Chelsea and Bayern Munich met with big expectations for their second Champions League semi-final leg at Kingsmeadow. Emma Hayes’ side started on the back foot after a 2-1 defeat away in Munich, but the crucial goal by Leupolz meant the fight was far from over.
The return of injured captain Magdalena Eriksson saw a welcome reinstatement of the trusty centre back pair, along with Niamh Charles and Jess Carter slotting in at fullback positions.
The Blues put themselves in an excellent position early on with a goal from Fran Kirby after ten minutes, set up by her striking partner Sam Kerr. A signature no-look pass from Kerr met Kirby’s run, and the pair linked up perfectly in the box. The goal put Chelsea in front thanks to their away goal the previous week.
A game fit for a Champions League semi-final
However, the advantage was not to last. A Bayern corner landed the ball right at the feet of Sara Zadrazil. The midfielder released a rocket into the top right corner just before the half-hour mark.
Both sides continued to pile on the pressure, with Chelsea desperate to secure a vital second goal to draw level. Finally, a golden opportunity presented by a free kick drawn by Kirby. This time the scorer was Ji So-Yun with a stealthy low ball that slipped past Benkarth’s gloves.
After a frustrating second half for both sides, Chelsea’s luck struck again with another free-kick just outside the box. Carter lofted the ball beautifully into the path of Pernille Harder to get on the scoresheet.
With minutes to spare and nothing to lose, Bayern brought their keeper outfield for a final sequence of corners. Predictably, a loose attempt ensued. The ball eventually made its way to Kirby, who sealed the deal with a fourth goal in front of an empty net.
The response from Hayes and Chelsea was euphoric; they are the first English side to get to the final in fourteen years, and a first ever for the manager. Hayes has made it clear that the European trophy is her ultimate goal, and her dedication to the club is very close to paying off.
Hayes reacts to Chelsea triumph
Post-match, Hayes was understandably emotional. She said: “I wanted today so badly, it was the longest week in the world,” crediting Bayern as “a tremendous opponent.”
Yet again Hayes praised the resilience of her Chelsea side. She cited Carter’s late assist as the winning moment of the match in her eyes: “One of the reasons we signed [her] was for days like today.”
The manager made clear her intention to bring the trophy home but recognised that merely reaching the final is a historic achievement. “I’m going to enjoy this minute, this moment. I’ve worked too hard not to do that.”
Despite the final against Spanish champions FC Barcelona looming large on the May 16, Hayes said, “The biggest game of our lives is Wednesday night. I want to win the league.”
There are no days off for the reigning champions. They will meet with Tottenham in their penultimate WSL match next week.