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Why a Barcelona-Wolfsburg UWCL final proves the super-club formula still works

Half of the semifinalists were English clubs, but injury-stricken Arsenal and Chelsea fell short again, perhaps in part due to a more grueling league campaign.

Photo: Daniela Porcelli /Just Pictures /SPP.

The UEFA Women’s Champions League is becoming more competitive, simply because Lyon no longer dominates. This year, for the first time ever, Barcelona and Wolfsburg will meet each other in the final. That was confirmed on Monday evening, after the reigning German champions came through an end-to-end, up-and-down affair with Arsenal.

The tournament remains in the palms of Europe’s super-clubs, those very wealthy few who almost totally control their own domestic leagues. What was once a monopoly has become merely an oligopoly. Still, small progress is progress, and there was much to enjoy about this year’s semifinals.

Arsenal fought VfL Wolfsburg to the bitter end, a surprise considering the players they were without. Captain Kim Little and vice-captain Leah Williamson were unavailable, having joined Beth Mead and Vivianne Miedema on the injury list. When Arsenal went 2-0 down inside 24 minutes of the first leg in Germany, most expected a hammering. Instead, the Gunners fired back, drawing 2-2 away, then taking the second leg into extra time. Jen Beattie — resilience personified, recalled to the lineup in difficult circumstances to guide a new-look back three — scored the crucial goal to make it 4-4 on aggregate.

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