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UWCL: Barcelona women crowned European champions as they demolished Blues four goals to nil

The best team in Europe.

Barcelona may well have been unofficially as much this season, without a single point dropped in the league, averaging just short of five goals per game, and playing football that can only be compared to the stuff their men’s team played under Pep Guardiola, as tiresome as such comparisons can be.

On Sunday, they were officially crowned as much, ruthlessly beating Chelsea 4-0 in the Women’s Champions League final.

It was an absolute masterclass of a performance that will go down as one of the greatest to be played on the biggest stage.

A freak own goal gave them the lead inside a minute, but what followed was by no means out of the ordinary – for Barcelona, anyway.

The way they pressed, the way they dominated, the incisiveness they showed in the final third, the fluidity of the movement off the ball; it is what has helped them wrap up the Primera Division title with eight games to go.

Such chemistry does not come overnight. This was the product of a team being carefully put together over the last decade, players hand-picked to suit the Barcelona style from other teams or progressing through the club’s famed academy set-up themselves.

They have also been trusted and backed by the club to reach this point.

Barcelona ever since.

It was Chelsea who learned how the experience felt, last night. For the young full backs Niamh Charles and Jess Carter, who bore a terrible brunt in the punishing first half which left the team four goals in arrears, this will taking some recovering from.

Lieke Martens’ match up on the Spanish left against Charles, who had been outstanding in the semi-final, was a particularly brutal one. Across the pitch Carter, selected ahead of Jonna Andersson, was humbled by Caroline Graham Hansen, time and again.

In central midfield, there was also a big differential. Hayes side simply could not seize control.

Barcelona tore out of the blocks in a way which left Chelsea reeling and unable to know what was hitting them. The game was a mere just 30 seconds old when Martens raced away from Charles and curled a shot against the bar. Chelsea were unable to organise themselves as the ball dropped and after a sequence of pinball football, the ball fell to Fran Kirby, whose attempted clearance ricocheted in of Melanie Leupolz.

It was misfortune and yet a grave premonition of the Spanish threat. Barcelona were simply quicker in action and thought. The defenders were simply unable to keep up with their crisp, precise exchanges of possession as they fell 3-0 behind inside an opening half hour which effectively killed the match.

Martens’ threat was particularly brutal. She exposed the high defensive position Mille Bright had taken on 14 minutes and raced into the Chelsea third, despatching Caroline Graham Hansen who barged through the threat of Jess Carter.

The Norwegian induced more panic by cutting back to Jenni Hermoso, who was caught by Leupolz’s standing leg to secure the penalty that captain Alexia Putellas dinked in.

Hayes felt that the fluke nature of the opening eight minutes had to be compensated for. ‘One’s an own-goal and the second is a penalty and from there it was an uphill battle,’ she said. ‘It makes it difficult to impose yourself when the other team has the momentum of being 2-0 up inside [14] minutes.’

But Martens demonstrated her superiority again for the third, racing towards the byline to trigger a one-touch goal of quite beautiful geometry. Hermoso eased a pass back for Putellas, whose precision fist-time ball, punched through the lines, found the darting move of Aitana Bonmati who drew Ann-Katrin Berger and rolled the ball in through her legs.

Martens outmuscled Charles again for the fourth, cutting back from the byline for Graham Hansen who was faster to the ball to Charles to poke in.

Charles recovered her poise and Chelsea showed signs of a recovery. But Harder somehow managed to spurn another chance after Reiten’s free kick presented an elementary header. A damage limitation exercise was the best if could be.

ajay
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