Tyresö

Four-goal second half sees Wolfsburg topple another big spender, defend Champions League title

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Handed a two-goal deficit after 30 minutes, defending UEFA Champions League winners VfL Wolfsburg scored four times in the second half, with Martina Müller’s second goal giving the Germans a 4-3, title-defending win over Tyresö.

The Swedes struck first and twice within a three-minute span in the first half, with goals by Marta and Veronica Boquete giving the first time finalists a 2-0 lead at half time. Within minutes of the second half’s kick off, Alexandra Popp cut Tyresö’s lead in half part of a four-goal, second half onslaught that saw Verena Faißt complement Müller’s brace en route to the title.

With the win, Wolfsburg becomes the competition’s second back-to-back winner in its five-year history. Including winners of the tournament’s predecessor, the Champions Cup, Germany has won six of 13 European titles.

The win also gives Wolfsburg a chance to defend its title next season. After finishing third in the Frauen-Bundesliga this season (albeit one point off of first), Ralf Kellerman’s team needed a win on Thursday to qualify for next year’s competition. With Müller’s 80th minute goal, Wolfsburg won its chance to become the first team to win three-straight European titles.

“We played a fantastic game in the first half – we did everything we were supposed to do,” Marta, five-time FIFA Player of the Year, said after her team’s disappointment. “We were a bit slower after the break – maybe we thought it was over at 2-0. We played a good game on the night, but Wolfsburg were stronger than us in the end.”

Thursday’s match in Lisbon stood in stark contrast to last season’s final in London, one that was decided by Martin Müller’s late second half penalty. Though Wolfsburg’s early play hinted today’s match could play out similarly to that 1-0 win over Lyon, first half goals two minutes apart from Tyresö create a more open affair.

source: Getty Images
U.S. international Christian Press set up Tyresö’s second goal but was kept out of the game during Wolfsburg’s four-goal second half. (Photo: Getty Images)

Taking advantage of a Wolfsburg turnover in the 28th minute, Marta converted her first of the match, her right-footed shot from 14 yards out, to the right of goal, beating Almuth Schult far post for the opening goal. Two minutes later, a long diagonal for Christian Press saw the U.S. international cut across the defense at to the byline before chipping back toward Veronica Boquete, whose volleyed finish at the edge of the six-yard box gave the Swedes a 2-0 lead.

The lead left Tyresö poised to capitalize on investment that’s brought the club to the brink of extinction. With the purchase of a number of players, most notably Marta, the Swedish club has funded an ascent up the Swedish and European ladders. In the process, though, the club has gone into administration, with its status in the Swedish league brought into question by its finances. With quick start against Wolfsburg, Tyresö was on track to reap a final reward before the teams torn apart.

With its second goal, Tyresö closed a dominant stretch that saw the energy Sweden’s 2012 champions carried out of the dressing room give the team control of the defending champions. Though Wolfsburg would respond, generating a half-chance for Müller before intermission, the team went into halftime down two, its Champions League reign 45 minutes from its expiration date.

Less than two minutes into the second half, Wolfsburg began resetting that date, with Popp’s goal 77 seconds after kickoff cutting Tyresö’s lead to one. Six minutes later, the Tyresö defense was beaten badly as Müller, moments after failing to convert a breakaway, produced an equalizer, giving the holders 37 minutes to find a title-defending goal.

In the 56th minute, Marta’s second stanched Wolfsburg’s momentum, with the five-time FIFA Player of the Year’s cutback onto her right foot in the left of the penalty area producing a perfectly placed shot inside Schult’s far post. The cure proved short-lived, though, with two more Wolfsburg goals completing the champions’ inspired retort.

In the 68th minute, Verena Faißt got inside substitute Madeleine Edlund on the defense’s right to give Wolfsburg its second equalizer, exploiting a team temporarily playing with 10 women after right back Meghan Klingenberg limped off. Twelve minutes later, midfielder Nadine Keßler, UEFA’s woman of the match, took advantage of Line Røddick and a fatigued Tyresö to produce Müller’s second, allowing the Germans to claim back-to-back titles.

In doing so, Ralf Kellerman’s team built on the smash-and-grab that halted the would be OL dynasty – one that prevented France’s big spenders from claiming a third straight title. On Thursday, handed an early two-goal deficit, Wolfsburg added a four-star triumph to last year’s groundout crown, again proving the limits of money’s influence.

European power, U.S. enclave Tyresö FF continues playing out its sad soccer parable

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The financial collapse of former Swedish champions Tyresö FF has been one of women’s soccer’s most depressing stories, but as the team that has Marta, Christen Press, and Verónica Boquete on its books inches closer to next month’s UEFA Champions League final, new angles on the team’s demise continue to surface. Today comes word that the team, currently tied 0-0 with Birmingham City after one leg of the Champions League semifinals, may not be able to distribute full player bonuses should they claim Europe’s crown. Currently in administration, the Swedish tax authorities will get first crack at any prize UEFA hands back to the club, should the club exist at all.

The story is a common one in modern soccer, outlining the ironic downside to unrestrained ambition. Particularly over the past year, Tyresö has spend itself into the ground, climbing Europe’s women’s soccer ladder while doing to.

It’s a process that’s not only brought five-time FIFA World Player of the Year Marta to southeast Sweden but also lured a slew of U.S. international stars. At one point this winter, the then-Damallsvenskan leaders and defending champions had five prominent Americans on its roster, adding defender Whitney Engen, right back Ali Kreiger, and goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris to a team that already had attacker Christen Press and defender/midfielder Meghan Klingenberg.

They also had Women’s Professional Soccer Most Valuable Player Verónica Boquete. And Swedish stars like Caroline Seger and Lisa Dahlkvist, Tyresö build a team that was primed to transcend the Swedish league and its limited history to become a true European power.

source: Getty Images
Emerging U.S. national team start Christen Press will join the Chicago Red Stars this summer. In the interim, she’s part of a Tyresö team that’s spend its way to European relevant, the brink of financial destruction. (Photo: Getty images)

It’s ambition that’s put the team within one win of the Champions League final, though those positive results stand in stark contrast to everything else that’s happened at the club. Almost immediately after the team’s winter influx, the club stumbled domestically, losing its undefeated record and eventually finishing seven points behind league champion Rosengard. This season, the team has lost its first two league games, a plight that pales in comparison to its financial troubles. With Swedish tax authorities managing the club, there’s a chance the team’s doors could eventually close, potentially preventing them from taking part in the Champions League final.

At least, that’s what Sweden’s Radiosporten is reporting, a fate that would prevent the team from cashing in a lucrative payday. If the team wins next month’s final, UEFA’s prize will be just under $3.2 million (€2.3 million). If it loses, the club will still be in line for near-$2.5 million, provided it can first get past Birmingham City in Sunday’s second leg (and not be closed down by administrators in the process).

With the club struggling both on and off the field, there’s no guarantee that will happen. Even if it does, the rewards will be greatly diminished. Though the squad will still have the glory of its accomplishment, player bonuses for winning Europe (reportedly as high as $1.4 million for Marta) will be severely cut. Where playing for pride has become a sports cliché, Tyresö’s talented squad may have no other reward.

This is Leeds, Málaga, Anzhi, and the myriad of other more broadly told stories of teams trying to spend their way to history. It’s also a story of a club that could be done before the next Champions League season starts.  If it goes out of business, the memories of Tyresö’s accomplishments will be tied to an ambition that destroyed the club.

UEFA Women’s Champions League roundup: Arsenal, Rossiyanka advance to Round of 16

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Most of the work was done yesterday, with 12 teams booking their place in UEFA Champions League’s Round of 16. Among them were last year’s champions (Wolfsburg), the now-perpetual favorites (Lyon), and a cluster of darker horses (Malmö, Turbine Potsdam). Unfortunately, Tobin Heath’s Paris Saint-Germain was not among them, her club eliminated after a scoreless draw with another contender, Sweden’s Tyresö.

Four more ties were settled today, though none of today’s victors are likely to threaten the tournament’s final game. In London, however, a familiar name put up an unforgiving result:

[MORE: Wednesday’s results in UEFA Women’s Champions League.]

Arsenal (England) 11-1 SSHVSM-Kairat (Kazakhstan); Arsenal advances, 18-2 aggregate: The 10-goal margin set an Arsenal record for biggest win in Europe, with 20-year-old forward Danielle Carter and Scotland international Kim Little combining for seven goals. Little’s hat trick brings her European total to 32 for her career, the 23-year-old becoming the 10th player in UEFA history to reach that mark. Arsenal limited Kairat to one shot on goal, Makhiyo Sarikova’s 91st minute consolidation chip.

Glasgow City (Scotland) 3-1 Standard Liege (Belgium); Glasgow advances, 5-3 aggregate: Seattle Reign star Jessica Fishlock was the midfielder spark plug for the hosts, adding an assist to goals by Suzanne Malone, Denise O’Sullivan, and Sarah Crilly. By the 56th minute, the hosts had all their goals, ending any hopes the Belgians could turn around last week’s disappointment in Liege.

Unia Racibórz (Poland) 0-0 Konak Belediyesi (Turkey); Konak advances, 2-1 aggregate: Much like Tyresö yesterday, Konak were able to keep a clean sheet on the road to preserve the thin edge they carried into the second leg. Though they were outshot 23-7, Konak becomes the first Turkish team to make this competition’s final 16.

Rossiyanka (Russia) 1-1 Spartak Subotica (Serbia); Rossiyanka advances, 5-3 aggregate: After putting up four on the road, tournament veterans Rossiyanka were expected to ease through the second leg. A fifth minute goal from 21-year-old Bosnia international Milena Nikolić said otherwise, even if Spartak still needed two goals to go through. The hosts tightened up, held Spartak to four shots on goal, and eliminated all doubt when Oksana Yakovishyn came off the bench to put the match away with a 87th minute goal.

The day’s four results round-out the Round of 16’s matchups. Well look at those in the next post

UEFA Women’s Champions League roundup: Heath, PSG out; Wolfsburg sets new mark

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One way or another, prominent Americans were going home. In the home side at Charlety in Paris were Tobin Heath and Lindsay Horan, the duo hoping to see Paris Saint-Germain overcome their 2-1 deficit and make UEFA Champions League’s Round of 16. To do so, however, they would have to end the season of Christen Press, Ali Krieger, and the rest of the American contingent from Sweden’s runners up, Tyresö. One team would leave eliminated by the round’s least favorable draw.

Heath, Press, and Krieger weren’t the only prominent names visiting Paris on Wednesday. Tyresö, having aggressively targeted American signings this summer, also started U.S. internationals Whitney Engen and Meghan Klingenberg. Washington Spirit goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris was in goal, while former Women’s Professional Soccer Most Valuable Players Marta and Verónica Boquete featured in attack. A fan of the women’s professional game in the U.S. would have recognized most of Tony Gustavsson’s starting XI.

That star power was the result of a summer buildup that was questioned when the then-Damallsvenskan leaders risked their winning formula to bring in the likes of Krieger, Harris and Engen, but against a PSG side that’s spent big to bring in Heath, Horan (among others), it’d be needed. French internationals Laure Boulleau, Laura Georges, Marie-Laure Delie were also in today’s lineup, joining a foreign contingent German defender Annike Krahn and Swedish attacker Kosovare Asllani.

These teams too talented to be meeting in the first round (Round of 32), a contention undermined by the reality of Wednesday’s game. There they were, two of the more talented teams in Europe, about to see one eliminated at step one of the process. Had they been draw against other clubs, each would be threats to make the semifinals. Instead, one of them was going home three rounds earlier, that club’s big spending set to go for naught.

With those stakes, it’s no surprise the tie’s second leg played out as a cagey affair, the visiting Swedes playing as if a clean sheet was their best hope. Despite the presences of Marta, Press, and Boquete, Tyresö would only put two shots on Karima Benameur, finishing the match outshot 13-6.

It was indicative of the type of control PSG exerted, twice seriously testing whether Harris could protect Tyresö’s slim edge. One slip, and the roles would be reversed, PSG left to decide whether to defend their away goals edge of press for insurance. When the match hit intermission scoreless, it still seemed like a matter of time before PSG turned those tables.

source: AP
Ashlyn Harris, seen here playing for the U.S. Women’s National Team, had five save for Tyresö today in Paris. (Photo: AP Photo.)

Yet as the second half ticked away, Farid Bensetti’s side never found a way through. They made changes, taking off Asllani, Heath and Jessica Houara in favor of Linda Bresonik, Kenza Dali, and Horan. They forced 10 corner kicks and generally controlled the match. But unable to unlock an opponent readily sacrificing attacking verve for defensive zeal, Paris Saint-Germain were left with the what if. The 0-0 result made Tyresö 2-1 aggregate winners.

For team that’s signing players to six-figure deals, it’s a bitter pill to swallow, particularly given their control of the match. Yet PSG’s is a long-term ambition. They may have thought themselves capable of making noise in this year’s competition, but their domestic tests against superpower Lyon showed they’re still progress to be made.

Unfortunately for them, however, this result means the few tests they’ll get against OL will be the only time they face Champions League-caliber competition for the rest of this year. The biggest challenge remaining in their season isn’t progressing in Champions League; it’s preventing Juvisy or Montpellier from claiming their place in next year’s tournament.

For Tyresö, however, their investment is starting to pay off, even if the shakeup may have cost them a league title (Malmö has clinched the Damallsvenskan title). Though there’s no guarantee things will be easier for them in the Round of 16, Marta, Boquete, and the team’s contingent of Americans can move forward knowing they’re capable of knocking off teams with PSG’s firepower.

Here are the rest of the day’s results:

source: Getty Images
38-year-old Patrizia Panico, seen here playing for the Italian national team, scored as Italian champions Torres advanced on Wednesday. (Photo: Getty Images.)

Torres (Italy) 3-1 Spratzern (Austria); Torres advances, 5-3 aggregate: This one was more lopsided than it looks, with first half goals from Swiss international Sandy Mändly and 38-year-old icon Patrizia Panico putting Spratzern on the ropes early. The Austrians finally got on the board in the 84th minute through forward Lisa Makas, but by that time, they were three goals down and still hadn’t reversed Torres’s edge in away goals.

Birmingham City (England) 1-0 PK-35 (Finland); Birmingham City advances, 4-0 aggregate: The Blues start to make amends for last year’s early exit after finishing off Finland’s champions, with last week’s lopsided result in Vantaa taking the drama out of today’s second leg. Despite only getting a goal from Chelsea Weston in the 50th minute, Brum outshot their guests 21-3, preventing PK-35 from recording a shot on goal.

Zorky (Russia) 4-1 Thór/KA (Iceland); Zorky advances, 6-2 aggregate: Three goals over a 13-minute span of the first half took the life out of this one, with midfielder Elena Morozova (22′) , Ukraine’s Vira Dyatel (24′) and American Nick Astley (34′) putting Zorky up 5-1. The teams traded second half goals, with Zorky’s coming from Chicago Red Star midfielder Alyssa Mautz.

Wolfsburg (Germany) 13-0 Pärnu (Estonia); Wolfsburg advances, 27-0 aggregate: It’s a growing competition. Much like when the World Cup started expanding its field, when a couple of tournaments forced teams to take their lumps, this is short-term pain for long-term gain. This particular pain represents a new tournament record, with Washington Spirit forward Connie Pohlers adding three more goals to her personal competition high mark.

Brønby (Denmark) 2-2 Barcelona (Spain); Barcelona advances on away goals, 2-2 aggregate: After being held to a scoreless draw last week in Catalonia, Barça’s progress in the women’s game look set to be stunted, something that was affirmed when Anja Thorsen put the Danes up after 25 minutes. The second half, however, saw the Spanish champions convert on the two shots they put on Jenny Olsson. Marta Corredera’s 52nd minute equalizer gave the visitors an away goals edge, while 18-year-old Serbian international Jelena Čanković left Brønby chasing miracles after her 87th minute goal. Four minutes into stoppage time, Boye Sørensen pulled the home side even, but away goals see them out of the competition.

Fortuna (Denmark) 2-0 Tavagnacco (Italy); Fortuna advances, 4-3 aggregate: Camilla Larsen’s 32nd minute opener equalized for Fortuna, making the two goals recorded last week in Italy potentially decisive. When Romanian Laura Rus added insurance in the 81st minute, the Danes were into the Round of 16.

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German international Anja Mittag, seen celebrating her country’s victory at Euro 2013, scored twice for Malmö on Wednesday. (Photo: Getty Images.)

Malmö (Sweden) 5-0 LSK (Norway); Malmö advances, 8-1 aggregate: German international Anja Mittag posted a first half double, Dutch starlet Manon Melis scored in the 21st (and 84th) minute, while Swiss star Ramona Bachmann completed the first half assault. The hosts up 4-0 (7-1) by the 34th minute.

Turbine Potsdam (Germany) 6-0 MTK (Hungary); Potsdam advances, 11-0 aggregate: Three players, three doubles, all within the match’s last half-hour:  Japanese striker Asano Nagasato scored in the 62nd and 92nd minutes; 19-year-old Macedonian midfielder Natasa Andonova added goals in the 63rd and 88th; and Swedish midfielder Antonia Göransson recorded hers in the 65th and 84th minutes. Potsdam outshot MTK 49-4.

Neulengbach (Austria) 1-1 Apollon (Cyprus); Neulengbach advances, 3-2 aggregate: FC Kansas City’s Sinead Farrelly, one of six Americans starting for Apollon, pulled the Cypriot side within one in the 77th minute, but a 58th minute goal from 22-year-old Slovakian Alexandra Bíróová held up, sending the most U.S.-friendly club out of the tournament.

Lyon (France) 6-0 Twente (Netherlands); Lyon advances, 10-0 aggregate: Lotta Schelin and Megan Rapinoe added goals from the bench, though by the time they were brought on (46′, 59′), Twente were already chasing six. Lartitia Tonazzi and Louisa Necib had the hosts up two at halftime, while Élise Bussaglia and Eugénie Le Sommer doubled their team’s lead before Schelin and Rapinoe made their contributions.

Sparta Praha (Czech Republic) 1-1 Zürich (Switzerland); Zürich advances, 3-2 aggregate: 16-year-old Mirjine Selim’s early strike not only gave Zürich valuable insurance but also pulled back the goal they conceded at home in leg one. Iva Mocová’s second half score gave the Czechs life, but the hosts were never able to mount the pressure needed to pull back the final goal.

There are four more Round of 32 deciders tomorrow:

  • Rossiyanka (Russia) return home with a 4-2 edge over Spartak Subotica (Serbia);
  • Konak Belediyesi (Turkey) try to protect their 2-1 lead against Unia Raciborz in Poland;
  • Glasgow City (Scotland) return home having earned a 2-2 draw at Standard Liege (Belgium);
  • and Arsenal (England) hold a 7-1 edge over Kazakhstan’s CSHVSM-Kairat.

The Round of 16 matchups have already been drawn, with matches to begin the second week of November, with Germany’s teams both drawing tough matchups:

  • Barcelona vs. Zürich
  • Konak/Urai vs. Neulengbach
  • Fortuna vs. Tyresö
  • Spartak/Rossiyanka vs. Torres
  • Turbine Potsdam vs. Lyon
  • Zorky vs. Birmingham City
  • Malmö vs. Wolfsburg
  • Kairat/Arsenal vs. Standard/Glasgow

UEFA Women’s Champions League roundup: Tyresö edges PSG in day’s headliner

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As a testament to how far UEFA Women’s Champions League has come, there was a savory tie at this early stage of the competition. Had they not been drawn together, both Swedish champions Tyresö and French runners up Paris Saint-Germain would be considered threats to make the final. But with one team seeded (PSG) and the other unseeded, they ended up drawn against each other in this, the Round of 32.

A few years ago (which seems like an eternity, in current, women’s club soccer time), this type of matchup wouldn’t have happened. There just weren’t this many quality teams in Europe. The odds of (a.) a strong team like Tyresö being in the second pot, and (b.) them “hitting” another talented team like PSG in the draw created a mathematical improbability. Now, with the quality of the continent’s best teams improving, it was always possible (if unlikely) that Tyresö could draw a Lyon, Turbine, Arsenal, or Wolfsburg. Or, PSG.

For Americans, this was an ideal matchup. PSG’s two U.S. products (Tobin Heath, Lindsey Horan) are most among any of the seeded teams, with Heath’s acquisition reflecting the Parisians’ concerted effort to start laying tracks in the U.S. market. Tyresö appears to be doing the same, having added Whitney Engen (from Liverpool), Ali Krieger and Ashlyn Harris (both Washington Spirit) to a team that already had Christen Press and Meghan Klingenberg.

Ahead of the Champions League showdown, the acquisitions hadn’t exactly gone as planned for Tyresö. Strong leaders in the Damallsvenskan before their U.S. influx, Tyresö’s fallen to second in Sweden since the end of the NWSL season. Paris Saint-Germain, on the other hand, keep asserting themselves as the second-best team in France, even though they were rudely reminded of that stature in a recent 3-0 loss to Lyon.

Tyresö sold out their venue for PSG’s Wednesday visit (3,327) and got on the board first through Press, who gave the Swedes a lead 22 minutes in. But the U.S. international played a part in giving the lead away when she brought down Swedish star Kosovare Asllani in the Tyresö penalty area. Sabrina Dellanoy’s conversion sent the teams into halftime tied at one.

source: AP
Christen Press, seen here while on U.S. Women’s National team duty, scored both of Tyresö’s goals in today’s 2-1 win over visiting Paris Saint-Germain. Here 21 goals in 20 Damallsvenkan games this season are six more than the next-highest goal-scorer in Sweden. (Photo: AP Photo.)

The teams traded near-misses early in the second. Brazilian icon Marta nearly put he team ahead at one end while former North Carolina standout Klingenberg was called on to save a ball off the line at the other. Eventually, however, Press was allowed to make amends, her second goal of the game giving Tyresö a 2-1 lead just after the hour mark.

It was an obligatory win for Tyresö, if they truly have designs on going far in this competition. Unfortunately, haven given up an away goal, they’ve created a problem for themselves ahead of next week’s leg in Paris. Win, and of course they’re through, and same thing with a tie. But if Paris Saint-Germain reverses today’s result, Tyresö’s going to have to solve their away goals problem. And keep it within one.

(Note: The follow recaps are compiled from reports around the internet. Feel free to add your own spin in the comments, hopefully filling in the gaps left by their brief synopses.)

OTHER RESULTS

Tavagnacco (Italy) 3-2 Fortuna (Austria) – The result looks like trouble for Tavagnacco, having to hit the road after allowing two at home, but given the depths from which they climbed, it could have been worse. Florentina Spanu Olar and Janni Arnth had the hosts down two after 28 minutes only for the Italians to comeback to take a slim lead out of their home leg.

Pärnu (Estonia) 0-14 Wolfsburg (Germany) – Pärnu finished the game without a goalkeeper, their starting number one having been sent off after all the team’s substitutions were used. By that time, though, the damage was already done. Nineteen-year-old Lina Magull had scored four times. Martina Müller had three. The Washington Spirit’s Conny Pohlers had a hat trick off the bench (extending her goal-scoring record in this competition to 45 goals). By the time Elis Meetua was dismissed, Wolfsburg was already up 12-0.

CSHVSM-Kairat (Kazakstan) 1-7 Arsenal (England) – Arsenal’s fresh off the relative indignity of having finished third in England, a disappointing finish in a circuit they used to dominate. That means next year, the Gunners won’t be in this competition, perhaps explaining why they elected to take out their frustrations on one of the competition’s true minnows. Scottish attacker Kim Little was the only Arsenal player to score more than once.

Standard Liege (Belgium) 2-2 Glasgow City (Scotland) – Glasgow City started strong but ended up chasing two leads, both of which they eventually pulled back. Tassa Wullaert scored twice for the Belgians, but each time was equalized by Suzanne Lappin, with the duo left to continue their showdown next week in Scotland.

Zürich (Switzerland) 2-1 Sparta Parha (Czech Republic) – Not a bat result for the Czechs, who withstood the Swiss champions to take a workable result out of Zürich. According to reports, however, Zürich were the better side and were made deserved winners when Rahel Kiwic gave them their second lead with 24 minutes left.

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Megan Rapinoe, now in her second stint with French champions Olympique Lyon, played in her team’s 4-0 win at FC Twente on Wednesday.

Twente (Netherlands) 0-4 Lyon (France) – Tough draw for Twente, but somebody had to get Lyon. Had the Dutch team not been drawn against the competition’s favorites, they may have been able to get into the second round. Today, however, showed just how big the divide is between building clubs and the new big spenders. With U.S. international Megan Rapinoe coming off the bench, Lyon got goals from midfielder Louisa Necib (22′), newly acquired Japanese international Saki Kumagai (31′), former Juvisy standout Leatita Tonazzi (52′), and best player in the world candidate Lotta Schelin (60′). Expect a similar result next week.

Barcelona (Spain) 0-0 Bronby (Denmark) – Unlike on the men’s side, the Danes carry the pedigree amongst these two teams, though Barça have notably improved in recent years. That’s what makes today’s result disappointing from the Catalans’ point of view. A 0-0 result does allow them to swiftly turn the tables should they score next week, but in spite of Bronby’s quality, they would have hoped to make a better statement to start their second Champions League appearance.

Spratzerm (Austria) 2-2 Torres (Italy) – Torres, down to 10 women, got an 88th minute goal from Sabrina Marchese to salvage a road draw. The Italian champions had gone down 2-1 after Nicole Billa’s second goal of the game took advantage of Elisa Bartoli’s mid-second half dismissal, but with Marchese coming off the bench to find an equalizer, last year’s quarterfinalists take an advantage back to Sassari.

Spartak Subotica (Serbia) 2-4 Rossiyanka (Russia) – An early José Mahi goal didn’t phase the Champions League veteran Russians, who got a hat trick from Natalia Shylapina to come back in match they ultimately controlled.

PK-35 Vantaa (Finland) 0-3 Birmingham City (England) – Like Arsenal, Birmingham City won’t be in this competition next year, and like the Gunners, the Blues posted a lopsided, road result to start this year’s tournament. Melissa Lawley, Kirsty Linnett, and Kersy Harrop got the club’s second Champions League season off to a strong one, their three-goal edge likely to expand next week in the West Midlands.

Thor/KA (Iceland) 1-2 Zorkiy (Russia) – Russia to Iceland has to be one of the longest trips possible in European soccer, but Zorkiy handled it admirably thanks to goals from Svenlana Tsydikova and Elena Morozova, both set up by Maria Ruiz. The two clubs combine to have seven Americans on their books, which will leave one cluster of U.S. ex-patriots on the outside of Champions League after next week’s decider.

TOMORROW

The first leg of the tournament’s Round of 32 finishes off tomorrow, with …

  • Turkey’s Konak Belediyesi hosting Poland’s Unia Raciborz;
  • Former champions Turbine Potsdam (Germany) traveling to Hungary to face MTK;
  • Apolllon Limassol’s large U.S. continent leading the Cypriots against visiting Neulengbach (Austria);
  • Norway’s Lillestrøm welcoming Swedish titans Malmö.