Chelsea’s hopes of reaching a second Women’s Champions League final were dashed by Barcelona, who advanced to their third successive final with a 2-1 aggregate win over the London side. Caroline Graham Hansen was the hero for Barcelona once again, having also scored in the first leg at Stamford Bridge to give the Catalan club a slender lead in the tie.
Despite a courageous fightback by Chelsea, who leveled the tie on the night through Guro Reiten’s strike after Graham Hansen had opened the scoring, the Blues were unable to find the crucial goal that would have sent them through to the final. Emma Hayes’ side will now turn their attention to the WSL title race, which they resume next week, as well as preparing for an FA Cup final meeting with Manchester United at Wembley on May 14.
Barcelona, champions in 2021, will face either Wolfsburg or Arsenal, who meet in the second leg of their semi-final, currently level at 2-2, at the Emirates on Monday.
Chelsea began the match well, but Barcelona soon began to find their rhythm. The hosts had the ball in the back of the net early on, but it was ruled out for handball. Barcelona continued to dominate, but faced a robust Chelsea defence. However, Ann-Katrin Berger was forced into a fine save on the quarter of an hour mark. Bonmati sent a lovely cross in, but the Blues goalkeeper stuck up a hand to flick it away.
The second half began on an even keel, although Barcelona did shade the play and eventually took the lead just after the hour. A sublime touch from Mariona Caldentey set Bonmati away down the field. She then found Graham Hansen to her right, who fired the ball past the oncoming Berger and into the net, taking a deflection off Jess Carter on the line as she tried to keep it out.
Four minutes later, Chelsea were level. It began with a foul from Erin Cuthbert in midfield that allowed the visitors to break. Melanie Leupolz played in Kerr down the left, who was sent flying by the oncoming Panos as she attempted to shoot. But the loose ball fell to Reiten as she hammered the ball home, with the goal confirmed after some confusion over whether it would be allowed to stand.
Both sides continued to see chances. Lauren James, Kerr and Reiten all took their shots, while Berger was forced into a fine fingertip save to keep Salma Paralluelo from adding another for Barcelona. But while Chelsea battled until the final whistle, they were unable to force extra-time and exited at the semi-final stage.
Despite the result, Chelsea can take pride in their performance against a Barcelona team widely regarded as the best on the continent. The match showed a different side of Chelsea, who are used to dominating possession domestically and having multiple chances to score. But in the Nou Camp, the London side were forced to dig deep and show their resilience against a formidable opponent.
Emma Hayes expressed her disappointment at the result, but praised her players for their brave performance. “There’s no denying you have to survive in the first part of the games,” she said. “It’s an incredibly intimidating environment and I think my players managed all of the situations, they executed the game plan and we grew into the game. In the second half, we dominated… I’m proud of the players, just disappointed for the result.”
With the WSL title race heating up and an FA Cup final on the horizon, Chelsea will look to bounce back from this defeat and continue their pursuit of silverware on multiple fronts.