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Winners & Losers

History for Italy but Arsenal eliminate Ajax amid chaos and controversy: Women's Champions League winners and losers

2:58 PM IST 30/09/22
Roma Mead Arsenal Ajax UEFA Women's Champions League GFX
The final round of qualifiers for the UEFA Women's Champions League group stage produced an insane amount of drama...

History was made this week as several sides secured their spots in the Women's Champions League group stages for the first time.

Roma's qualification means Italy will have two representatives this year, while Vllaznia became the first Albanian club to reach the last 16 of any UEFA competition since KF Tirana did so in the 1989-90 men's European Cup.

Elsewhere, Arsenal put their name in the hat for Monday's draw with a narrow win over Ajax – which came in bizarre circumstances in Amsterdam as it was discovered before kick-off that the goalposts were 10 centimetres shorter than they should've been.

Paris Saint-Germain, Bayern Munich and Juventus were all also among those to overcome tricky ties in what proved a far-from-straightforward qualifying process for the big names.

As we look ahead to the UWCL group phase, here are GOAL's winners and losers from the final round of preliminary fixtures...

  • Kadidiatou Diani Li Mengwen Paris Saint Germain Women 2022-23

    WINNER: Paris Saint-Germain

    It's not exactly been a barnstorming start to the season by Paris Saint-Germain.

    They needed an 86th-minute goal to beat Hacken in the home leg of their Champions League tie last week, and a 90th-minute winner to take three points from Sunday's league meeting with Fleury.

    In addition, they didn't get going until the second half of their return clash with Hacken but still ended up recording a 2-0 victory in Sweden to secure their place in the group stages.

    Still, the stat that matters is that they've played five games this season – and won all five.

    With a new coach in charge, several new players coming into the team, and star striker Marie-Antoinette Katoto sidelined with an ACL injury, they've had to make several adjustments after a turbulent summer, and that's been obvious in their disjointed performances.

    However, the mere fact that they are still racking up wins in spite of all the upheaval is impressive, and bodes well for the coming campaign.

    When PSG finally click, they should be a force to be reckoned with.

  • Jonas Eidevall Arsenal 2022


    There was confusion late in the Arsenal game on Wednesday night, as head coach Jonas Eidevall prepared to make a concussion substitution after Beth Mead was left worse for wear following a foul from Lisa Doorn.

    However, as the groggy England star was helped off the pitch and Lina Hurtig prepared to take her place, the latter wasn't allowed on.

    "What do you mean, 'no'?" Eidevall could be heard asking the officials.

    UEFA did trial concussion substitutions but when that experiment ended in July 2022, it was not implemented on a permanent basis.

    Why not keep the rule, given it protects players who have suffered head injuries? The decision to abandon the initiative certainly doesn't reflect well on UEFA, given what unfolded in Amsterdam.

    Indeed, had Ajax scored the one goal they needed to take the tie to extra-time, it would've caused even more controversy.

    But that's ultimately besides the point. The bottom line is that these measures to protect those on the pitch are hugely important and should be put back in place as soon as possible.

  • Sydney Lohmann Bayern Munich Women 2022-23

    WINNER: Sydney Lohmann

    Last season was a frustrating one for Sydney Lohmann.

    Injuries limited her to just eight league appearances for Bayern Munich – four of them from the bench – and it meant she went to Euro 2022, where Germany reached the final, unable to play the starring role she would have been capable of if fully fit.

    However, she looks incredibly sharp at the start of this new campaign, with her performance against Real Sociedad on Thursday evening simply sublime.

    Her link-up with Linda Dallmann for Bayern's opening goal was crisp, the two showing great chemistry to slice their way through the Sociedad defence.

    Her second assist, though, was even better, with Lohmann turning brilliantly to break into the box before putting the ball on a plate for Lea Schuller to tap home.

    If she can stay healthy this season, then Bayern's chances of success will automatically increase, such is the quality she offers this team.

  • Kayla McCoy Rangers Women 2022-23

    LOSER: Rangers

    While Rangers will have left Portugal with plenty of positives, they will have also felt aggrieved as their dream of reaching the Women's Champions League group stages was ended by Benfica on Wednesday night.

    The second leg was far less eventful than the Portuguese side's 3-2 win at Ibrox – at least until 16-year-old Emma Watson scored an 87th-minute goal that sent the tie into extra time.

    Rangers fell behind early into that added period, but great work by Watson again appeared to have given the visitors a way back into the tie, as she was clearly brought down in the penalty area.

    However, the referee waved play on and Benfica went straight down the other end and sealed victory.

    While Rangers should feel hugely positive about the future after this fine run, they would be forgiven for feeling quite bitter about the way in which it came to an end.

  • Real Madrid Women fans 2022

    WINNER: Football fans

    We were treated to one truly enthralling 'group of death' in the first ever UWCL group stages last season and the growth of the game across Europe means we are sure to have some incredibly tasty match-ups this time around too.

    Paris Saint-Germain, Arsenal and Bayern Munich are in pot two of the group stage draw, so there is guaranteed to be some huge heavyweight clashes. However, with Juventus and Real Madrid – both quarter-finalists last year – also in pot three, things could get even more exciting.

    There are already calls for UEFA to expand the competition and it's no wonder. So many of the games we've witnessed in qualifying would've been fit for this round of 16, with four sides who reached the groups last year going out in the preliminary stages.

    With Manchester City, Ajax, Real Sociedad and Eintracht Frankfurt – four-time winners when known as FFC Frankfurt – all also getting knocked out along the way, it would be great if more groups were added.

    The positive of there being such a small number of clubs involved, though, is that the combinations that come out of Monday's draw are sure to have you reaching for the popcorn.

  • Sandie Toletti Real Madrid Women 2022-23

    LOSER: Sandie Toletti?

    Real Madrid have had an excellent UWCL qualifying campaign, picking up wins and putting on solid performances.

    There was one rare, possible sour note for them on Wednesday, as Sandie Toletti limped off the pitch before the end of the first half.

    The France international has started the season well after her move from Levante and has been forming a great relationship on the pitch with another new signing, Caroline Weir.

    To lose that rhythm now due to an injury would be a huge shame for her, particularly given the intense competition for places in the Madrid midfield, and how well Teresa Abelleira played when she came on to replace the 27-year-old.

    The next day, Toletti was included in France's squad for the upcoming international break, but there has been no official news on the full extent of her injury.

    Hopefully, it be good news for Las Blancas and Toletti, who is a pleasure to watch and a real asset to any team.