Lyon eked out a critical 1-0 away win that keeps alive their hopes of a seventh Champions League title in eight seasons. But their narrow victory over Arsenal was marred by yet another injury to a top player.
In a game that was easy to watch only in patches, one particularly ugly moment overshadowed everything else.
Moments after Frida Maanum had turned one in to her own net to put Lyon up, Vivianne Miedema fell to the turf clutching her knee. The Dutch forward went down under no challenge after her studs got caught in the turf.
As she left the pitch in tears with her leg heavily strapped, her Arsenal teammate and partner Beth Mead approached the touchline on crutches. Mead, the top scorer at Euro 2022, ruptured her ACL earlier in the season. Given how the injury occurred, Arsenal and the Netherlands must fear Miedema has done the same. It's an all too common tale for female footballers.
Big stars, big injuries
The Dutch star had only just returned after a period of leave granted by her club to help her reset. During that time, Miedema spoke openly about her feeling that the demands on elite players like her were too high.
"They need to start listening to us players instead of making the decisions off money or popularity," she said. "We need to try to come to a solution with the players and associations together."
No doubt Lyon will have some sympathy. The Champions League winners were missing Ada Hegerberg as well as German pair Sara Däbritz and Dzsenifer Marozan, all three of whom have also suffered ACL tears in their careers.
But, with their tournament on the line in north London after Arsenal beat them 5-1 in Lyon, the French champions ground out a critical win that means they will need just a point from their final group game at home to Juventus next Wednesday.
Both sides looked tired, mustering just four shots on target between them all game. But Lyon's need for the win, a questionable offside call and Maanum's error made the difference. After sitting deep for the entire first half, Lyon went long in injury time, and with Melvine Malard clearly in an offside position and applying pressure after Vanessa Gilles' header, Maanum bundled it over her own goalline.
"I think also it's weird if you are saying VAR is important in the quarterfinals and onwards, then is the group stage not important," asked Arsenal coach Jonas Eidevall after the match. "Are those decisions not important? I think either you go no VAR or you have VAR all the way in the tournament, same as goal line technology."
Lyon hit their stride
Though they had a lucky break, the serial winners improved in the second half, keeping Arsenal at arm's length while allowing Delphine Cascarino and Eugenie Le Sommer to come increasingly to the fore. Defeat in London would've left them in some jeopardy. But, just as they did after being written off by many ahead of last year's final against Barcelona, Lyon came up trumps when it really mattered.
For Arsenal, qualification was assured thanks to the narrowness of the defeat. But the paucity of their attacking display will surely trouble Eidevall. Though perhaps not as much as Miedema's injury. "Right now I am very concerned of course," the Swedish coach said after the game. "But we had to stay focused during the game."
Though they struggled on Thursday, Arsenal did enough. They will be joined in the quarterfinals by Bayern Munich, who secured qualification alongside Barcelona in Group D on Thursday after a 4-0 win over Rosengard and a 6-2 win over Benfica, respectively.