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FC Barcelona promised a spectacle for its record-breaking Champions League fixture at Camp Nou, and that’s exactly what fans got.
In front of a historic crowd of 91,533 supporters, Barcelona defeated Real Madrid 5-2, advancing to the UEFA Women’s Champions League semifinals with an aggregate score of 8-3.
Wednesday’s stand was the first time the Barcelona women’s team played at the cavernous Camp Nou stadium in front of spectators, marking a significant turning point for the women’s game.
“Our responsibility is to make sure we do all our best to write this new page in the club’s history, the team’s history,” Barcelona captain Alexia Putellas told reporters Tuesday ahead of El Clásico. “I believe it will be a turning point for women’s football in Barcelona, in Catalonia, in Spain and, hopefully, all around the world.”
The match surpassed the 1999 FIFA Women’s World Cup final attendance record, which saw 90,185 fans fill the Rose Bowl to watch the U.S. Women’s National Team win. The new women’s soccer attendance record of 91,533 at Camp Nou ushers in a new era for the sport.
Culers, the world record for attendance at a women's football match is ours! pic.twitter.com/Hu94A9PXDO— FC Barcelona (@FCBarcelona) March 30, 2022
The quality on the pitch exceeded the anticipation leading up to the fixture, with Madrid and Barcelona executing top-quality finishes.
María Pilar León kicked off the scoring in the 8th minute, striking an in-swinging ball over Madrid’s keeper to put Barcelona up 1-0.
Less than 10 minutes later, a handball in the box awarded Madrid a penalty, which Olga Carmona calmly converted to level the score.
The visitors took the lead to start the second half as Claudia Zoronza struck the goal of the night, chipping Barcelona’s keeper in the 48th minute.
However, the advantage quickly evaporated. Aitana Bonmati slotted home a cheeky goal and Claudia Pina curled in a banger for Barcelona in quick succession to put the home team back on top.
Putellas also got in on the scoring in the 62nd minute, much to Camp Nou’s delight. The captain snuck a sputtering shot over the goal line, and then the reigning Ballon d’Or winner took a bow and blew a kiss to the adoring Barcelona fans.
Caroline Graham Hansen finished off the offensive masterclass from Barcelona, tapping in a deflected cross to put the game at 5-2.
In true Barcelona fashion, the club finished the match with 66 percent of the possession while outshooting Madrid 6-2.
“At the end of the match, I had to hold my tears back,” Graham Hansen told DAZN’s Serma Hunter after the game. “I didn’t imagine anything like it, and it’s just goosebumps all over the place.”
Barcelona is a certified powerhouse, with three-consecutive league titles, a Champions League trophy, a Ballon d’Or recipient in Putellas and a winning streak of 41 games. But though Barcelona seems undeniable, the Camp Nou event was anything but inevitable.
Marta Torrejón, a defender who joined Barcelona in 2013, has watched the club evolve at warp speed. She told The New York Times in 2021 that she remembers training sessions taking place in the evening to accommodate players who worked or went to school during the day.
The team of 2013 is a far cry from the club that dominated Chelsea 4-0 to claim its first Champions League trophy in 2021.
After the club fully professionalized in 2015, investments poured in, which brought in some big names like Lieke Martens, who signed with Barcelona in 2017.
For the most part, however, Barcelona has cultivated its core. Putellas, who joined Barcelona in 2012, serves as a shining example of the club’s ability to develop key players. A decade after her start, Putellas is an undeniable star and has scored seven goals in six Champions League matches so far this season.
The club’s success has rubbed off on Spain’s national team. In 2019, the Spanish women gave the USWNT a run for their money in the World Cup quarterfinal, nearly upsetting the eventual winners. Spain is currently ranked seventh in the world according to FIFA, jumping six places from its No. 13 ranking entering the 2019 World Cup.
Barcelona has steadily risen the ranks since its professionalization in 2015, making a Champions League semifinal appearance in 2018-2019 and a final appearance in 2019-2020 before raising the trophy in 2020-2021.
“In Barcelona, it’s not enough to win, it’s about how you play, and I think that’s in the roots of this team,” Barcelona midfielder Ingrid Syrstad Engen said.
That perfectionist ethos has elevated not just Barcelona but the international women’s game overall as the club sets a new standard for investment and performance.
“I believe that tomorrow can be the start of a new era because at the end of the day tomorrow’s match is going to be inspiring for so many girls, I am guessing, that will be coming tomorrow to Camp Nou or who will be seeing us from TV, and they will be seeing women playing in Camp Nou,” Putellas told media ahead of Wednesday’s win. “And I am sure in the future, in the mid or long run, we will be collecting the fruits of tomorrow’s match.”
Women’s soccer will undoubtedly collect the fruits of Barcelona’s Camp Nou triumph. And the marquee match may have also cemented Barcelona as the new epicenter of women’s soccer, a distinction that has been years in the making.
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