Matildas defender Ellie Carpenter has become the first Australian woman to qualify for two Champions League finals after her French club Olympique Lyonnais beat domestic rivals Paris Saint-Germain to book their spot in the big dance against reigning title-holders Barcelona later this month.
Lyon won both of their semi-final legs against PSG — who bundled them out of last year’s competition at the quarter-final stage – to win 5-3 on aggregate last weekend and make it through to their record-extending tenth UWCL final, which will be held in Turin on May 22.
Carpenter joined Lyon in mid-2020 on a free transfer from the Portland Thorns in America’s NWSL, and appeared on the bench when the French giants won the European title two months later against Wolfsburg.
Since then, the Cowra-born defender has established herself as Lyon’s first-choice right-back, starting 14 of their 19 league games so far this season while also registering five assists in France’s Division 1 Feminine.
“It almost feels like my first [final] because I joined the team late that season and didn’t play, so this season feels more real,” Carpenter said.
“It’s very special to be a part of this team.
“[I’m] playing alongside world-class players every day. Wendie [Renard] just made her 100th cap in the Champions League, which is unheard of.
“It’s really cool to be playing alongside players like this.”
Carpenter is not the first Australian woman to reach the final of a Champions League, however.
She follows in the footsteps of other Aussies including Alison Forman and Sharon Black, who both started for Danish side Fortuna Hjorring in the 2003 final, as well as Matildas captain Sam Kerr, who featured for Chelsea in last year’s final loss to Barcelona.
Matildas head coach Tony Gustavsson has also made an appearance at this level, coaching Swedish club Tyreso to the 2014 UWCL final.
In addition, Carpenter is now just the second Australian since former Liverpool and Socceroos forward Harry Kewell to qualify for two Champions League finals.
The 20-year-old’s own history-making efforts later this month will be matched by that of the club itself. Despite missing last year’s final, Lyon remain the competition’s most successful team with 9 top-two finishes and 7 titles, including five in the past six editions. The next most-successful team is Germany’s Eintracht Frankfurt with four.
However, the European tide has begun to turn in recent years. Barcelona, who Lyon will meet in Turin, have emerged as the new superpower of the women’s club game on the continent, steamrolling their domestic competitions while also breaking global attendance records over the past three seasons.
Barcelona didn’t lose or draw a single game on their way to their most recent league title in Spain, scoring 138 goals while conceding just eight. They’re led by captain and reigning Ballon D’Or winner, Alexia Putellas.
“It’s going to be a great game,” Carpenter said.
“We have three weeks to prepare now.
“We’re experienced in finals of Champions Leagues; that’s great for the team. I’m looking forward to my first Champions League final — kind of.”