the other game in the group, Benfica goalkeeper Leticia put in a star performance to frustrate Bayern Munich who had to settle for a 0-0 draw. 


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