CARY, N.C. — Just as fans packed inside WakeMed Soccer Park began searching on their phones to find out what would happen in the result of a draw at the end of 90 minutes in the Women’s International Champions Cup, Wendie Renard stepped up.
Or rather, the 29-year-old French defender leapt up in the 90th minute to put her head on a ball. After is was delivered into the box by a corner kick, Renard vaulted into the air and smashed the ball toward the bottom right back corner of the net. Madrid goalkeeper Lola Gallardo came off her line, but misread the attempt, and the ball nestled against the back of the nylon as Renard was tackled in celebration by Ada Hegerberg and her fellow Lyon teammates.
The goal gave Les Lyonnaises a 1-0 victory over Las Rojiblancas, preventing Lyon from going to penalty kicks and propelling the club into the final of the second Women’s International Champions Cup. That game will be played Sunday, and Lyon will face either Manchester City or get a rematch of last year’s final against the NWSL’s North Carolina Courage.
“We got a win and that’s always important,” Hegerberg said. “Seriously, it’s been a great experience. It’s a challenge that we needed as a team… It’s a completely different style of play that we usually play, and we need that to take that extra step.”
Playing in their first match since May 18 — a 4-1 win over Barcelona in the UEFA Women’s Champions League final — the players of Lyon came out firing. They got off 24 shots and put nine of those attempts on target, keeping Gallardo and Madrid’s defenders busy.
The climate didn’t seem to bother the European champs either. It was a hot and sticky day in North Carolina, with temperatures creeping into the 90s and humidity reaching 87%.
“I mean, the conditions were for both teams,” Hegerberg said. “We tried not to focus too much on the heat and tried to be simple in the way we played.”
Olympique Lyonnais vs. Atletico Madrid, and NC Courage vs. Manchester City were the semifinal matchups of the 2019 Women's International Champions Cup on Aug. 15, 2019 in Cary, N.C. (Mitchell Northam / Pro Soccer USA)
While Lyon also controlled 54% of possession, Madrid’s defense remained stingy and stout. The Red-and-Whites cleared a Delphine Cascarino shot attempt in the 84th minute, misdirected a shot from Eugénie Le Sommer in the 54th minute, corralled a few crosses delivered by Lucy Bronze and held Hegerberg — who scored 21 goals and assisted on 11 others last season — scoreless.
Madrid carved up Lyon’s defense a few times, too, and created a chance for Ludmila da Silva in the first half, but Lyon’s Bouhaddi Sarah came up with the save. In the second half, Charlyn Corral attempted to chip Sarah on a counterattack, but the attempt just missed over the bar.
In all, Madrid fired just five shots and put only one on target.
“We have a pretty good team,” Hegerberg said. “We try to be creative with each other, but there’s still some work to do with those last passes.”
— Women's ICC (@iccwomen) August 15, 2019
A year ago in Miami, the North Carolina Courage got the best of Lyon with a 1-0 victory behind a goal from veteran Heather O’Reilly in the inaugural Women’s International Champions Cup.
Hegerberg wouldn’t say whether she was rooting for a second shot at Paul Riley’s N.C. side, but she did say that Lyon came here to take a trophy home.
“We’re here to win the final,” Hegerberg said. “Whether it’s City or North Carolina, we’ll see about that.”