This week’s talking points from women’s football include a famous win for Bayern Munich against Chelsea in the Champions League semifinal, a pair of Bundesliga upsets and Almuth Schult’s return.
Bayern Munich with one foot in the final
All the talk ahead of the Champions League semifinal first leg was of a changing of the guard as Chelsea, league leaders of the newly professionalized English Women’s Super League, traveled to Munich to face Bayern.
Having already knocked out the current German champions Wolfsburg, the side from London has serious ambitions in this competition – but their march has been halted, for now.
At the end of a hard-fought and at times nerve-wracking first leg, it was Bayern who emerged with a 2-1 lead to take to London thanks to Hanna Glas’ long-range second-half effort.
After wobbling slightly in the league recently, the Germans were very much back on form, combining at speed and taking an early lead through Syndey Lohmann.
Although former Bayern player Melanie Leupolz hit back for Chelsea and the visitors almost equalized again late on when Ji So-yun hit the bar, they all too often lacked the final pass to break down Bayern’s defense.
So where does this leave the changing of the guard in women’s football? Should Chelsea turn the tie around with the help of that away goal, they will feel very much in the ascendancy.
But with honorary Bayern president Uli Hoeness watching from the stands on Saturday, there ought to be no worries in Munich about the future standing of the women’s team within the club.
In the other semifinal, PSG and Barcelona drew 1-1 in Paris.
Two victories for the underdogs
There wasn’t just one upset in the Women’s Bundeliga this weekend, but two, as relegation-threatened Meppen and Sand both pulled off big wins.
The first shock came in north-west Germany as struggling Meppen beat third-placed Hoffenheim 1-0 — and deservedly so. Meppen defended well and counterattacked dangerously, while Hoffenheim struggled to build up any pressure of their own.
Such upsets are less common than in the men’s game, where the gulf in quality and resources between big and small is big, but not that big.
Unfortunately for Meppen’s survival hopes, it was rendered irrelevant by events far to the south where Sand hammered fellow relegation-strugglers Werder Bremen 6-1. Before this weekend, Sand had only scored 12 goals all season.
It’s tempting to put the victory down to the famous “new manager effect” after Nora Häuptle was replaced by Alexander Fischinger this week. But Fischer graciously acknowledged: “Today’s win was Nora’s work.”
Essen pinning future hopes on youth
Essen are one of the few women’s teams still managing to survive without the backing of a men’s club and, despite the loss of several top names this season (Lena Oberdorf, Marina Hegering, Lea Schüller), they’ve slowly found their rhythm.
And despite a 2-1 defeat to Bayer Leverkusen on Friday night, Essen have confidence in the players coming through the youth academy.
“We really noticed the loss of those players at the start of the season,” midfielder Jana Feldkamp told DW. “But over time we’ve recovered, either with good signings or with players coming up through the system.”
One of those players is 17-year-old Carlotta Wamser, who impressed against Leverkusen.
Feldkamp had praise for those in charge:
“We have super coaches,” she said. “And we’re one of the few clubs in the region where the youth academy works really well, so we’re attractive for young local players.”
With Feldkamp herself set to join Hoffenheim at the end of the season, Essen will be hoping that there are more young talents to come. Without them, they will struggle to survive in a women’s game increasingly dominated by men’s clubs.
The Return of the Queen
After 721 days of maternity leave and injury problems, Germany goalkeeper Almuth Schult was back in goal for Wolfsburg this weekend, keeping a clean sheet as her team beat Duisburg 4-0.