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HomeSportBye bye, Real Madrid! Women's Champions League winners and losers as PSG...

Bye bye, Real Madrid! Women's Champions League winners and losers as PSG progress to quarter-finals –

The French side beat Las Blancas 2-1 to join Wolfsburg, Arsenal, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Chelsea and Roma in the knockout stage.
We now know seven of the eight teams that will make up this season's Women's Champions League quarter-final line-up – and Real Madrid is not one of them.
Las Blancas lost to Paris Saint-Germain this week as the French giants secured their place in the knockout stage alongside Wolfsburg, Arsenal, Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Chelsea and Roma.
It means there will be a winner-takes-all clash between Lyon and Juventus on matchday six to decide who will take the final spot. It's sure to be a tasty affair.
But before we look ahead to the final round of the group stage, GOAL takes an in-depth look at matchday five…
When Lyon faced Arsenal in their first game of the UWCL group stages, a 5-1 defeat for the reigning champions left some wondering whether they would reach the knockout stages.
Fast forward two months and, despite an incredible number of injuries, Sonia Bompastor's team have turned things around.
On Thursday, they beat Arsenal 1-0 at the Emirates and now only need a point against Juventus next week to reach the quarter-finals.
It's been a very difficult period for the French giants but it speaks wonders of Bompastor's quality, the team's determination and their strength as a group that they have managed to battle through it.
Now, it's in their hands going into the final matchday. You can't ask for much more than that.
Arsenal star Vivianne Miedema has been using her voice a lot to highlight the heavy demands on elite women's footballers right now. She took a rest recently after having next-to-no time off since struggling with Covid-19 during the Euros in the summer and has been bang in form after returning.
But on Thursday night she suffered an injury that highlighted the reasons why she has been so vocal.
At the moment, so many top players are out with ACL injuries: Ballon d'Or winner Alexia Putellas, France striker Marie-Antoinette Katoto, Germany full-back Giulia Gwinn, England star Beth Mead, U.S. sensation Catarina Macario, Australia's Ellie Carpenter – the list goes on and on and on. There are fears Miedema will be added to it.
However, the morning after the Dutchwoman was stretchered off at the Emirates, FIFA announced that a women's Club World Cup will be introduced. This is in the same week that it was reported that the organisation will not increase the squad sizes for next summer's Women's World Cup to 26 players, despite doing so for the men's edition this winter.
There is far too little research into why women's footballers at all levels suffer from ACL injuries so much. These players at the top are playing too much football, too – especially with the women's football tournament at the Olympic Games still a senior competition, rather than being for under-23s like on the men's side, adding another major tournament to the calendar.
That's while teams not competing in the Champions League or going on runs deep into cup competitions are asking for more games as their calendars are bare in comparison.
More research is needed, that must be said first. But something also needs to be done to address the incredible load those at the top of the game experience – while evening things out for others. Above all, player safety must be paramount.
Cristiana Girelli had some night on Thursday. Juventus needed to win to keep their hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages alive and, while they were expected to to beat Zurich, Girelli made sure they did so in style.
There were only two minutes on the clock when her cute flick gave her side an early lead, while her Panenka penalty on the stroke of half-time was simply stunning.
The Italy international got her hat-trick just before the hour when she rounded off a nice team move with a lovely finish, then she added a fourth for good measure when she scored her second penalty of the night – something, as recent events have shown us, that isn't as easy to do as some think.
Maybe it's because Italy is a country that has only recently risen to the forefront of the women's game, but it doesn't feel like Girelli gets the credit she deserves at times.
There's no doubt, though, that she is one of Europe's finest centre forwards – as Thursday's classy display showed.
Arsenal's loss to Lyon on Thursday drew many talking points – one being the controversy of the game's only goal.
Melvine Malard was clearly in an offside position as she interfered with play in an incident that led to Frida Maanum inadvertently putting the ball in the back of her own net. It's a goal that Juventus, in particular, could be left ruing.
Had VAR been in use, it would have given the officials another chance to make a decision.
Arsenal head coach Jonas Eidevall's post-match comments highlighted some of the inconsistencies around the use of technology in the UWCL, which does not help officials.
Malard competes for the header here, how have the officials missed this?
“Firstly, goal-line technology is available but only if you pay for it yourselves," Eidevall explained. "So, we paid for it today as we think it should be [used], but not all clubs in the competition can afford to pay for it and I think it’s weird.
"It’s also weird to say VAR is important in the UWCL from quarter-finals onwards," he added, referring to the fact it will be used in the knockout rounds – but not before. "Is it not important in the group stages?
"Either you say no VAR or you do VAR the whole way through. Same thing with goal-line technology. It is in the fairness of the competition.”
This is meant to be the most premium club competition in women's football. These should not be problems – yet they are. Until UEFA fixes them, they will continue to generate headlines for all the wrong reasons.
Benfica may have exited the UWCL this week, but they did so with their heads held high. It honestly feels like the Portuguese giants are learning so much from their European exploits and only getting better and better.
They were absolutely superb last week against Rosengard, with some gorgeous flowing football, and, on Thursday, the flair and cohesion of their attacking players caused Barcelona plenty of problems.
Jessica Silva's strike was one of the best we've seen in Europe this season and the 6-2 scoreline could've been a lot closer, too, had Benfica not seen the two penalties they won saved by Sandra Panos.
It was a huge improvement from when the Catalans beat them 9-0 in October, with Benfica's growth and maturity evident even in this group stage – as well as across their three campaigns in the Champions League.
With every player only improving from these experiences, the club committed to the project and some incredible young talent in the squad – such as 20-year-old Kika and 22-year-old Nycole – there are plenty of reasons to be excited about this team.
They'll be back – and they'll be even better.
Real Madrid have been knocked out of the Women's Champions League, in the group stages with a game to spare.
After starting their campaign with another head-turning win over Manchester City, Las Blancas have underwhelmed throughout the last-16 stage.
Despite having spells in games where they've looked promising – such as the opening and closing moments of the 2-1 defeat to PSG that sealed their fate – you are often left wanting more.
It's a squad with a lot of talent in it and one that has shown they can compete with top teams. But they didn't show that consistently enough in a very tough group and that has cost them.
Hopefully, from their perspective, there will be lessons they can learn from this to get better, because there is a lot of potential here if it can be unlocked.



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