Paris Saint-Germain just cannot quite find a way to beat Lyon – but then nor can anyone else. Defeated on penalties in both French cup finals this season, defeated 1-0 in the only league game between the two, forced to watch the title handed over without getting the chance to play for a second time, they were again defeated by their rivals.
A solitary goal from the towering captain Wendie Renard, a six-time winner of this competition, took Lyon through to their fifth consecutive Champions League final, their ninth in the past 11 years.
The last time Lyon lost a game in this competition was late 2014, but this was far from easy. The final minutes of an even, edgy and often physical game, with both teams down to 10, were nervous. But Lyon are the ultimate competitors and they held on, violently happy at the end. They will face Wolfsburg on Sunday without their England striker Nikita Parris, who was sent off in the second half.
It had been a battle from the start, a neat nutmeg in the first minute from Lucy Bronze suggesting comfort that never came. In fact Lyon looked a little inhibited initially, although they did slowly start to move through the gears.
PSG were pressing high, Kadadiatou Diani running at the back four from the left while Perle Morroni was keen to get forward on the other side. There were few chances though, just a dash from Sara Dabritz that saw Sakina Karshaoui hurriedly hooking clear.
And step by step, Lyon edged up the pitch, beginning with Parris’s deflected shot fading wide.
Much of it was led by Delphine Cascarino. Just too quick to be caught, the most startling glimpse of her pace came when she somehow reached Sara Bjork Gunnarsdottir’s pass, getting to the by-line in time and pulling the ball back across the area. Oh, so quiet in this huge, empty arena, as it went by begging to be finished, there was a squeal from a member of Lyon’s staff in the stands.
Not long after, Cascarino sent a volley spinning wide. Next, she burnt up the right again and produced a superb cross for Majri Amel, who could not get over it. And then she won the free kick from which Lyon should have led. Dzsenifer Maroszsan’s superb in-winger landed perfectly on the head of Gunnarsdottir by the six-yard box. Her header, though, went wide.
That it had come from a dead-ball fitted the pattern so far: it was tight, it was tense, and the foul count was rising. At one point, Parris even appealed to the referee for protection, later getting booked for another, not entirely unjustified, complaint. It would prove costly.
PSG’s Nadia Nadim, meanwhile, was fortunate to escape a second yellow. As the second half began Majri and Grace Geyoro briefly confronted each other. And soon after, Ramona Buchanan appeared to be held back in the area.
There was a nice run from Marie-Antoinette Katoto and neat footwork from Ramona Bachmann, but 15 minutes passed without real incident, then 20. Increasingly, it seemed, a single moment would decide this. It began with Bronze setting off on a superb run, ended by Geyoro. Her second yellow left PSG a player down and from the free kick, superbly delivered by Amel, Renard leapt above the rest and headed in her 103rd Lyon goal.
PSG were given hope when Parris, pressing hard, unnecessarily brought down the PSG goalkeeper Christiane Endler soon after. The striker left head in hands, aware that she wouldn’t be in the final. Lyon, though, will be once again. A Diani cross was superbly headed away by Bronze, Diabitz had to be blocked on the edge of the box, and Katoto tried to scramble through as time slipped away and PSG went for it, but it is Lyon who were still standing – almost six years on.