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African All Stars

Oshoala & Barcelona keen to validate domestic dominance in Europe

20:00 BST 15/05/2021
Asisat Oshoala of Barcelona
Many have tried to diminish the Spanish side’s local success, but the Nigerian could play a vital role in beating a strong Chelsea side

Sunday’s Women’s Champions League final between Barcelona Femeni and Chelsea will see two of the most deserving sides face off in Gothenburg.

It is perhaps fitting that the Spanish outfit, overly dominant in the Primera Iberdrola, play Emma Hayes’ side that recently sealed back-to-back FA Women's Super League wins on Sunday, proving their own superiority in English football.

However, while Barcelona’s success seemed wholly straightforward — they have a 100 percent record from 26 games, scoring 128 and allowing a paltry five — the West London outfit’s WSL triumph was anything but.

Hayes’ troops had to battle with Manchester City right to the very end, before sealing successive titles in style with a 5-0 thrashing of Reading at Kingsmeadow on the final day.

Indeed, it seems equally gratifying that, having beaten England’s second-best side, Spain’s dominant force will face the team that overcame the Manchester outfit in the WSL.

Asisat Oshoala was instrumental in that quarter-final defeat of City, especially thriving in the ‘home’ fixture that took place in Monza, Italy. The Nigeria star not only opened the scoring after 35 minutes with a well-placed effort from the edge of the box, but she also then won the penalty for the second strike in the eventual 3-0 win.

That impressive first-leg win could have been higher had Barca been more clinical than the emphatic final score demonstrated.

Oshoala’s movement in dropping deep to drag away her marker was an intermittent theme during the game, and her clever positioning often befuddled the ‘away’ side’s backline.

Their dominant first-leg result meant the English outfit needed to score four unanswered goals or risk having to score five if the Spanish champions netted one.

Again, it was Oshoala who got the all-important away goal in Manchester to, more or less, guarantee progress to the semis.

A notable aspect of the West African’s strike in that encounter at the Academy Stadium was how she didn’t hide after a tough first-half in which she missed two presentable chances to equalise on the day. Rather than rue those misses and feel sorry for herself, she kept plugging away and tucked away into an open goal after the break to almost guarantee progress.

While she may have fired blanks in the semi-final encounters against Paris Saint-Germain, Oshoala’s four strikes in the competition better all but four players, including teammates Jennifer Hermoso and Lieke Martens.

After Lyon’s dominance of this competition in recent years — the French outfit won five straight titles from 2016 to 2020 — both sides are looking for their maiden Champions League crowns in Sweden.

After suffering back-to-back semi-final exits in 2019 and last year under the uncompromisingly forthright Hayes, the Chelsea boss is now one game away from taking her expensively assembled squad to the Holy Grail.

Even though the London side’s determination to claim the sought-after trophy is apparent, Oshoala and her teammates are looking to right the wrongs of their 2019 defeat by a then-unbeatable Lyon side.

“We played in the 2019 final, we lost and then we picked up corrections from there,” the Nigerian stated before Sunday’s decider “Come May 16, against Chelsea, I don't think we're going to make the same mistakes again, because we already learned from the past.

"We are a better team now than we were two years ago," she added. “I think it's going to be a very, very interesting one because both teams have top stars around the world. It's not going to be a boring match, I promise.”

Oshoala netted the consolation strike in that one-sided 4-1 loss two years ago and she may feel there’s unfinished business for herself and her teammates.

The obvious improvement in the Barca team has seen them blow away every obstacle domestically and now within 90 minutes of European elation.

Beating Lyon would’ve been the perfect scenario but facing one of the best sides on the continent in Chelsea will suffice as the irrepressible Spanish group look to succeed where they failed in 2019.