Matildas star Ellie Carpenter is in a race against time to make the 2023 Women’s World Cup on home soil after her French club Olympique Lyonnais confirmed the defender ruptured her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the Champions League final.
Carpenter, who started in her first European final against Barcelona on Sunday, went down in the 12th minute of the match after pushing awkwardly off the grass to collect a long pass, immediately grabbing at the inside of her left knee.
The 22-year-old was surrounded by her teammates and stretchered off a few minutes later in tears.
Lyon confirmed on social media early on Tuesday that scans revealed Carpenter had ruptured her ACL, meaning the Matilda will be out of action for several months as she undergoes reconstructive surgery this week before starting the long rehabilitation process.
“Olympique Lyonnais deplores the serious injury of its defender Ellie Carpenter, out in the 14th minute of play during the final of the Women’s Champions League played against Barcelona (3-1) in Turin,” Lyon said in a statement on its website.
“The examinations passed by the Australian international have confirmed a rupture of the anterior cruciate ligament of the knee which will lead to an operation this Wednesday in Lyon.
It was a brutal, premature end to an historic occasion for Carpenter, who became the first Australian to qualify for two Champions League finals when her Lyon side defeated domestic rivals PSG in the two-legged semi-final.
Lyon’s 3-1 win over Barcelona in this year’s final, which extended their own unparalleled European record to eight titles, made Carpenter the only Australian to win Europe’s most prestigious competition twice.
While she took her time settling into Lyon after signing for the French giants in 2020, which included a stint on the bench when they won the delayed 2019/20 Champions League final, the Cowra-born defender has since become a starter in the side, most recently being named in Division 1 Feminin’s Team of the Season.
She had also cemented her spot as one of the Matildas’ most valuable players alongside fellow defender Steph Catley, with the pair often creating the most goal-scoring opportunities in their overlapping full-back roles.
Now, with the Women’s World Cup just 14 months away, a shadow of doubt has begun to creep over Carpenter’s availability for the home tournament.
While some athletes are able to recover from ACL injuries in less than a year, others can take far longer.
Carpenter’s team-mate and inaugural Ballon D’Or winner Ada Hegerberg sustained the same injury in January 2020, but took 20 months to return to competitive football after three operations and numerous setbacks.
It’s the third ACL injury to a Matildas player in the past twelve months after midfielder Chloe Logarzo ruptured hers against the Republic of Ireland in September 2021, followed by young winger Holly McNamara, who tore her second ACL while playing for Melbourne City in the A-League Women’s competition earlier this year.
The injury means Carpenter will miss the Matildas’ June friendly window, where they will face emerging European heavyweights Spain — many of whom play in the Barcelona side that Lyon defeated this past weekend — as well as Portugal, who Australia last faced in 2018.
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