Chelsea advanced to the semi-final stage of the UEFA Women’s Champions League following an exhilarating quarter-final triumph over eight-time champions Lyon on Thursday night.
The first 100 minutes of the encounter were merely a modicum of the night’s drama. The tie truly came to life towards the closing stages of extra-time and ultimately resulted in an evening of thrilling European entertainment at Stamford Bridge.
Substitute Maren Mjelde was the Blues’ last-gasp saviour, converting the latest of all late penalties to send the tie to a shootout.
Chelsea goalkeeper, Ann-Katrin Berger, soon followed in the Norwegian’s heroics and saved Lindsey Horan’s decisive spot-kick to set up a blockbuster Champions League semi-final with Barcelona at the end of April.
Berger; Carter, Eriksson (c), Buchanan, Périsset, Reiten, Leupolz, Cuthbert, Charles, Kerr, James
Endler; Renard (c), Bacha, Majri, Egurrola, Carpenter, van de Donk, Cascarino, Gilles, Bruun, Horan
Chelsea vs Lyon — How it went
Sonia Bompastor’s Lyon came out all guns blazing. Right from the off, it was evident they were the team in need of a goal.
A flurry of early chances seemed to ruffle a few feathers amongst the Chelsea defence. Danish forward, Signe Bruun, wasted a pair of opportunities in the space of 90 seconds.
However, the play soon shifted in the hosts’ direction. Usually so clinical from such close range, Sam Kerr was presented with a golden chance to double the Blues’ advantage in the tie. She fired her shot directly at Christiane Endler. Australian frustration. French relief.
Chelsea sustained their attacking pressure for a healthy period in the first-half, with Lauren James and Melanie Leupolz both narrowly missing out on goal.
A goalless first 45, but abundant in quality. Chelsea still held the lead over two legs.Embed from Getty Images
The French champions were beginning to crave attacking threat. Lyon head coach, Bompastor, called upon Ada Hegerberg. Deeply rich in goalscoring experience, the Norwegian replaced Signe Bruun upfront for the visitors.
Neither side seemed to cause any true damage until the closing stages of the 90. Emma Hayes’ team were beginning to look set in semi-final stone until, against the run of play, Lyon centre-back, Vanessa Gilles, poked the ball past Berger in the Chelsea net and broke a rather vicious deadlock.
All square on aggregate, much to the surprise of the Blues’ faithful. Murmurs of extra-time slowly crept through the Stamford Bridge walls. And extra-time it soon was.
As the half hour progressed, a winning goal looked increasingly unlikely. However, for the first time over the two legs, Lyon took the lead. German midfielder, Sara Däbritz, pounced on Chelsea’s defensive mishap to suddenly swing the pendulum Lyon’s way, 10 minutes from time.Embed from Getty Images
With seconds to play, the travelling contingent were almost in celebration mode. Chelsea threw everyone forward, pushing with the highest might. Down fell James. Congruous cries for a penalty alarmed round the Bridge. No, signalled the referee, absolutely not.
The tie looked to have escaped Chelsea’s grasp. This felt like Lyon’s night.
However, referee Ivana Martincic eventually darted towards the all important VAR screen after hearing from her assistant. Just like that, decision reversed. Penalty Chelsea — yet another twist in a quite staggering tale.
The Bridge held its breath. Up stepped Mjelde… The Blues were back in it, right out of the very blue.Embed from Getty Images
And so, the night reached its ultimate climax, a penalty shootout.
After five perfect spot-kicks, Lyon and France captain Wendie Renard had her strike saved. Advantage Chelsea.
James then blew her chance to win the tie herself. Däbritz netted again to level the scores at three apiece.
Jess Carter slotted home to make it 4-3. But then, for Lyon and Lindsey Horan, what followed was very much a case of ‘sudden death’. Horan’s tame effort was stopped by Berger and Stamford Bridge erupted once and for all.
Incredibly, Chelsea continue their quest for a first ever Champions League title. Lyon’s emphatic hopes of a seventh triumph in eight seasons were swiftly blown away by Hayes’ phenomenal Blues.