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Barcelona down Brann to set up Chelsea Champions League rematch

<a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/soccer/teams/barcelona/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Barcelona;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Barcelona</a> midfielder <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/soccer/players/4026873/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Aitana Bonmati;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Aitana Bonmati</a> celebrates after scoring the opener against Brann as her team progressed to the semis (PAU BARRENA)

Barcelona eased to a 3-1 win over Brann on Thursday to set up a repeat of last season's Women's Champions League semi-final against Chelsea, progressing 5-2 on aggregate.

Aitana Bonmati, Fridolina Rolfo and Patri Guijarro struck for the reigning European champions in the quarter-final second leg, with Barca targeting a third triumph in four seasons.

Stubborn Norwegian surprise package Brann held their own in a 2-1 first leg defeat and battled hard at the Johan Cruyff stadium, but Jonatan Giraldez's side patiently unpicked them.

Tomine Svendheim's second-half goal gave a strong travelling contingent reward for their noisy support, but Guijarro, who scored twice in last season's final, killed off any chance of an unlikely comeback.

Barcelona, who beat Emma Hayes' Chelsea 4-0 in the 2021 final, have now reached the semis for six consecutive seasons.

"I think like last year it will be a very equal tie," Barca coach Giraldez told reporters.

"(Chelsea) have invested a lot and have a high quality squad.

"For sure we will see a great semi-final, they are in great form -- but so are we."

Barcelona put the pressure on from the start with a slew of early corners, while Brann goalkeeper Aurora Mikalsen saved well from Caroline Graham Hansen's low drive.

The Norwegian, who scored in the first leg, has been Barcelona's most in-form player and her every electric move drew purrs from home fans.

Ballon d'Or winner Bonmati sent a deflected effort narrowly wide, while Alexia Putellas, who boasts two of the awards, curled in an inviting cross for Irene Paredes, whose header was tipped away.

- Breakthrough -

Eventually Bonmati broke the deadlock brilliantly after 24 minutes, wriggling free on the edge of the box and bending home beyond Mikalsen's reach.

Mariona Caldentey should have doubled the lead just before the break but miscontrolled a superb pass by Putellas and could not find the net.

Barcelona grabbed their second on the night when Graham Hansen glided inside effortlessly and her blocked cross sat up nicely for Rolfo to tap home in the 56th minute.

The Swedish winger, who scored the winner for Barcelona in last season's thrilling final against Wolfsburg, has returned from her knee injury with three goals in seven games despite playing at left-back.

Caldentey blazed another big chance over the crossbar and Brann pulled a goal back within a minute.

Svendheim stole in behind Lucy Bronze and slid a low effort home across goal after a long drive forward by Signe Gaupset.

Rolfo struck the post for Barca while Anna Nerland Aahjem fired wide after a lung-busting run from midfield as the match swung from end-to-end in the final stages.

Guijarro had the final say with a tap-in after the vibrant Graham Hansen picked the locks again and put the ball across the face of goal.

"We came here and we pushed them," said Brann coach Martin Ho.

"We didn't want to come here and lay low for the whole game, we wanted to make it a challenge."

Later Thursday Paris Saint-Germain face Hacken of Sweden holding a 2-1 first leg lead, with the winner facing French champions Lyon in the other semi-final.

rbs/pb