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'A new era' - Barcelona & Madrid's historic Camp Nou Clasico proves anything is now possible for women's game

23:14 GMT+4 30/03/2022
Caroline Graham Hansen Barcelona Real Madrid UEFA Women's Champions League 2021-22
Before a record-breaking crowd, the Catalans beat their rivals from the Spanish capital 5-2 to reach the UEFA Women's Champions League semi-finals

Barcelona 5-2 Real Madrid: Match Statistics

Alexia Putellas, captain of Barcelona women’s team and a childhood fan of the club, said this week that she never dreamed about playing at Camp Nou.

What sort of expectations can you have of something, if you have never dared to imagine it?

One doesn’t know – but whatever images Putellas might have pictured in her head going into Wednesday’s sold-out Champions League quarter-final clash with Real Madrid at Camp Nou – it’s sure that the reality surpassed all expectations.

Indeed, when the teams were read out before kick-off, the name of the 2021 Ballon d’Or winner was met with a deafening roar by a record-breaking crowd for a women's game of 91,553 fans.

Fittingly, Barca marked this historic occasion with a thrilling 5-2 victory to progress 8-3 on aggregate to the semi-finals of the UWCL, which they won so emphatically last year.

Putellas scored the hosts' fourth goal on the night, her shot trickling over the line, and she bowed to the Camp Nou crowd before blowing them a kiss.

‘Alexia! Alexia! Alexia!’ rang out around the ground.

There is always a danger in women’s football that when games are given such a big billing, they can fall short of expectations.

To try to get a historic attendance, tickets are sold for cheaper prices, or given away for free in some cases, and so some don’t mind giving the game a miss if the weather is bad or something else comes up.

When rain poured down on the city of Barcelona on the morning of the game, some feared the worst – but the grey clouds would fade away and the fans filled up the bars around the stadium before the big event, renditions of ‘Allez, Allez, Allez’ heard from all directions.

Even after the 6:45pm kick-off local time, the streets around the Camp Nou continued to be packed with fans hurrying inside after rushing to get to the stadium, hoping to miss as little of the action as possible.

Many will have missed the first two goals of this crazy game, though, with Mapi Leon opening the scoring for the hosts on eight minutes, before Olga Carmona equalised after 16.

However, once they made it inside, they were treated to an incredible atmosphere, and not just for a women’s football match, but any match.

Camp Nou was in full voice for its history-making, treble-winning team – the only time it fell silent was momentarily, as Real Madrid midfielder Claudia Zornoza lobbed goalkeeper Sandra Panos from 35 yards.

As good a goal as it was, it was a mere footnote by full-time.

This night was about Barcelona, about the excellence of this wonderfully constructed women’s team and the unparalleled job the club has done in supporting it.

It was also about Putellas, a player on top of the world right now, scoring in front of an adoring crowd that she was once a part of as a young girl, when she would watch her heroes on the men’s side.

It was about Melanie Serrano, the 32-year-old defender who has been a Barcelona player for 19 years and played for the club before the women’s team was even properly integrated into it.

It was also about the players that the likes of Melanie paved the way for – for example, Claudia Pina, Barca's 20-year-old mercurial talent.

And it was about those who came before Melanie, too. It was about the women who played in Camp Nou's first ever women’s game in 1970; their efforts and endeavour were crucial in reaching this record-breaking point.

This was a night that showed what is possible for the women’s game.

On the pitch was the best team in Europe, if not the world, keeping their chances of another treble alive by reaching the Champions League last four.

Surrounding them were more fans than have ever turned out for a women’s football match.

Both were possible because of the support, promotion and backing of FC Barcelona – because of the way it doesn’t just say it is ‘one club’, but the way it backs up those words with action.

Putellas said this week that she believed this evening could spark "a new era" in the game. Anyone who was inside the stadium on Wednesday night would agree.

This was bigger than anyone could have imagined.