A stunning performance at Kingsmeadow saw the Blues turn around a narrow first-leg deficit to produce their greatest game ever in the UEFA Women’s Champions League and book their place in Gothenburg for the Final. It ended Chelsea 4-1 Bayern Munich after a scintillating 90 minutes.
Chelsea took the lead early, as Sam Kerr’s superb interchange with Fran Kirby saw the English superstar perfectly placed to slot home. Bayern equalised as Sarah Zadrazil’s unbelievable 30-yard half-volley screamed into the net. The Blues restored their lead on the night as Ji So-Yun’s mishit effort squirmed into the net to leave the tie finely poised.
In a match that ebbed and flowed, it took till the 84th minute for Emma Hayes’s side to grab the goal that sent them to Gothenburg. Jess Carter’s excellent free-kick flicked deftly into the net by Pernille Harder. After a frantic final few minutes including a wonder-save from Ann-Katrin Berger and Magda Eriksson clearing off the line, Erin Cuthbert released Fran Kirby to make the game safe as she stroked into the empty net.
After last week’s narrow 2-1 loss in Germany, Emma Hayes shuffled her pack as expected. The welcome return of captain Magda Eriksson saw her partner Millie Bright at the back. Niamh Charles returned to her right-back berth, with Jess Carter preferred to Jonna Andersson at left-back. Sophie Ingle slotted into midfield, with Ji So-Yun and Melly Leupolz. The front 3 saw Pernille Harder in behind top-scorers Sam Kerr and Fran Kirby.
Chelsea started off on the front-foot, no doubt aware of the need to score. Hanna Glas’s second-half strike for the Bavarians meant the Blues knew they needed to score at Kingsmeadow at least once to have a chance of going through.
Within 3 minutes, Chelsea had their first foray forward. Ji So-Yun found herself down the right channel and although her initial cross was blocked, she was able to whip a second cross towards the back post. Pernille Harder was rising and ready to nod home, but the Bayern defender was in the right place to nod away.
The Dane had another bright moment several minutes later. On the 8th minute, Harder turned brilliantly in the midfield and embarked on a mazy dribble past Lohmann, but her curled effort sailed comfortably wide.
The 10th minute saw the home side break the deadlock in some style. Fran Kirby marauded over the half-way line and slipped the ball wide to Sam Kerr. The Aussie showed good pace to cut inside and vision to slip the ball back in Kirby. The English superstar had crept into the perfect position and she finished confidently across the keeper. Chelsea 1-0 Bayern (2-2 Agg).
The goal cleared buoyed the Blues and they almost doubled the lead moments later. Kirby found herself down the right channel after collecting a pass from Niamh Charles. Kirby tried an impudent chip towards the far post. In the end, the ball stayed in and Benkarth did well to stop Kerr sneaking in. The resulting throw led to a deep cross, cleared as far as Sophie Ingle. Her strike went well over the bar.
Bayern’s threat on the counter was clear, however. It took a stunning block from Carter to deny them after a fast break. However, Chelsea continued to control the game. Leupolz’s deep cross on the 20th minute caused chaos, nearly headed into her own net by Magull.
With almost 30 on the clock, Bayern equalised with a wonder-goal. Chelsea cleared the initial corner from Glas, as far as Sarah Zadrazil. The Austrian took a touch to set herself before hitting a once-in-a-career 30-yard half-volley that crashed in off the crossbar. Chelsea 1-1 Bayern (3-2 Agg) and the Bavarians were ahead again.
The goal settled Bayern’s nerves and they nearly grabbed a 2nd. An errant moment from Leupolz saw her robbed by Beerensteyn, who set Lea Schüller away. Bayern’s top goalscorer this season couldn’t take the gift however. Her curling strike sailed into the side-netting, and the Blues breathed again.
Just a few minutes before half-time, the tie took another twist. A fizzed pass from Sophie Ingle found Sam Kerr. The Australian was cynically fouled by Bayern captain Magull. This presented Chelsea with a free kick 22 yards out. Ji So-Yun stepped up… and her initial effort cannoned into the wall. However, the ball deflected back to the South Korean and her mishit rebound deceived everyone to bobble into the far corner. Chelsea 2-1 Bayern (3-3 agg) and the tie was in the balance again.
HT: Chelsea 2-1 Bayern Munich (3-3 Aggregate)
No doubt aware that another goal changed the complexity of the tie, Bayern started the 2nd half strongly. Jess Carter produced another amazing block to deny Lohmann before Leupolz’s clever touch just evaded Fran Kirby.
The tie continued to be on a knife-edge. Bayern substituted Schüller for Dallmann and she nearly made an instant impact. It took Magda Eriksson to block excellently at the near post to prevent her cross reaching Beerensteyn. Bayern continued to press with Lohmann finding Dallmann but this time Bright cleared.
Chelsea had brief respite around the 67th minute as Ji found Harder with a good pass. The ball was recycled to Ingle. Her deep cross was inviting, but Sam Kerr couldn’t quite get to it.
On the 70th minute, Kerr was fouled by the influential Simon. The wing-back came off worse, however, and she couldn’t continue. Carina Wenninger replaced her. Additionally, Viviane Assayi came on for Lohmann.
Chelsea hearts were in mouths moments later. Under no pressure at all, Melly Leupolz played a blind 45-yard backpass towards goal. AKB scrambling back furiously no doubt relieved to see it go for a needless corner.
With 10 minutes left on the clock, it was anyone’s game. A great break involving Kirby and Harder saw Kerr head comfortably wide, before Dallmann’s close range effort was thwarted by Eriksson’s block.
Another Chelsea break on the 84th minute led by Jess Carter saw her fouled by Beerensteyn who was booked. She dusted herself down to deliver a terrific low and flat delivery. Carter’s delivery needed a touch and Pernille Harder obliged. The world’s most expensive player produced a deft header past Benkarth to send Chelsea into raptures. Chelsea 3-1 Bayern (4-3 Aggregate). The Blues 6 minutes away from a first UWCL Final.
Soon utter chaos enveloped the final period of the match. Earlier, Simone Laudehr replaced Ilestedt before Erin Cuthbert replaced Melly Leupolz. Bayern continued to sweep forward and Zadrazil’s cross cleared by the imperious Eriksson again. Chelsea broke through Charles who played through Sam Kerr… who could only curl agonisingly wide from close range.
On the 90th minute, Chelsea’s captain produced another miracle block. A first corner punched by AKB came to Buhl. Her strike repelled by AKB’s feet. Beerensteyn pounced on the loose ball but her effort was scrambled away by Eriksson on the goalline.
Bayern continued to throw the kitchen sink at Chelsea, with keeper Benkarth becoming an auxiliary centre-forward. Erin Cuthbert attempted to waste seconds away in the corner, but Bayern’s final attack yielded a corner with seconds left. Another goal was coming.
It did come. Chelsea furiously scrambled the ball out the box as far as Benkarth. The Bayern keeper was robbed by Erin Cuthbert. The Scot turned and played an inch-perfect ball through the lines for Fran Kirby. She drove away from a tiring, beaten Bayern defence and cooly slotted into the empty net. Chelsea 4-1 Bayern Munich (5-3 Aggregate).
The full-time whistle blew just seconds later. Chelsea 4-1 Bayern Munich and the stunning comeback was complete. Emma Hayes in tears sprinted down the touchline. Every single player together with the substitutes mobbed Fran Kirby. Above all, the magnitude of the moment struck.
Chelsea are in the UEFA Women’s Champions League Final!
FT: Chelsea 4-1 Bayern (5-3 Aggregate)
Final Thoughts: Chelsea 4-1 Bayern Munich (5-3 Aggregate)
I can’t sum it up better than Emma Hayes:
“I’m gonna say this to every coach sitting at home. This is thousands of hours, thousands of hours of travelling, thousands of setbacks. I’m so proud of myself that I got to this level through my hard work and determination, and I’m fortunate enough to be working for a football club that I adore, and to work with a set of players that were always in control. I’m glad they were because I never felt I was!”
There wasn’t a single great performance today because every player was outstanding. Emma Hayes promised they would be up for the tie, and as usual she was right.
Chelsea will now have a chance to secure their first ever UEFA Women’s Champions League trophy two weeks today in Gothenburg. Barcelona await in Sweden and you can be sure Emma Hayes will be living every moment.
Written and edited by Rob Pratley
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