Chelsea through after late drama sends game to penalties

After Arsenal secured progression to the UEFA Women’s Champions League Semifinals with a sensational win against Bayern Munich on Wednesday night, Thursday’s game at Stamford Bridge gave Chelsea an opportunity to join their London rivals in the next stage of the competition. However the London side had to ensure they weren’t distracted by their 2-0 defeat at the hands of Manchester City on the weekend.

Emma Hayes’ side knew that if they were to progress, they would face Barcelona in the semifinals – as the Catalan side demolished AS Roma 6-1 on aggregate. Chelsea had the upper hand ahead of this game, having won the first leg 1-0 courtesy of a Guro Reiten strike – an impressive result given the fact that Lyon have lifted the UWCL trophy in six of the last seven seasons.

CHE: Berger; Carter, Eriksson, Buchanan, Périsset; Reiten, Leupolz, Cuthbert; Charles, Kerr, James

LYO: Endler; Bacha, Renard, Gilles, Carpenter; Majri, Egurrola, Horan; van de Donk; Bruun, Cascarino

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Delphine Cascarino broke free for Lyon within the opening few minutes and fired a shot straight into the arms of Ann-Katrin Berger – though she spilled the ball, but Lindsey Horan fired over and the chance was wasted by the French side.

They should have taken the lead soon after though, as a poor clearance from Magdalena Eriksson was intercepted well by Signe Bruun, though the Danish international’s strike was well over the bar. Bruun had another chance a minute later after Ellie Carpenter’s whipped ball into the box, but she failed to capitalise on that chance too. Lyon’s right side was certainly causing problems for the hosts early on.

Chelsea could have taken the lead fifteen minutes in, as Lauren James broke free before playing in Sam Kerr – but after putting herself one-on-one with Christian Endler, the Australian forward powered her shot straight at the ‘keeper with a sub-par finish.

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Lauren James came close to bagging herself a potential goal of the season contender with a sensational strike from a tight angle, but it was tipped over the bar well by Christiane Endler to deny Chelsea the opportunity to extend their advantage.

Sam Kerr could have made amends for her earlier miss after she was played in with a superb ball over the top from the left flank, but a rushing Christiane Endler was able to hoof the ball away once again, keeping the score at the Bridge at 0-0.

Kerr opted to square it to Melanie Leupolz next time, but the German midfielder’s strike was sent over the crossbar. This game certainly wasn’t lacking chances – it was lacking clinical finishers. Signe Bruun attempted to send the ball into the back of the net at the near post after she was left unmarked during a cross into the box, but her finish was well saved by Ann-Katrin Berger – keeping the Londoners ahead in this tie on aggregate.

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A rather cagey end to the first half, followed by two minutes of injury time, saw the teams head into the break level – with only Guro Reiten’s first-leg strike separating the two sides. As it stood, Chelsea were going through, but one Lyon goal in the second half could send this game to extra time. Sonia Bompastor was well aware of that fact, opting to replace Signe Bruun with Ada Hegerberg at half time as the visitors continued their urgent search for a goal.

Magdalena Eriksson took far too long on the ball on the edge of the Chelsea penalty area and Danielle van de Done looked to capitalise on the skipper’s indecisiveness, but instead the pair found themselves tangled with Ann-Katrin Berger – and the Lyon chance went begging once again. Damaris Egurrola was replaced by Sara Däbritz soon after.

It was certainly a scrappy affair on the pitch, especially as the game reached the hour mark – with tackles flying in here, there and everywhere. Ivana Martinčić, the Croatian referee in charge of this fixture struggled to keep the rising tensions under control, and received heavy criticism from Emma Hayes and the rest of the Chelsea touchline staff after she failed to stop play following a challenge that left Melanie Leupolz with a hefty nose bleed, and potentially a broken nose. The German midfielder was unable to continue and looked in some discomfort as she headed down the tunnel, before being replaced by Sophie Ingle.

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Maren Mjelde replaced Ève Périsset as the game approached the final fifteen minutes, with Vicki Becho coming on for Amel Majri at the same time. Leupolz’s injury seemed to have bizarrely calmed the game down… until Lyon equalised in the 77th minute. Vanessa Gilles did well to drill the ball through the tightest of gaps between Ann-Katrin Berger and the near post, sending the travelling support into euphoria – and more importantly, giving Sonia Bompastor’s side a glimmer of hope.

A free-kick taken quickly by Guro Reiten saw Lauren James break free on the left, but the England youngster’s cross failed to meet a Chelsea shirt inside the box. The game had well and truly returned to the state of chaos we had seen before Melanie Leupolz’s substitution, with rash – and in some cases reckless – challenges all over the pitch.

Emma Hayes’ side should have been awarded a penalty after a blatant handball inside the box, but Ivana Martinčić failed to award the Blues a chance from twelve yards out. Both sides were granted seven minutes of injury time to find a winner. Delphine Cascarino nearly found the back of the net from close range, but she appeared to fall over her own feet before getting the shot off – and it was cleared well by the Chelsea defence.

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Vicki Becho attempted to fire a cross into the box as the game entered the dying seconds, though it was headed behind by Chelsea skipper Magdalena Eriksson. The resulting corner was cleared well by the hosts, and followed immediately by the final whistle. The action was far from over though, with thirty minutes of extra time – and potentially penalties – still to follow. Johanna Rytting Kaneryd replaced Guro Reiten at full-time.

Lindsey Horan found herself in acres of space soon after play resumed, and decided to unleash a shot from a central area – though it curled just wide of the post. The French side were awarded a free-kick soon after, following a supposed foul – although contact was very minimal, if there was any at all.

Johanna Rytting Kaneryd broke free on the right flank a minute or two later, but she was denied on the edge of the box by a resolute Lyon defence. As the rain began to pour at Stamford Bridge, Melvine Malard was introduced to replace Delphine Cascarino – with Sonia Bompastor installing fresh legs up front to hopefully bypass a tiring Chelsea defence.

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Kadeisha Buchanan tangled with Danielle van de Donk on the far touchline as the game approached the 100-minute mark; both players were able to continue. Two minutes of injury time followed the end of the first half of extra time, but neither side was able to find a breakthrough. Danielle van de Donk was replaced by Dzsenifer Marozsán ahead of the final fifteen minutes – yet more attacking prowess added to the Lyon front line. Perle Morroni was also introduced for Selma Bacha to offer fresh legs in defence.

Dzsenifer Marozsán did well to keep the ball in play, playing a pass along the touchline to Ellie Carpenter – but the full-back’s cross struck the arm of a Chelsea shirt, and the visitors were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the box. They failed to make it count though, and the ball sailed out uncontested.

With ten minutes left before the game headed to penalties, Sara Däbritz fired home after some dire defending from the hosts allowed Ada Hegerberg’s cross to fly straight through the box, before the German midfielder powered it past Ann-Katrin Berger to send Lyon ahead for the first time across this tie.

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Jessie Fleming replaced Erin Cuthbert soon after – and Niamh Charles came close to equalising, but a shoulder barge from the Lyon defence sent her off-course, allowing Christiane Endler to gather there ball. Yet again, two minutes of injury time were played, with Chelsea desperately needing an equaliser if they were to stand any chance of progressing.

The Blues were awarded a free-kick from the half-way line with a minute left on the clock, with Ann-Katrin Berger forward to deliver it into the box. The ball eventually found Lauren James who was dragged to the ground by Vicki Becho – but Ivana Martinčić failed to award a penalty. She was summoned to the pitch side monitor though to review the alleged foul, and the Croatian reversed her initial decision. Chelsea had one chance to send this game to penalties. Maren Mjelde stepped up to strike, but she was delayed by yet another stoppage caused by the referee’s incompetence.

Emma Hayes couldn’t bear to look as Mjelde finally stepped up to strike – and strike it she did, powering her effort into the top left corner. That effort sent the game to penalties – as if this game hadn’t already had enough excitement.

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Maren Mjelde was first to return to the spot, and she sent yet another cracking effort past Christiane Endler to give Chelsea the advantage. Marozsán was up next though, and she sent her effort rifling into the back netting too. 1-1.

Sam Kerr was next for the hosts – she made no mistake from twelve yards out and launched an effort past Endler. Lyon’s next penalty came courtesy of Ada Hegerberg, who slotted it past the outstretched arms of Berger to keep the scores from the spot level. 2-2.

Jessie Fleming was next to take a shot from the spot, drilling it hard and low into the bottom left corner. Wendie Renard was next up for the French side, but here effort was denied phenomenally by Ann-Katrin Berger – who will be heralded as a hero should the Blues go on to win this. Advantage Chelsea.

Lauren James was next, having earned the spot-kick that sent this game to penalties. Her strike straight down the middle was saved by Endler though, meaning Sara Däbritz had the opportunity to bring the visitors level. She did just that, firing low into the bottom right corner – and despite getting a hand to it, Berger wasn’t able to deny the German. 3-3.

Jess Carter was next up, and she confidently sent a thunderous strike into the back netting. The pressure was on for Lindsey Horan. Score to send it to sudden death – or miss and Lyon crash out. She sent it wide of the post, meaning Chelsea are through!

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After 120 minutes of end-to-end football at Stamford Bridge, it’s Chelsea that progress to the semifinals. They now prepare for a trip to the Catalonian coast, where they’ll face an in-form Barcelona side. Emma Hayes’ side join Jonas Eidevall’s Arsenal in the final four, with the Gunners preparing to play VfL Wolfsburg.

Speaking to the press after the game, Emma Hayes talked about deploying a 442 so that Chelsea could pounce on Lyon in the transition phases. She added that her team “haven’t been full of confidence building out from the back, so we decided not to do it.”

Emma Hayes was quick to add that her Chelsea side “have never won a penalty shootout as a team” – and talked of the added pressure as she was “forced into every substitution… they were injuries in each and every case.”

The Chelsea gaffer was full of praise for their opponents though, adding that she knew “Lyon would come for us” and complimenting the French side’s “world class” substitutes.

On the topic of Maren Mjelde, Emma Hayes could not hide her beaming smile – insisting that the Norwegian is a “Chelsea legend.” She added that “everyone knew Maren was going to take that penalty, and everyone knew Maren was going to score.”

Emma Hayes was also full of praise for Ann-Katrin Berger, who saved Lindsay Horan’s penalty to secure progression. The boss described Berger as “probably the best penalty-saving goalkeeper I’ve ever worked with.

A contentious topic between the two managers was the penalty in the 128th minute. Emma Hayes spoke first on the subject, insisting that “Lauren walked over to me and she said it was a penalty.” Sonia Bompastor’s view of the incident was rather different – describing the final result as “disappointment, frustration and injustice.”

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