It looked like it was going to be a big day in UEFA Champions League for Yael Averbuch, the U.S. international whose second half volley pulled her Göteborg side even with Juvisy this evening in Sweden. The two quarterfinalists left northern France last week with the Feminine Division side up 1-0, but 65 minutes into the second leg, a volley from the 26-year-old North Carolina alum found the upper-left hand corner, pulling Göteborg even. Scoring goals while playing in the middle of her team’s formation, Averbuch was one of the players threatening to lead the Swedes into the semifinals.
But as often happens when the underdog fights back, the favorite wakes up, and while Juvisy wasn’t that much of a favorite over Gotebörg ahead of their tie, the French club had been the marginally better side over the two legs. Despite Averbuch’s equalizer, Juvisy had every reason to think themselves the better side, and over the match’s final 15 minutes, that quality bore out.
Camille Catala, who had just come off Juvisy’s bench a quarter-hour earlier, put her side in front in the 77th minute, giving the visitors a valuable away goal. Catala completed her double just before full-time, and when Janice Caymen (assisted by Catala) provided further insurance in stoppage time, Juvisy had a deceptively decisive victory.
Though their 3-1 win (4-1, agg.) gives a superficial impression of control, the two sides were within one goal of each other for the first 176 minutes of the tie. Still, it was the French side that applied most of the pressure on Wednesday, keeping Goteburg from connecting with forward Jessica Landström. Once Averbuch put the home side in front, the visitors started converting that pressure into results.
For Juvisy, it’s their first trip to the Champions League semifinals, a notable achievement for a French league that’s criticized for its lack of depth. With two-time defending champions Lyon likely to join Juvisy in the final four after Thursday’s match in Malmö, the Feminine Division will make up half of this year’s semifinals. And with emerging Paris Saint-Germain sitting second on the homefront, France’s league not only has the world’s best team but some newfound depth.
France is not Germany, but its league is also not the paper thin circuit its detractors imagine. It’s top heavy, and Lyon makes a mockery of the competition, but there’s a burgeoning quality in the league’s upper half. Goteborg bore witness to that on Wednesday
Kerr still not happy with Arsenal
“We weren’t particularly pleased with the way we played today” manager Shelley Kerr said after today’s match in Sassari, perhaps a greedy assessment given her team had just eliminated Torres Calcio.
A fourth minute goal from Naamh Fahey put Arsenal up 4-1 (agg.), enough of a cushion to help them see out a 1-0 result in Italy on Wednesday.
“You can’t take anything away from Torres,” Kerr added, “They battled really well today and put us under pressure a lot of times in the game.”
Despite playing without Kelly Smith (their playmaker injured in leg one), Arsenal converted an early corner kick to put the tie away. A ball from Rachel Yankey was played on by Ellen White, setting up Fahey to put the Gunners in front.
It’s the third straight year Arsenal has made the semifinals and the sixth time in 11 years they’ve made the final four.
They’ll meet the winner of Rossiyanka- Wolfsburg, with the Germans taking a 2-1 lead into Thursday’s leg in Russia.