Barcelona end Emma Hayes’ Chelsea Champions League dream

Emma Hayes applauds at the end of the UEFA Women's Champions League semi-final second leg football match between Chelsea and Barcelona
Emma Hayes applauds at the end of the UEFA Women's Champions League semi-final second leg football match between Chelsea and Barcelona at Stamford Bridge (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Emma Hayes was denied one last chance at Champions League glory with Chelsea after falling to holders Barcelona at Stamford Bridge. The Blues bow out of the competition in the semi-final following an agonising 2-1 aggregate defeat.

After an historic win away in the first leg, Chelsea returned home to a sold-out Stamford Bridge to face the reigning champions. Both sides made one change from the first leg, with Chelsea replacing the injured Mayra Ramierz with Catarina Macario, and Barcelona swapping out Mariona Caladentey for Lucy Bronze.

Starting XIs

Chelsea

Hampton; Nüsken, Carter, Leupolz, Macario, James, Lawrence, Rytting Kaneryd, Charles, Cuthbert, Buchanan.

Substitutes: Mušović, Bright, Ingle, Reiten, Kirby, Périsset, Mjelde, Čankovic, Beever-Jones, Björn.

Barcelona

Coll; Parades, Paralluelo, Graham Hansen, Guijarro, Bonmatí, Bronze, Rolfö, Walsh, Batlle, Engen.

Substitutes: Paños, Font, Fernàndez, Pina, Torrejón, Caldentey, Putellas, Vilamala, Brugts, López, Martina.

Heartbreak for Hayes

The two teams came flying out the blocks, both hoping to build through their right sides. With Barcelona just peeping Chelsea in the opening 10 minutes, the visitors had a shot just off target from captain Patricia Guijarro. To even it out, after some nice build-up play from Ashley Lawrence, Erin Cuthbert overhit from distance. An evenly matched opening 20 minutes saw both sides creating and wasting chances at a similar pace.

After a poorly cleared corner, Caroline Graham Hansen attempted to fire one across the floor. Some excellent goalkeeping from Hannah Hampton kept it from gracing the bottom corner. Typical Aitana Bonmatí footwork around the edge of the box met the bottom corner, with a deflection from Kadeisha Buchanan seeing the visitors take the lead in the 25th minute. Shortly after, the goalscorer went down following a blow to the face, but she was fine to continue.

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Chelsea looked to respond to the goal quickly. Lawrence built nicely down the wing but her pass into Lauren James was easily defended by Irene Parades. Shortly after, a shot from Salma Paraluello was blocked by Cuthbert and the following corner was eventually handled by Chelsea. Some nice play from James built into the box, before the cut-back pass found Melanie Leupolz, who rattled the framework.

Read: Ewa Pajor to join Barcelona for mega fee following WSL snub

A long distance shot from Catarina Macario looked destined for the bottom corner, before it was tipped away by Cata Coll. The in-swinging corner was punched away by the goalkeeper, who easily caught the return. Sjoeke Nüsken got the better of Paredes in the box, after a wayward pass from the defender. The pass across goal to Johanna Rytting Kanyerd was slotted to Cuthbert, who once again overestimated the shot.

With Bonmatí easily disarming Leupolz in her own half, Fridolina Rolfö’s subsequent shot was well wide. It was a similar story a couple of minutes later to finish the half. Paralleullo collected Coll’s pass with ease and played in Rolfö, but the Swedish international missed the target by some distance, again. The recurring theme was that both sides continued to waste chances handed to them by mistakes from the opposition.

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Controversial officiating

The second half started with building play from Chelsea down the wing. A pass from James to Nüsken down the centre was easily caught by Coll. The response from the visitors displayed classic Barcelona passing play, before all chances were blocked by Chelsea. The best chance was a looping shot from Ona Batlle, which was well wide.

A foul on Macario resulted in a free-kick, which was ultimately wasted, as the American attempted to find an unmarked Niamh Charles in the box. Lawrence, once again, built beautifully down the right wing for Chelsea, before the shot by Nüsken was just wide.

Tensions rose after Chelsea went down to 10 players in the 58th minute. Buchanan was shown a second yellow after a challenge on Guijarro. Hayes criticised the decision after the match, describing it as “probably the worst decision in UEFA Women’s Champions league history.”

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Barcelona attempted to make the most of being a player up, but the header from Paralluelo was over. Chelsea responded to the red, bringing off Macario for Guro Reiten.

Barcelona continued to cage Chelsea in their own half. A shot was intercepted by Jess Carter and the return was easily caught by Hampton. After outdoing Batlle and Ingrid Engen in the box, a chance by Johanna Rytting Kaneryd was easily caught by Coll.

With her first mistake of the game, Lawrence brought down Bonmatí in the box. A penalty was awarded to Barcelona, with Rolfö slotting it home. For the first time across the two legs, the reigning champions led.

Read: UWCL time capsule: How Barcelona and Chelsea have fared over the years

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The loudest cheer of the night came for Millie Bright as she made her first appearance for the home side after returning from injury. The centre-half immediately went up top, a clear sign Chelsea needed a goal with just 10 minutes left.

As the clock ticked down, Chelsea once again struggled against Barcelona’s quick, interweaving play. The visitors broke into the box before the chance was cleared by Ève Périsset. A hand-ball from Engen made way for a Chelsea free-kick in extra time. The opportunity came to nothing, but a penalty shout in the build up was dismissed.

A spicy and tension semi-final played out in front of a record Chelsea attendance of 39,398. The final result sees Barcelona through to the final in Bilbao to defend their title. Meanwhile, Chelsea’s European dreams are once again dashed by the Spanish giants. Hayes will leave the club without the long-desired Champions League trophy.

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