Just a day after Emma Hayes was confirmed as the next head coach of the USWNT, her Chelsea side ventured to the Estadio Alfredo Di Stéfano on Wednesday to open their 2023/24 UEFA Women’s Champions League campaign.
RMA: Misa; Carmona, Kathellen, Andrés, Hernández; Toletti, Abelleira; Caicedo, Zornoza, del Castillo; Bruun
CHE: Berger; Charles, Carter, Bright, Lawrence; Cuthbert, Nüsken; Fleming, Kirby, Rytting Kaneryd; Kerr
It took just ten minutes for Real Madrid to open the scoring in front of an expectant crowd in the Spanish capital on Wednesday evening, with Olga Carmona’s long-range strike taking a crucial deflection off Chelsea’s Millie Bright before settling in the back of the net.
Testing their grit against an opponent of Chelsea’s calibre would be a highly important task for the hosts, who travel to Barcelona’s Estadi Olímpic this weekend to dispute a highly-anticipated el Clasico.
But their lead would be diminished by the interval, and when Niamh Charles headed home from Ashley Lawrence’s cross at the back post, the momentum seemed to swing in Chelsea’s favour.Embed from Getty Images
With fifteen minutes remaining of regulation time, Sam Kerr arrived on the scene to meet Charles’ cross – thundering a headed effort past Misa Rodríguez to hand Emma Hayes’ side the lead.
But controversy would then set in, with las Blancas awarded a penalty after Frida Karland adjudged Jessie Fleming to have tripped Athenea del Castillo inside the box – despite replays clearly showing that contact was made outside of the penalty area.
Del Castillo buried her effort from twelve yards out, picking the top corner and leaving Ann-Katrin Berger with no chance of making the save. Chelsea’s resolve never faded though despite Real Madrid restoring parity under questionable circumstances, with Lauren James striking the crossbar in the dying minutes of the match.Embed from Getty Images
The travelling contingent would be left furious in stoppage time though, as Frida Karland and her refereeing team stole the show once more – this time denying Charles her second goal of the match as she volleyed home for what would have been a spectacular 96th minute winner. The offside flag was raised though, and with no VAR in operation until the knockout stages, the officials were unable to view the replay that would have proved Charles to be in an onside position.
Chelsea are in Barclays Women’s Super League action this weekend as they host Liverpool at Stamford Bridge, before returning to UEFA Women’s Champions League action next Thursday as they welcome Paris FC to West London.
For Real Madrid, their el Clasico trip will be swiftly followed by a trip to BK Häcken’s Bravida Arena, in Göteborg.