Barcelona 1-1 Chelsea (2-1 agg): Blues denied Champions League final berth despite spirited Camp Nou draw

·2-min read
Joy and despair: Chelsea pushed Barcelona all the way at the Camp Nou (REUTERS)
Joy and despair: Chelsea pushed Barcelona all the way at the Camp Nou (REUTERS)

Chelsea fell in the semi-finals of the Women’s Champions League despite a spirited second-leg draw against Barcelona on Thursday evening.

Emma Hayes’ side made the daunting trip to the Camp Nou, where formidable Barca had won all of their last 19 European matches by an aggregate score of 78-8, trailing 1-0 from Saturday’s initial clash at Stamford Bridge after an early wondergoal from Caroline Graham Hansen.

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And despite being dominated for much of the first half in Catalonia, Chelsea - the first team not to lose away to Barca in any competition for more than four years and some 80 games - managed to limit their fluid opponents to mostly half-chances as the two sides went in level at the interval.

Barca struck what looked to be the goal to clinch their third straight Champions League final appearance shortly past the hour mark, when an exquisite touch from Mariona Caldentey released the influential Aitana Bonmati, who raced forward before slotting in Hansen for a cool finish beyond Ann-Katrin Berger with a lunging Jess Carter unable to make the last-ditch goal-line clearance.

Clincher: Caroline Graham Hansen was the thorn in Chelsea’s side again at the Camp Nou (REUTERS)
Clincher: Caroline Graham Hansen was the thorn in Chelsea’s side again at the Camp Nou (REUTERS)

But Chelsea, to their immense credit, would not give up despite having a mountain to climb and levelled the match just four minutes later, Hansen’s Norway team-mate Guro Reiten firing home a rebound emphatically from inside the box after Sam Kerr had been thwarted bravely by Barcelona goalkeeper Sandra Panos.

Hayes sent on the likes of Lauren James and the fit-again Pernille Harder in search of the elusive second goal that would have forced extra time, but ultimately it just wasn’t to be as Barca kept their stunning home winning streak alive and booked their fourth final appearance in total - all since 2019.

Jonatan Giraldez’s team will be hoping to reclaim the trophy they won for the first and only time to date with a ruthless 4-0 demolition of Chelsea in Gothenburg in 2021, having been outgunned by Lyon in Turin last year. They will face either Arsenal or Wolfsburg in the Eindhoven showpiece on June 3, with that second semi-final tie finely poised at 2-2 ahead of the decisive second leg at the Emirates Stadium on Monday.

Hope: Guro Reiten fired Chelsea straight back on level terms after Sam Kerr was denied (REUTERS)
Hope: Guro Reiten fired Chelsea straight back on level terms after Sam Kerr was denied (REUTERS)

Despite their disappointment, Chelsea still have much to play for this season as they compete with Manchester United, Manchester City and Arsenal in an exciting four-way WSL title race, currently perched in third and four points off top spot but with their destiny in their own hands having played two games less than all of their rivals for glory.

Chelsea and United also meet in the FA Cup final at Wembley next month, with the Blues having already been bested by Arsenal in the League Cup final in March.