Chelsea succumb to Barcelona brilliance in Champions League final

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Barcelona celebrate their first-ever Champions League trophy - AP
Barcelona celebrate their first-ever Champions League trophy - AP

Chelsea 0 Barcelona 4

Chelsea pledged to return to the Women’s Champions League final when they were visited by owner Roman Abramovich in their dressing room after suffering a chastening defeat against brilliant Barcelona in their first European final.

The English league and League Cup winners were only the second British women’s team to reach the final and the first to do so in 14 years, but they fell behind in the first minute of what turned into a humbling first half as the Catalan giants cruised to victory to claim their own first continental title and crush Chelsea’s chances of lifting a quadruple of major honours this term.

Russian billionaire Abramovich, who flew to the final in Gothenburg, Sweden, in a big statement of support for the women’s team, made the journey with his club making history as the first to see both their men’s and women’s teams in the European final in the same season. After watching the Catalans’ wild celebrations on the field, he walked down the tunnel and went to speak to Chelsea’s distraught squad, some of whom, including captain Magdalena Eriksson, struggled to hold back the tears at full time.

When asked about the mood in that dressing room, Emma Hayes, the manager, replied: “It’s the mood you’d expect it to be in a team not used to losing. We’re a classy team and we behave I think as you should do when you’ve been beaten by a better team and that’s by acknowledging what we need to do to improve. Our owner came in to see us. All the girls were very quick to tell him ‘we’ll be back here’ and we’ll work hard on the training pitch to make sure we do that. If I know this group well enough I know they mean these words. This is just another step in our journey, because – we talk about the disappointment – we’re the second-best team in Europe.”

Despite enduring such a heavy and devastating defeat, Chelsea may take heart from the fact that Barcelona suffered a 4-1 loss to Lyon in a similarly one-sided final just two years ago, when they made their own first appearance on this stage.

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Lluis Cortes, the Barcelona coach, was quick to note that in his post-match press conference – which was repeatedly interrupted by his jubilant players dancing and singing with the trophy – as he added: “In Budapest [in 2019], I suppose, like Chelsea tonight. It was the same sort of game. That day, we promised ourselves we would be working a lot to be European champions at some point and it’s been a lot of work since then.”

There was guaranteed to be a new name on the trophy, after holders Lyon had been knocked out by Paris St-Germain in the quarter-finals to end Lyon’s five straight years of dominance, and Barcelona’s first title saw them triumph in their second final. Coronavirus restrictions in Gothenburg mean all restaurants and bars in the city must stop serving at 8pm and close by 8.30pm, meaning that the city outside was eerily quiet and somewhat lifeless by the time the final’s 9pm kick-off arrived.

However, the game sparked into life within seconds as Barcelona enjoyed the type of start not even their wildest dreams could have conjured. Lieke Martens, the Holland winger, struck the crossbar with a curling effort almost straight from the kick-off and then, in bizarre and unfortunate fashion, Chelsea conceded a freak own goal as Fran Kirby’s attempted clearance hit her team-mate Melanie Leupolz and looped into the corner of the net past a despairing Ann-Katrin Berger. There were 33 seconds on the clock. The Catalan side had scored the fastest goal in the 12-year history of the Women’s Champions League final, since its format change from the old two-legged Uefa Cup finals pre-2010.

Things got worse for the English club after 14 minutes when Alexia Putellas converted a penalty awarded following a check by Var, after Leupolz appeared to catch Jennifer Hermoso in the area. Chelsea’s nightmare continued six minutes later when Alexia fed Aitana Bonmati in the area and her low finish made it 3-0 following some neat football involving Martens.

Chelsea succumb to Barcelona brilliance in Champions League final - AFP
Chelsea succumb to Barcelona brilliance in Champions League final - AFP

The match was all but over when Martens then beat Niamh Charles down Barcelona’s left and cut the ball back for Norway’s Caroline Graham Hansen to tap in the fourth after 36 minutes. That was the cue for wild, disbelieving celebrations in the Barcelona camp yet, in some ways, perhaps the Spanish champions’ free-scoring habits should not have come as such a surprise.

After all, this is a team who have won all of their 26 domestic league games so far this term, scoring 128 goals and conceding just five times to give themselves a remarkable goal difference of +123. Hayes’s side improved markedly after the break, but did not have enough to get back Spain’s unbreakable central defensive partnership of Patricia Guijarro and the magnificent Maria Leon.

Nigeria’s Asisat Oshoala had the ball in the net in stoppage time as Barcelona looked for a fifth, but her effort was ruled out for offside. Nevertheless, the result was still the largest margin of victory in the Women’s Champions League era.

“Some of the players haven’t played in this arena before and I think it showed,” Hayes added. “They’ll improve with that experience. We’re disappointed in the result, but I thought we gave it everything in the second half. [However], while this team has got unbelievable character, Barcelona are a top team and you can’t give them two goals like we did, that’s the reality.”

Chelsea (4-3-3): Ann-Katrin Berger; Jess Carter, Millie Bright, Magdalena Eriksson (capt), Niamh Charles; Melanie Leupolz (Guro Reiten, 46), Sophie Ingle, Ji So-yun (Erin Cuthbert, 73); Fran Kirby, Sam Kerr (Bethany England, 73) Pernille Harder

Subs: Zecira Musovic (g), Carly Telford (g), Hannah Blundell, Jessie Fleming, Drew Spence, Jonna Andersson, Jorja Fox, Agnes Beever-Jones

Yellow cards: Sophie Ingle 38

Barcelona (4-3-3): Sandra Panos; Marta Torrejon (Ana-Maria Crnogorcevic, 82), Patricia Guijarro, Maria Leon, Leila Ouhabi (Melanie Serrano, 82); Aitana Bonmati, Kheira Hamraoui, Alexia Putellas (capt) (Vicky Losada, 71); Caroline Graham Hansen (Mariona Caldentey, 62), Jennifer Hermoso (Asisat Oshoala, 71) Lieke Martens

Subs: Catalina Coll (g), Gemma Font (g), Laia Codina, Jana Fernandez, Bruna Vilamala

Yellow cards: Leila Ouhabi 69

Referee: Riem Hussein (Germany)

09:29 PM

Emma Hayes reaction

Today was over before it begun. To concede so early, then we had two great chances. Ann hasn't had a save to make, but we lost 4-0. Congratulations to Barcelona, they are worthy of their title. We showed some naivety at times.

They were favourites for a reason. You have to stay in the game. An own goal and a penalty and you're 2-0 down. Everything fell for them. They got the rub of the green. But they made that happen.

I certainly will be gracious in defeat. This will stay with them (players) over the summer. Some of the inexperience cost us. Players will improve from that. I know I have a quiet dressing room right now. But they are proud of the shift they've put in. I'm gutted we didn't get the chance to make a game of it.

09:09 PM

Barca are the champions of Europe

The stage is set for the presentation ceremony and Barcelona players, who have replaced their pink away strip for their traditional red and blue stripes for the lifting of the trophy.

Vicky Losada collects the trophy and holds it aloft. Barcelona are the champions of Europe.

08:56 PM

Chelsea huddle in reflection

As they tend to do at the final whistle, Chelsea players, led by Emma Hayes and her coaching staff, huddle together for a debrief. The players look bewildered, as they would.

08:54 PM

Verdict from the Stadium

Tom Garry on the celebrations:

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Everybody from Barcelona's contingent rushes onto the pitch in wild celebration. They've won it with the biggest margin of victory in the 12-year era of these one-legged Women's Champions League finals.

08:53 PM

FT Chelsea 0 Barcelona 4

Barcelona have clinched the Champions League for the first time in their history. They are the first ever Spanish winners of the competition. A chastening evening for Chelsea who were left shell-shocked by that spell-binding first 20 minutes of football. Much deserved Barca. That third goal was simply stunning.

08:51 PM

90 mins: Chelsea 0 Barcelona 4

Oshoala sticks the ball into the back of the net after turning her marker. But it's ruled out for offside. That would've been harsh on Chelsea for their second half showing.

08:50 PM

89 mins: Chelsea 0 Barcelona 4

Substitute Oshoala goes for broke after turning Carter inside out but fires wide when she could have squared it into the middle.

08:49 PM

89 mins: Chelsea 0 Barcelona 4

Bright blocks a Martens piledriver but Barca regain possession and try to put the gloss on a truly tremendous evening.

Update from Tom Garry in the Stadium:

We understand - whatever the result - Chelsea were always intending to fly home tonight, on their chartered airplane, possibly not getting back to their homes until around 4 or 5am local time. You'd imagine that could be a fairly quiet, sombre flight now. It certainly won't be the champagne-spraying party-type journey they'll have hoped for.

08:45 PM

84 mins: Chelsea 0 Barcelona 4

Chelsea penalty appeal again goes begging as Reiten throws her arms up after one heavy challenge from behind.

Moments later, Harder leaps onto a loose ball and lets fly from 20 yards, but she's leaning back and flashes over the bar.

08:41 PM

80 mins: Chelsea 0 Barcelona 4

Pressure from Barca now late in the game with a series of corners. Chelsea clear their lines, before Ingle is penalised for a late challenge on Torrejón 30 yards out.

08:38 PM

78 mins: Chelsea 0 Barcelona 4

Calm and collected Guijarro controls the ball on the edge of the area with three Chelsea shirts breathing down her neck. The Barca centre-back bides her time, picks her pass and sets the Spanish giants up for another attack.

08:33 PM

73 mins: Chelsea 0 Barcelona 4

Double change for Chelsea as Cuthbert and England come on for Kerr and Ji.

Meanwhile, update from the Stadium with Tom Garry:

Rain is starting to fall now in the stadium. On the pitch, things still aren't clicking for Chelsea. Even the second balls just won't fall for them. That said, Barcelona's centre-backs Maria Leon and Patricia Guijarro have both been immense. There's no way past them at the moment.

08:32 PM

70 mins: Chelsea 0 Barcelona 4

Poor control and finishing from Chelsea now. Where usually they are so clinical and precise in the box, the players' heads drop as Kerr fails to control a header from close range.

08:29 PM

68 mins: Chelsea 0 Barcelona 4

Chance! Harder gets her head on a Reiten free-kick. But it doesn't have the pace again to trouble Panos. That's been the story of Chelsea's night in front of goal barring that early chance for the Denmark international when Barca were 1-0 up.

08:27 PM

66 mins: Chelsea 0 Barcelona 4

Barca still showing glimpses of their brilliant best at the other end at the fleeting moments they are carving out in Chelsea's final third.

Bonmati fires into the side-netting and moments later Hermoso goes close from 10 yards.

08:24 PM

64 mins: Chelsea 0 Barcelona 4

Kirby and Ji link up in the middle, desperately trying to pull a goal back their possession this half deserves.

Kirby flicks one into the middle with Charles making a late dash into the box, but Barca clear the danger.

08:21 PM

62 mins: Chelsea 0 Barcelona 4

Change for Baca as Caldentey replaces Graham Hansen.

08:19 PM

58 mins: Chelsea 0 Barcelona 4

Emma Hayes' side building confidence now as Kirby and Kerr look to combine, but the Australian drags her effort wide before the whistle blows for an offside.

08:16 PM

54 mins: Chelsea 0 Barcelona 4

Chelsea still keeping Barca pinned into their own half, showing good resilience and fight 10 minutes into the second half. Carter launches a ball into the box which Harder chests down into the path of Ji, but she can't get her shot away.

Update from Tom Garry in the Stadium:

Chelsea have looked so, so much sharper since half-time. This is much better from them, but surely even the most ardent Chelsea fan knows this game is up. The Chelsea substitutes are largely looking rather glum.

08:09 PM

48 mins: Chelsea 0 Barcelona 4

Good early pressure from Chelsea, forcing a couple of corners. Barcelona look to have cleared the danger before a ball into the box sees Eriksson come under a heavy barge into the back from Leon. But the ref waves away Chelsea's penalty appeal.

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08:06 PM

46 mins: Chelsea 0 Barcelona 4

Nice link up play between 'Kerrby' at the start of the second, as Kirby whips over a centre. Kerr beats her marker to get a strong header on target, but it doesn't have enough pace to trouble the Barca keeper Panos.

08:04 PM

Change for Chelsea

Reiten comes on for Leupolz. Chelsea huddle again as they prepare for the start of the second half.

07:50 PM

HT: Chelsea 0 Barcelona 4

Chelsea so relieved to hear that final whistle after a ridiculous first 45 minutes where they've been twisted inside out, and given one helluva runaround. Time for Emma Hayes to work her magic?

07:48 PM

45+1 mins: Chelsea 0 Barcelona 4

Chance for Chelsea with a set-piece 20 yards out but Ji's effort doesn't have the power to trouble Panos and the Barca keeper gathers comfortably again.

07:44 PM

In case you didn't know - Barca are good!

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07:43 PM

40 mins: Chelsea 0 Barcelona 4

Carter and Charles have been run ragged by Barcelona's brilliance tonight. Hayes will surely change things up at at half-time. Meanwhile, Harder finally gets Chelsea's first attempt on target in. Panos gets down low to gather at her near post.

07:39 PM

36 mins GOAL!! Chelsea 0 Barcelona 4 (Graham Hansen)

Martens flies down the left-hand side again, and holds off Charles with far too much ease. Chelsea have been out-muscled in defence much easier than they would've hopes. Martens nips it, squares it to Graham Hansen who has the simplest of tap-ins.

07:36 PM

34 mins: Chelsea 0 Barcelona 3

Chelsea looking shell-shocked out there as they struggle to piece together a string of passes. Ji opts for a longer ball, looping one over to Kerr who takes a touch, spots the keeper charging off her line, but her effort flies high and wide.

07:34 PM

Update from the Stadium

Tom Garry has the latest from the stands:

Emma Hayes has been pacing up and down in her technical area, extremely anxious for obvious reasons. Now she is having a quiet word with her backroom staff, leaving over the side of the concrete barrier that separates her and the front few rows of the stands, where her staff and substitutes are sitting. There are lots of very worried faces in the Chelsea camp.

07:29 PM

27 mins: Chelsea 0 Barcelona 3

Patient build up play now from Barcelona as they opt for slow and steady rather than the 100 miles an hour action of the opening 20 minutes blink and you miss it fare.

07:23 PM

20 mins: GOAL!! Chelsea 0 Barcelona 3 (Bonmati)

It's sublime one-touch play from Barcelona as they carve through Chelsea's defence again. Neat build up play sees Hermoso play a short ball into the path of Bonmati who easily holds off Carter and slots past Berger. One way traffic.

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07:21 PM

Soft pen?

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07:19 PM

Update from the stands

Tom Garry's verdict:

It's a truly disastrous start for Chelsea. Barcelona, having played in this final before in 2019, are not displaying any nerves whatsoever - yet they certainly did two years against Lyon when they were first-time finalists then. Perhaps understandably the occasion has got to a couple of the Chelsea players early on. They haven't looked like their usual selves at all.

07:17 PM

14 mins: GOAL! Chelsea 0 Barcelona 2 (Putellas, penalty)

Putellas sends Berger the wrong way from the spot. Chelsea would be right to feel aggrieved that the penalty kick wasn't overturned.

07:14 PM

12 mins: Chelsea 0 Barcelona 1 - PENALTY AWARDED

More drama as Barca are awarded a spot-kick. It looks dubious but Leupoloz is adjudged to have brought down Hermoso. It's marginally. VAR is in action. And the wait goes on.

07:10 PM

8 mins: Chelsea 0 Barcelona 1

Chelsea starting to settle and get more possession now after that early setback. Slowly trying to build from defence. Super play through the middle as Kerr backheels into the path of Harder. But Torrejon blocks well to direct the ball out for a first corner.

07:07 PM

5 mins: Chelsea 0 Barcelona 1

Barcelona all over Chelsea, pressing high and putting heat on their opponents. Seemingly finding it straight forward to get behind their backline currently.

07:05 PM

2 mins: Chelsea 0 Barcelona 1

A great chance for Chelsea to fire straight back as Harder nips behind Barca's backline but can't get her effort on target.

07:04 PM

1 min: GOAL!! Chelsea 0 Barcelona 1 (Leupolz OG)

The worst possible start from Chelsea as Barca score from the first attack. Martens saw one effort rebound off the bar, only for the ball to bobble in the box. Kirby tried to clear, but the ball struck Chelsea midfielder Leupolz inside the box and loops over Berger's head in goal. Just 33 seconds on the clock!

07:00 PM

Teams are out on the pitch

Just moments away now as the players go through their final pre-match routines. A final huddle from Chelsea, and then we're good to go. History beckons.

06:55 PM

Update from the stadium - 'no fans but huge anticipation'

Here's the latest from our women's football correspondent, Tom Garry:

After some torrential downpours here in Gothenburg earlier today, the sun is shining on the Gamla Ullevi stadium just in time for kick-off. Local coronavirus restrictions here are relatively relaxed during daytime hours - for example, eating and socialising inside is permitted without face masks - but all restaurants and bars must stop serving by 8pm local time and close by 8.30. That means the rest of the city has now fallen silent for the remainder of the night, except for here in the stadium, where despite there being no fans, there is huge anticipation in the air.

06:39 PM

Abramovich flies into Gothenburg

Exclusive by Tom Garry and Matt Law

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich has flown into Sweden for tonight's Women's Champions League final against Barcelona, Telegraph Sport can reveal.

The 54-year-old landed in Gothenburg in the evening, and will be in the Gamla Ullevii stadium in time for the 9pm local time kick-off, in a significant statement of backing for the women's game.

The Russian billionaire has received praise for the club's support of women's football in light of the fact Chelsea are the first club to have both their male and female sides in European finals in the same season.

Their men's team face domestic rivals Manchester City in Porto later this month on Saturday, May 29.

As revealed by Telegraph Sport earlier this week, Abramovich sent his personal congratulations to Chelsea manager Emma Hayes after watching them retain the WSL title with a 5-0 win over Reading.

Hayes has previously spoken of Abramovich’s interest in women’s football, saying: “When I came to Chelsea in 2012 we were an amateur team but thanks to the owner’s enthusiasm we have built a lot in a short time.

"What success we have achieved we have achieved together and I honestly feel we are more joined-up than ever at the moment.

“I am excited for Chelsea’s future. Our owner is a big fan of women’s football and he’s always asking me what he can do to help. I’m more than conscious of the challenges the women’s game still faces but I think there are enough owners, broadcasters and fans who want the best for us.”

06:29 PM

Barca are done with giving opponents too much respect

Barcelona and Holland international Lieke Martens is fed up with finishing second.

Runners-up at the 2019 World Cup, second best in La Liga, well not any more. After winning the league title last weekend, Martens told Molly McElwee that the team have evolved. They no longer respect their opponents too much. They believe in their own ability, and that makes them an altogether danger proposition.

Read the full interview

Lieke Martens has been firing in the goals for Barca this season - AP
Lieke Martens has been firing in the goals for Barca this season - AP

06:14 PM

Barca team news

Just one change for the Spanish giants who dispatched PSG in their semi-final. Kheira Hamraoui replaces the suspended Andrea Pereira in central defence.

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06:06 PM

Incoming

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06:05 PM

Chelsea team news

No surprises from Emma Hayes for her starting XI. Plenty of attacking prowess in Kerr, Kirby, Harder and Leupolz.

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05:49 PM

How a fortune teller set Emma Hayes on way to stardom

Victory tonight would secure Chelsea and coach Emma Hayes the treble this season - and with a potential fourth trophy to boot later this year in the FA Cup (the final isn't until December now). But the Londoner was always destined for the top.

A year after she worked alongside Vic Akers and helped Arsenal's charge to a historic quadruple, a clairvoyant informed Hayes of the "massive future" that awaited her at Chelsea.

Hayes gives some pointers during the warm-up ahead of the final - Getty Images
Hayes gives some pointers during the warm-up ahead of the final - Getty Images

In truth, as our women's football reporter, Tom Garry, found out by speaking to those who knew her during her school days, leadership is in her blood.

Hayes threw herself into all aspects of school life, from plays to swimming to linguistics. But it was in moments such as school ski trips when Hayes’ instinctive captaincy shone through. On a steep slope in the French Alps, as teachers and older students were falling over, Hayes - aged just 16 - was hiking back up the mountain to help staff put back on their skis.

Read the full story.

05:25 PM

History beckons for Chelsea or Barcelona

Seven days after winning a record fourth Women’s Super League crown, Chelsea venture into new territory with a first-ever Champions League final.

Not since 2007 have a British club reached the final of Europe’s top competition, when Vic Akers’ legendary Arsenal outfit clinched a quadruple of titles. But this evening Emma Hayes’ Chelsea can end 14-years of hurt with victory over Barcelona in Gothenburg.

Tonight sees a new name engraved on the trophy. While Chelsea are shiny new arrivals in the showdown, Barca head into their second final in three years following their 4-1 humbling at the hands of European giants Lyon in 2019.

Where are the seven-times champions league winners Lyon this year, you might think? PSG denied their French rivals of a record sixth straight trophy by winning their quarter-final clash on aggregate only to suffer defeat at the hands of free-scoring Barca in the last four.

The Spanish side’s record this season has been nothing short of extraordinary. Their dominance is best summed up by their incredible numbers; since August they have scored 128 goals, conceded just five, and lost just one of their 38 competitive matches since the summer.

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Chelsea's backline is reasonably watertight too, mind, having only conceded 10 times in their WSL campaign. But tonight they need to deny the slick passing movement and goal threat from a number of outlets - which includes Jennifer Hermoso, who is tied with Chelsea's Fran Kirby in the race for the Champions League golden boot.

Barcelona too will be mindful of the impact of Kirby and Sam Kerr, known as 'Kerrby' by fans given their telepathic play this season.

With 37 goals and 18 assists across the domestic league season, the duo have struck up the most prolific partnership in English football right now.

It's all set up to be an intriguing and close final with Barca just edging it with the bookies. Stay with us for build up and team news with the action getting under way at 8pm.

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