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Chelsea closing the gap – but fall short as Barca reach Women’s Champions League final

Barcelona Femenino 1 Chelsea Girls 1; agg 2-1

“Closing the hole” with Europe’s high sides – specifically Lyon and Barcelona – have been the excitement phrases adopted by each supervisor vying for Champions League glory. None extra so than Emma Hayes, whose Chelsea facet got here bitterly shut to creating their second European last in three years with a 2-1 combination loss to Barcelona on Thursday evening.

This end result was far and away from two years in the past, when Chelsea had been eviscerated 4-0 by the Catalan facet, who appeared in a very totally different league. Chelsea confirmed main progress, sneaking previous Lyon within the quarter-finals and working Barcelona so shut even contemplating the defensive damage blows they’ve suffered in current weeks. However they nonetheless appeared by far the weaker workforce for many of this semi-final.

They had been erratic with the ball, given no time to assume by Barcelona, and failed to aim a single shot in the whole first 45 minutes. They “survived”, as Hayes admitted, however it was not fairly. They performed it principally protected in opposition to a workforce they had been proper to concern, and lacked a artistic edge that Barcelona had in abundance.

However Hayes noticed issues in another way. “I don’t know many groups that may come right here and put them underneath strain,” Hayes stated post-match. “They had been panicking, you might hear it on the touchline. I can’t criticise our efficiency tonight. We’re going out within the competitors due to the house leg. In the present day I believe the higher workforce misplaced.”

Requested in regards to the feedback, Barcelona supervisor Jonatan Giraldez was incredulous. “She stated that they had been higher at the moment?” he croaked. “We dominated virtually the whole sport.”

It’s troublesome to argue with him. The primary hour was something however nice for Chelsea. There have been intervals, notably within the first half, the place the gaping chasm between these two sides was on present in all however scoreline.

Barcelona ran rings round Chelsea, their passing fast and instinctive, their ahead play clean and purposeful. Helped by Aitana Bonmati, Caroline Graham Hansen made Chelsea defenders Niamh Charles and Magda Eriksson’s lives a distress on the correct wing, outpacing and outclassing them at each alternative.

Graham Hansen had been the distinction within the first leg, scoring the surprise objective that gave Barcelona the 1-0 benefit to take again to their residence turf. So it proved on Thursday evening too, as she created virtually each likelihood within the opening half. Final-ditch Chelsea defending and Barcelona’s inaccuracy is what saved the guests in with an opportunity going into the break. However simply after the hour Bonmati’s run down the center drew in Eriksson and Maren Mjelde, leaving Graham Hansen in acres of area on the correct and she or he slotted the ball between stranded Ann-Katrin Berger’s legs.

The one shock was that Chelsea equalised mere minutes later. A heavy interceptive problem from Erin Cuthbert on Mariona Caldentay, which enraged the energetic crowd and had Barcelona gamers crying foul, helped Chelsea breakaway. The rebound from Sam Kerr’s shot fell completely for Guro Reiten within the field, who couldn’t consider her luck, and she or he scored emphatically.

It put the strain on for the ultimate half hour, however Barcelona’s high quality received out. It was to be anticipated for a facet with a 100 per cent league report, solely conceding 5 instances in 25 video games.

Scoring two targets in opposition to them on the Camp Nou was at all times going to be an enormous ask, particularly with the deafening jeers of 72,262 followers – the third largest attendance within the match’s historical past – to deal with too. To not point out Barcelona have averaged greater than 4 targets per sport when enjoying on the Camp Nou this season.

They saved the scoreline respectable, however they by no means had the sting they wanted to win. “Once you lose the ultimate like we did two years in the past, you may perceive the primary leg being a problem within the first a part of the sport for our workforce,” Hayes stated. “We’ve closed that [gap] now. In the present day’s efficiency was indicative of the workforce saying ‘we’re higher than this and able to extra’. I’m sure the hole is closing throughout Europe and at the moment’s efficiency was proof of that.”

England obtain welcome Bronze damage increase

Whereas Chelsea’s Champions League exit was disappointing for English soccer on Thursday evening, one constructive for followers watching was the picture of Lucy Bronze strolling onto the pitch at full time.

The Barcelona right-back underwent keyhole surgical procedure on her knee on Monday, in one other main damage blip to England’s World Cup preparations.

However, promisingly, she was not utilizing crutches and solely barely limped as she joined her Barcelona team-mates to rejoice their development to the Champions League last for the third time in as a few years.

Sarina Wiegman’s England squad has been blighted by accidents in current weeks, affecting preparations for the World Cup, which begins on July 20. Captain Leah Williamson will miss the match attributable to an anterior cruciate ligament knee damage picked up final week, whereas her central defensive companion Millie Shiny can be at present recovering from keyhole surgical procedure on her knee, and is about to be sidelined for a “few extra weeks”.

Bronze’s restoration time is anticipated to be six weeks, and her look on the Camp Nou on Thursday evening could have lifted some spirits. 

Match particulars

Barcelona Femenino (4-3-3): Paños 8; Torrejón 7 (Crnogorcevic 73), Paredes 8, León Cebrián 8, Rolfö 7; Guijarro Gutiérrez 8, Walsh 8 (Engen 60), Bonmatí (Geyse 84); Hansen 9, Oshoala (Paralluelo 60) 6, Mariona 8.
Substitutes not used: Coll, Codina Panedas, Fernandez, Pina, Putellas, Vilamala, Rábano, López.
Bookings: Jonatan Giráldez (coach).
Chelsea Girls (5-3-2): Berger 7; Perisset 7, Mjelde 6, Eriksson 6, Carter 6, Charles 7; Cuthbert 7, Leupolz 6, Fleming 6 (Tougher 75); Kerr 7, Reiten 7 (James 75).
Substitutes not used: Musovic, Orman, Ingle, James, Rytting Kaneryd, Tougher, Abdullina, Cankovic.
Bookings: Reiten, Charles, Cuthbert.
Referee: Esther Staubli (Switzerland).
Attendance: 72,262.




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