WOLFSBURG'S NIGHT IN SW6 SHOWPIECE
It is to be a German clean sweep in the Champions League this season with, on a notable night in the history of Stamford Bridge, VfL Wolfsburg won the women's version of the competition.
Olympique Lyonnais were the defeated side, a second-half penalty the only goal in the final, meaning a new name is inscribed on the UEFA Women's Champions League trophy.
There was a true sense of occasion throughout the evening at the Bridge, the West Stand lower tier looking the most different from norm, with a presentation platform built in the middle of it, a large competition banner located behind that and the two most vocal sets of supporters for the teams on either side. Above in the middle tier sat UEFA and FIFA presidents Michel Platini and Sepp Blatter side by side, the former heading downstairs at the end to hand over the silverware.
The lower tiers around the ground were filled by the 19,278 crowd with the Chelsea Ladies team and staff also in attendance, and there was particular interest in the Lyon side for Chelsea Ladies manager Emma Hayes who coached two of their players when working in the United States - their experienced captain Sonia Bompastor and winger Megan Rapinoe. Hayes herself is a past winner of this final as a player, with Arsenal six years ago.
That was the last time a team not from tonight's two competing nations had won the competition. Lyon were going for a third straight win which would have made history. Germany had a good record of participation in these finals but this was Wolfsburg's first. Their coach had described his opponents, the clear financial power in the women's game in France until Paris St-Germain's recent takeover, as probably the best women's team in the world. His opposite number in the Lyon dugout said before the match that Wolfsburg were all about outstanding team work. On the night it was the Germans who came closer to fulfilling their billing.
This being a European final, the Stamford Bridge turf hosted an opening ceremony with a giant purple star and the colours of both sides unfurled before an anthem was played, and it was underdogs Wolfsburg who shot only inches wide inside the first five minutes.
Although Lyon were next to go close, they could not have been happy with their opening to the game. The side that had won every match on the way to their domestic championship adopted an almost shoot-on-sight policy and it was not paying off.
It was only after a clearance off the line from Rapinoe's header midway through the half that they really started to play. Attempts went close and Alisa Vetterlin in the Wolfsburg goal was tested as a Mexican wave and the rain began.
However Wolfsburg midfielder Martine Muller nearly made the most of hesitancy in the Lyon defence shortly before half-time. Her moment would come.
In the second-half, the pace of Elodie Thomis on the flank for Lyon threatened to make the difference but in the end the match turned on a 72nd-minute handball, as a flick off an aerial dual dropped onto centre-back Laura Georges's arm.
Muller hit the penalty home high. Lyon coach Patrice Lair did not complain about the decision after the game, instead talking about his team not doing what was needed.
Lyon now hurried forward but Wolfsburg went as close to scoring as the French did. Deep into stoppage time, Louisa Necib for Lyon had a shot saved at the second grasp to plenty of quiet celebration and relief in and around the German dug out. They were soon climbing up the aisle in the West Stand to receive their medals from Platini, adding to a domestic double won in the previous fortnight, their first major trophies.
Nearly nine months to the day after the first match of the season at Stamford Bridge, the final competitive game on our turf was over.
'I love these English stadiums and the atmosphere was fantastic,' said player of the match Lena Goessling after receiving her individual award.