Chelsea’s UEFA Women’s Champions League Legacy: The Story So Far

Chelsea Women are currently the verge of history, having already created their own by getting to the UEFA Women’s Champions League Final. They will face Barcelona in this year’s final in which a new champion of the UWCL will be crowned. Lyon were recently unseated and denied an opportunity to make it 6 in a row. What is Chelsea’s UEFA Women’s Champions League story to date?

It’s time to take a look at the long journey it’s taken to get here:

UEFA Women’s Champions League 2015/16

The 2015/16 iteration saw Chelsea make their debut in the competition. They were drawn against fellow British side Glasgow City who were dominating the SWPL at the time. These two sides had met back in February during the preseason with Chelsea winning 2-0 at the time.

It was however someone who was a summer transfer after the World Cup that would create history. Fran Kirby had signed for the Blues after interest from other top WSL teams for a then-record fee of reportedly around £60-£80k. The first leg was at Wheatsheaf Park in Staines. Around 39 minutes in, Millie Bright played a pass through to Fran who took a touch away from her marker. That created space for her to run into and she hit her shot outside the boot. That resulted in the first-ever Chelsea goal in the UWCL and was the only goal on the night. The return leg saw the Blues beat Glasgow once again with goals from Eni Aluko, Fran once again and Gilly Flaherty.

Fran Kirby scores the first ever Chelsea goal in the UEFA Women's Champions League.
Fran Kirby makes history – we’ll be hearing that sentence a lot. Image Credit: Andy Rowland/PRIME Media Images.

In the round of 16, we met Wolfsburg. A team that would become our nemesis throughout the competition and be a running joke with the supporters. Wolfsburg were such a dominant team at the time. Chelsea did put up a good fight at the time. Our lone goal in this tie did come from an own goal on their side and own goals did seem to be a weird feature of this tie. Wolfsburg only scored 2 of their 4 goals themselves with the other 2 being own goals by Claire Rafferty unfortunately. These things can happen and it just wasn’t our time.

UEFA Women’s Champions League 2016/17

We had even worse luck with the draw next season with our round of 32 tie being against..yeah you guessed it, Wolfsburg. The first leg was historic with it being played out at Stamford Bridge. Around 3700 people were there to witness a dominant Wolfsburg performance. Zsanett Jakabfi was the player of the match with a great hat trick that put the tie beyond Chelsea.

VFL Wolfsburg Frauen - our UEFA Women's Champions League nemesis.
We’ll also be calling Wolfsburg our nemesis. A lot. Image Credit: DFB/Kieran Galvin / ActionFotoSport.

We went out with pride in the second leg with a 1-1 draw. Eni Aluko scored our goal and we went out 4-1 on aggregate.

UEFA Women’s Champions League 2017/18

Spurred on by that short stay, Chelsea went on a run this season. This was the first time the WSL reverted to the winter season format in order to help move things inline with other leagues as well as helping top teams with progress in the UWCL. It almost paid off immediately. The first UWCL game we had was also at our new home of Kingsmeadow in Kingston-Upon-Thames. We faced a German side yet again but luckily not Wolfsburg. It was their rivals Bayern Munich who were equally as tough. The goal from Drew Spence was the difference first leg. We drew first blood in the second leg with Fran Kirby scoring an hour in to give us a crucial away goal. We later conceded two, an own goal from Gemma Davison then Lucie Vonkova getting the other. We progressed on that away goal.

Things went a bit smoother next tie. We faced Rosengard with the result being a 4-0 win for us. The tie was completed in the first leg with goals from Fran Kirby, Ramona Bachmann and Gilly Flaherty. Ramona Bachmann was a player who we had faced up against when we’ve played Wolfsburg previously. This wouldn’t be the first time we’d do this as we’ll see later on. We faced Montpellier then in the quarter finals.  A 2-0 win and then a 3-1 win saw us through. Ji So-Yun, Erin Cuthbert (a recent transfer then), Ramona and then a Fran double put us into the next round.

The semi finals would be were our journey would end against Wolfsburg yet again but despite the overall 5-1 score, it was a run to be proud of. Ji scored our only goal at our home.

2018/19 Season

This UWCL season saw us seeded for the first time and meant that we should get a somewhat easier draw. SFK 2000 Sarajevo were our first match up and the ruthless Chelsea emerged. An 11-0 aggregate score was the result with a 5-0 then 6-0 result. The first leg saw all 5 goals scored by 5 players. Those 5 were Millie Bright, Drew Spence, Maria Thorisdottir, Ji So-Yun and Adelina Engman. Drew also scored in the second leg with Fran Kirby scoring a double, then single goals by Maren Mjelde, Hannah Blundell and Erin Cuthbert.

Our round of 16 tie against Fiorentina was equally ruthless but it was a tough first leg. Karen Carney, who would later in the competition become key, got our only goal from the spot. A 6-0 win followed in the second leg with Fran Kirby making history, as she tends to do, with an unusual occurance, a UWCL hat trick. Spence, Cuthbert and Bachmann rounded things off.

Karen Carney was excellent in the UEFA Women's Champions League.
Karen Carney grabs the first goal against Benfica. Image Credit: Naomi Baker/Getty Images.

The quarter finals saw us against French opposition again but PSG this time, a team on the up. We won 2-0 in the first leg with Blundell and Cuthbert the scorers. However, the second leg did not go to plan. A couple of minutes into the second half, Kadidiatou Diani scored to put PSG right back in it and then they drew level on aggregate with, a typical Chelsea touch, an own goal by Ann-Katrin Berger. When it looked like extra time was on the horizon, a moment of UWCL magic happened. Karen Carney, as mentioned earlier, was key to this. She’d played a beautiful pass to somehow find Maren Mjelde who scored and won us the tie. This lead to incredible scenes of celebrations on and off the field with the night forever etched in the minds of the fans and players alike.

Another French side awaited in the semi finals and it was THE dominant team in Lyon. We held our own over there with only a 2-1 loss. Erin Cuthbert got the crucial away goal. The second leg was set to be an absolute blockbuster and it was. The 1-1 scoreline doesn’t reflect  what the game was like. Lyon hit first through Eugenie Le Sommer and looked to be through but in the same first half, Ji So-Yun gave us hope. We dominated in the second but nothing seemed to be going in. We exited with our heads held high losing 3-2 overall.

Unfortunately, through a weird 2018/19 season in the WSL season, we wouldn’t feature in the 2019/20 edition after finishing 3rd.

The Current Campaign

That missed season and lack of trophies really lit a fire in the team and after a successful but curtailed 2019/20 season, the team came into this UWCL season somewhat rested and raring to go.

We started off as before with a dominant win in the round of 32. Benfica were beaten 5-0 at their home with a Fran Kirby double and goals from Millie Bright, Pernille Harder and Beth England. After getting Ramona Bachmann from Wolfsburg, we then got Harder from them and she was Europe’s best at the time. The second leg saw Beth score again twice then another fairly new signing in Sam Kerr scoring in her first full season and first time in the UWCL.

We faced Spanish opposition in the next round. Atletico Madrid were far from a walk over. They had beaten our rivals Manchester City before in the UWCL and they believed in the same defensive philosophy. We managed to unlock them somewhat. Maren scored two penalties over the two legs with Fran getting the other goal and Emelyne Laurent (on loan from Lyon) scoring for Atleti. 3-1 was the aggregate score.

Will Pernille Harder, Sam Kerr or Fran Kirby play a big part in the Final?
Sam Kerr, Fran Kirby and Pernille Harder celebrate scoring against Atletico Madrid in 2020/21 UEFA Women’s Champions League Last 16 Tie. Image Credit: Harriet Lander – Chelsea FC/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

A familiar foe came in the quarter finals. Wolfsburg, the team that pushed us out so many times, somewhat weakened now and not the same team as they were before. Past hurt motivated the team with a 2-1 victory in the first leg. Sam Kerr getting our first then Pernille Harder coming back to haunt her old team with a goal. Dominique Janssen scored their goal, a player whom we knew about from her time at Arsenal. Harder haunted Wolfsburg once again with another goal in the second leg with Sam scoring again and Fran too. We won 3-0, 5-1 on aggregate. The wolf had finally been slain.

Once again, the draw threw up familiar opposition. Bayern Munich in the semi finals. That was a close tie in 2017/18 and it was here. Somewhat unlike us that season but also typical Chelsea meant that we conceded two from Sydney Lohmann and Hanna Glas. We looked shaky and Melanie Leupolz scoring against her old team dragged us back into the tie. Then came the performance we all knew could happen. 11 minutes in, Fran Kirby drew us level but then an unstopable effort from Sarah Zadrazil went in. 3-2 on aggregate and it looked like we’d repeat history. Not this team, this team never gives up. Ji drew us level again before half time. It was a tough second half. Time looked to be slipping away from us. Step up Pernille Harder. 6 minutes from time, she scored the goal to take us through. The celebrations were incredible but we weren’t finished. Sensing they’d be going out unless something drastic happened, Bayern went all out for a corner. Their keeper, Laura Benkarth, went up for it and would later regret this. We managed to gain possession then whilst Benkarth was hesitating, we sent it through to Fran who would happily slot it home into an empty net with the last kick of the game.

The full-time whistle then went and the celebrations went mad. Chelsea had made it to the UEFA Women’s Champions League. The roar from the players was intense and the happiness at making history. Emma Hayes getting all emotional and swearing on live TV, this game had everything. You could see how much it meant to everyone.

Fran Kirby sends Chelsea to the UEFA Women's Champions League Final.
Fran Kirby scores the opener in the comeback against Bayern Munich. Image Credit: Harriet Lander – Chelsea FC/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

However, this is not where the journey ends. We’ve got one more game to go. The UEFA Women’s Champions League Final in Gothenburg against Barcelona. Another tough side and understandably so as they’ve made it to this stage.

This team though is on the verge of more history. A grand title awaits, the first in the club’s history. A possible quadruple up for grabs, the first in 14 years since Arsenal did so. Whilst we may not be able to get to the match, we’ll be watching at home cheering our team on. For those that came before them, Gemma Davison, Karen Carney, Claire Rafferty, Eni Aluko and Gilly Flaherty to name a few legends that have been part of this journey.

Let’s win this for them and this current team. A team that does not simply say no. This team will fight till the bitter end. This team is creating history and will do so some more. Let’s win this trophy and bring it home.

Written by Chloe (@englionesses)

Edited by Rob Pratley

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