Salma Paralluelo to Barcelona's rescue! Women's Champions League winners and losers as the knockouts begin
The calm before the storm. That's what this week's Women's Champions League action felt like. Three months after the group stages concluded, the knockout rounds arrived and the first legs of each of the quarter-final ties all ended 1-0, setting next week's second legs up for plenty of fireworks.
Bayern Munich were the only team to win their home leg, beating Arsenal narrowly.
Barcelona's win in Rome was little surprise, though the fine margin of victory was, while neither French side had reason to celebrate.
🏆 TOP STORY: Ronaldo reflects on his Man Utd misery
📣 HAVE YOUR SAY: Will Pep Guardiola leave Man City?
🚨 MUST READ: Inside the mind of Emi Martinez
Reigning champions Lyon losing to Chelsea just hours before Paris Saint-Germain suffered the same fate in a controversial clash with Wolfsburg.
GOAL takes a closer look at those outcomes below...
- Jose Mourinho is a 'f*cking disgrace'! Reckless Roma coach is responsible for disgusting abuse of referee Anthony Taylor
- Kylian Mbappe, Vinicius Jr and the 21 best players in European club football for 2022-23 - ranked
- Mateo Kovacic, Josko Gvardiol and the 10 players Man City are most likely to sign in the 2023 summer transfer window
- Aitana Bonmati, Lena Oberdorf and GOAL's team of the 2022-23 European women's football season
WINNER: Lea Schuller
When Euro 2022 kicked off last summer, Lea Schuller was Germany's first choice centre-forward. She got off the mark in her nation's first group game, an extremely impressive 4-0 win over 2017 finalists Denmark, and looked set for a stellar tournament.
However, the Bayern star was struck down by Covid-19 before Germany's second game. The time needed to recover combined with Alex Popp's outstanding performances meant she never got that starting position back.
Going into this summer's World Cup, she is still facing a battle to get into Martina Voss-Tecklenburg's XI. But can her form be ignored?
"She's become a different player," Bayern boss Alexander Straus said of Schuller on Tuesday, after her towering header proved to be the match-winner in Munich. "She's becoming a much, much more complete player.
"She's always been a goalscorer, but now she is much more involved, she has a lot of touches on the ball during a game, she is involved more and more in the build-up play, she has more calmness to her game than before.
"I think Lea has the potential to be one of the best in the world in her position as a No.9. I would not change her for anybody because of the potential she has."
Given Popp's versatility, there could be a way to play both her and Schuller together, albeit without limiting the Wolfsburg striker's impact.
Either way, it's only good news for Voss-Tecklenburg and Germany to have these problems.
For the knockout stages of the UWCL, UEFA has introduced VAR. However, goal-line technology is still not compulsory despite every team in the last eight playing its home leg in a stadium used to implementing it.
Each team has the option to pay for this to be in use and, on Tuesday, Bayern Munich did not. That's not against the rules, it's the club's own choice, but it certainly raises questions of the inconsistency of technology available in the competition.
Arsenal boss Jonas Eidevall discussed those after his team's defeat in Germany. While some may not agree with his opinions on the Gunners' penalty shouts following their 1-0 defeat, the comments had a fair point in them.
"I think it’s a problem for the competition that not every game has the same level of technology in helping the officials take the right decisions," he said. "It’s not Bayern’s fault.
"It’s within their rights to take that decision but I think we can all agree it’s very weird that you play at a level in the competition and, all of a sudden, it comes down to the host club whether you’re going to fund technology that is going to be used by both teams."
This is women's football's elite competition. We should be talking about the football. But we're talking about things like this because, quite frankly, it doesn't make sense why the technology isn't there to help the officials make the right decisions.
There are things to factor into this, like if a lower-ranked team with less financial might had progressed to this stage and needed to pay for very expensive technology. But the controversy certainly raises questions of UEFA and why it is not making sure these things are there to help the referees.
Chelsea started this month with their worst performance of the season, suffering a 3-1 defeat to Arsenal in the Continental Cup final despite taking the lead through Sam Kerr's header after just 98 seconds.
However, the display Emma Hayes' side put on away at Lyon on Wednesday night was as far removed from that nightmare as possible. This was a mature performance at the home of the eight-time European champions, with sprinklings of stardust.
One of those magical moments came when Erin Cuthbert showed dogged determination to outmuscle Ellie Carpenter, then nutmegged Damaris Egurrola and teed up Guro Reiten to curl the ball into the far corner with her weaker right foot.
It could've been 2-0 before the break, even, as Lauren James did what she often does, gliding through the Lyon defence before smashing a shot against the post.
There were some nervy moments on the ball at the back and concern when centre-back stalwart Millie Bright limped off with an injury, but the Blues will take a lead back to London for the return leg.
Indeed, it's the first time Lyon have ever lost a first-leg home game in Europe. That's quite a feat to inflict on the reigning champions.
LOSER: Barcelona's finishing
Barcelona are the favourites to win the Champions League this season. They are an incredible team with superb players who play gorgeous football.
But there is a recurring problem in this team that reared its ugly head again this week. They can be very wasteful in front of goal at times.
On Tuesday night in Rome, the Catalans had 69 per cent possession, 33 shots and created five 'big' chances, according to Opta. They had an expected goals measure of 3.49. Yet, they only emerged as 1-0 winners. It could've been worse. Roma ended the game very strongly and had opportunities to equalise.
"The victory is fair because of the amount of opportunities we generated," head coach Jonatan Giraldez told the media afterwards, before conceding: "Today, we were not at all successful in the last metres. I have the feeling that we could have scored more goals."
In the UWCL this season, Barca rank ninth for their big chance conversion rate out of the 16 teams that made the group stages. In their domestic league, they are 10th out of 16 teams.
Of course, this often doesn't matter because they create so many chances that it's fine when they miss a few because they still score more than they don't.
They're still the favourites to progress from this tie, too, with a gorgeous strike from Salma Paralluelo meaning they only need to draw at Camp Nou next week.
But Barca really cannot be this wasteful if they want to win the Champions League because they will be punished for it.
Most expected three of these quarter-finals to be tightly contested. Roma vs Barcelona, though? The Italians have had themselves quite a season so far, with a first domestic league title a very real possibility, but it was anticipated that the Catalans would be far too much for them.
That they were not was in part down to Barca's profligacy, but credit must absolutely go to Roma as well.
Camelia Ceasar made some superb saves in the home goal and, as the game became stretched towards the end of the second half, her team-mates created chances too. Barca goalkeeper Sandra Panos was called into action four times late on, most significantly tipping a fierce Manuela Giugliano shot over the bar.
Roma are by no means expected to go to Camp Nou next week and win. But this performance had so many positives for the future of this exciting project.
In their first season in the Champions League, the club from the capital have not only made the knockouts, they've kept themselves in a quarter-final tie against the team most fancied to lift the trophy.
They've been absolutely brilliant.
LOSER: PSG's defence
PSG could definitely be forgiven for feeling decisions went against them on Wednesday night.
The French side went into their home leg against Wolfsburg missing two centre-backs through injury, Sweden's Amanda Ilestedt and Poland's Paulina Dudek. Next week, they will travel to Germany with another absentee in that area after a controversial red card for Elisa De Almeida.
The 25-year-old received a second yellow after a VAR review resulted in her giving away a penalty for handball.
It was a controversial decision in itself, coming moments after PSG themselves had a spot-kick taken away from them by the technology, but one made even more so by the decision to award a player a booking for a handball that it took a good three minutes to decide was an offence.
With Ilestedt and Dudek out, PSG's dynamic captain Grace Geyoro has had to sit in at centre-back for the last few weeks. It's far from ideal because she is one of their absolute best players and the attack, already disjointed with star striker Marie-Antoinette Katoto out, suffers without her in midfield.
But she'll certainly be in the back line again next week with De Almeida suspended – and with a new centre-back partner.
Given PSG need to go to Wolfsburg and win, to have Geyoro driving forward with the ball, creating chances and threatening to score herself would be a huge boost.
But instead they'll be even more vulnerable in defence as they aim to defeat a team that has only lost once all season.