Barça Femení 2020-21 Season review : Part 3 – Winning the Treble

Supercopa Femenina

One of the only blunders of Barça Femení this season was in the 2021 Supercopa Femenina,. This is where they fell to rivals Atlético Madrid on a penalty shootout in the semifinal.

This year’s semi final defeat was definitely a shock to the team. The came to the match with 11 straight match days and a UWCL tie without a single loss. Moreover, they only conceded 4 goals in that time span. Like Atléti always do, they deployed their standard low block. Barcelona could not break it down due to their persistent issues with finishing. A penalty from Merel van Dongen turned the entire match on its head. Therefore, everything was pointing to an Atléti win for the remainder of regular time.

At least that was the case until captain Alexia Putellas gave Barça Femení a glimmer of hope. She scored a free kick late into stoppage time. Alexia’s goal forced two goalless periods of extra time where the match was decided via shootout. In an awful series of penalties, Barcelona missed 3 of their first shots. The shootout that ended 3-1 in favor of their rivals as they crashed out of the competition.

Luckily, the Supercopa seemed to serve as a lesson to the team. They learned that their trends of poor finishing won’t be good enough to fight for Europe. Eventually, the team sorted out its problems with finishing. They went on to storm every other title they were competing for. Atlético won the Supercopa in the end. But Virginia Torrecilla was the one who lifted it, so it was hardly a loss for culés.

UEFA Women’s Champions League

Barcelona got yet another chance at redemption in this season’s Champions League after a heartbreaking exit against Wolfsburg in 2020. This season, the team was observably more comfortable against European competition. Barcelona was able to replicate their league dominance, putting up huge scorelines against nearly every opponent they faced.

They kicked off their tournament in the Round of 32 against PSV. There they had a 4-1 scoreline in each leg to finish on a 8-2 aggregate score. Unexpectedly, one of the defining moments of their entire season was in the first leg of the Round of 16. The tie was against Danish side Fortuna Hjørring. This match ended 4-0 for the blaugrana. But they had one of their worst performances of the past few seasons in front of goal. They finished the game with 39 total shots (16 on target), giving them a conversion rate of 10%. If it weren’t already clear against Atlético Madrid in the Supercopa, Barça Femení had some serious issues with shot conversion.

Fans don’t know what it was, but something changed between the Round of 16 and the quarterfinal. That made Barcelona’s finishing go from below par to world class. In mid-March the team faced Manchester City, and it didn’t take long for the blaugrana to impose themselves on City. Asisat Oshoala scored the first goal. A penalty goal from Mariona and then a penalty save from Paños immediately after completely shut down their English opposition. Then Jenni added another late in the second half just to stick the final nail in the coffin. In the away leg, City gave Barça Femení a bit of a scare with quality pressing and an early goal. But Oshoala adding an away goal secured Barça Femení advancing with a 4-2 aggregate score.

Lyon out of the way

Paris Saint-Germain took the bullet for the rest of Europe and knocked Lyon out of the competition. That ended Lyon’s streak of 5 straight UWCL title wins. The bracket was set up to where Barcelona were faced PSG. The French side knew that this would be their final shot at European glory for a while before multiple big-name transfers and contract expirations.

The first match of the tie was at PSG’s home ground, ended in a draw. Jenni Hermoso headed her way past Tiane Endler to give Barça Femení the lead. But the goal was quickly cancelled out by PSG defender Alana Cook scoring from a corner. Barcelona returned to the Estadi Johan Cruyff with an away goal in their arsenal. Moreover, they had a motivation to return to where they stood in 2019. Barcelona snatched victory from the hands of PSG with a Lieke Martens masterclass. She scored two goals to cancel out Marie-Antoinette Katoto’s equalizer. A goalless second half kept Barcelona’s aggregate score to 3-2. That sent them on their way to the final in Gothenburg, their second ever UWCL final.

Dealing with absentees

Barça Femení took two major blows to the squad in preparation for the final. Andrea Pereira out with suspension, and Alexia Putellas had discomfort in her hamstring. Barcelona did not have any center backs that were ready for the pressure of such a big game. Therefore, ever-versatile Patri Guijarro played the final out of position in place of Pereira. This left her normal spot of defensive midfield open for Kheira Hamraoui to grab. She played the first Champions League final of her career after being suspended for two in 2015 and 2019, and benched for another in 2018.

Alexia’s hamstring discomfort was a problem that came to light much later in the week. She was filmed training away from the rest of the group with a heavily bandaged left leg. She only had a day to recover before playing the final, but she started anyway and played through the pain.

Winning the trophy for the first time ever

The final was on May 16th against Chelsea, who were more favored than not to win it due to their dominant performances against VfL Wolfsburg and Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively. They put out their full-strength XI (barring starting right back Maren Mjelde due to injury), completed with a frontline of Sam Kerr, Pernille Harder and Fran Kirby, believed to be the best front 3 in the world. Barcelona had two major changes in their starting XI with the aforementioned absence of Andrea Pereira, who’s place was taken by Patri Guijarro, and Kheira Hamraoui who started in defensive midfield.

Scoring from the 1st minute

It took 30 seconds for Barça Femení to score their first goal. They started attacking immediately after the whistle blew and within 15 seconds advanced into Chelsea’s final third, where Lieke Martens rocketed a shot on goal that smacked off the top post. Caroline Graham Hansen got ahold of the rebound and sent the ball back into the box where Fran Kirby attempted to clear it, passing it straight into Melanie Leupolz’s leg, which ricocheted straight into Chelsea’s goal. A disaster start for the Blues was only made worse when Leupolz made another mistake, conceding a penalty by making contact with Jenni Hermoso in the box. Alexia Putellas, who was poised to be benched this match, scored the penalty within 13 minutes to pile on to Chelsea’s poor performance.

In minute 21, Barcelona put on a show of gorgeous possession-based football. Lieke Martens carried the ball up the left side of the pitch, and in a flurry of one-touch passes, Jenni Hermoso passed it straight to Alexia, who sent a through ball past Chelsea’s backline to Aitana Bonmatí, who dribbled past leftback Jess Carter to make it Barcelona’s third. Lieke Martens constructed Barcelona’s fourth goal as well, assisting Caroline Graham Hansen in the latter’s third UWCL final. Asisat Oshoala was substituted in and added a fifth in stoppage time. But it was called as offsides, saving Chelsea from a complete and total 5-0 embarrassment.

After the win

Aitana Bonmatí was named player of the match for dominating Chelsea’s midfield and defense for the entire game, as well as ripping apart their defense with Barcelona’s third goal. The team’s win was the greatest margin of victory for any team since single-legged UWCL finals began in 2011. In terms of their entire campaign, commanding wins against PSG and two WSL sides destroyed the narrative that Spanish women’s football was a weak, underdeveloped game. Barcelona weren’t playing 4-goal games against Spanish teams because Spanish teams were that bad. Barcelona were having 4-goal games against the best English side in 15 years in a Champions League final because they were just that good.

Cup (2020-21)

Similarly to the men’s game, two Copas de la Reina competitions were completed during the 2019-20 season. The 2019-20 Cup final was won by Barcelona in February 2021 after defeating EdF Logroño by 3 goals, and the 2020-21 edition began 3 months later in May.

In the quarterfinals, Barcelona faced Sevilla, a mid-table side who put up a respectable fight. Sevilla took a surprising lead after 13 minutes from Barcelona loanee Claudia Pina, but Barcelona quickly rescued one back from Mariona Caldentey. It was the first time that season that Barcelona went into halftime without winning. Three goals later in the second half gave Barcelona a 1-4 win, which put them through to the semi finals against Madrid CFF. They didn’t pose much of a challenge either, as Barcelona breezed past the Madrid-based team with a 4-0 win. Most of the drama in the semifinals happened on the other end of the bracket, with Levante stealing a win from Atleti with a dramatic match-winner in the final minutes of added time.

In the final, 3 assists from Lieke Martens and goals from Patri, Alexia and Torrejón gave Barcelona a 3-0 lead going into the second half. Although the end of the first half saw glimpses of Levante’s attacking strength. Barcelona looked like they may have been close to losing the plot upon the resumption of the second half, as Levante pulled two goals back in the span of 10 minutes to make the score 3-2. Alexia scored her second of the match minutes later to destroy Levante’s momentum, and Barcelona finished out the 90 minutes as Copa champions with a 4-2 win. With that cup win, Barcelona finished their season as treble winners, a first for the club and a first for Spanish women’s football.

Confirmed departures and what comes next

It has been confirmed within the past month that Barcelona will have two major player departures- French midfielder Kheira Hamraoui, and 16-season-tenured first captain Vicky Losada. They both were honored for their contributions on the final matchday, with Vicky having an extravagant sendoff in front of a home crowd of 2,120 attendants. On the same day, after all the celebrations were over, Lluís Cortés communicated his abrupt but inevitable departure from the club. After weeks of media reports surrounding unrest in the dressing room, the treble-winning coach had a quiet exit, with a statement thanking the players, the media, the fans and the club.

The upcoming transfer window should bring in multiple high-profile internationals. Wolfsburg midfielder Ingrid Engen and PSG captain and center back Irene Paredes seemingly inevitable additions. The club will also need to look for a potential replacement for Vicky Losada. And of course a new manager prior to preseason in the United States.

At the end of it all, Barcelona scored 208 goals, conceded only 22, lost only three times- twice to Atleti and once to City- drew once to PSG, and won every one of the other 43 matches that they played. Barcelona have effectively sought revenge for their heartbreak in the Champions League Final in 2019. Moreover, they have gone above and beyond in redeeming themselves from such a major loss, standing proud on top of Europe. Easily the best ever campaign for a Spanish women’s football team and one of the greatest ever for any team in Europe, this season has been one for the history books.

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