Emma Hayes ‘gutted’ after Chelsea fall to ‘panicked’ Barcelona: ‘The better team lost’

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Emma Hayes was left “absolutely gutted” after Chelsea were denied a place in the Women’s Champions League final by Barcelona, insisting: “The better team lost”.

Having been beaten 1-0 in last week’s home leg, the Blues travelled to Spain on Thursday evening chasing an unlikely turnaround against a Barcelona outfit who have not lost a home game in four years.

Caroline Graham Hansen looked to have cemented Barca’s place in June’s final with her second goal of the tie just after the hour mark, but winger Guro Reiten replied only four minutes later and Hayes believes her side had a team widely considered to be the best in Europe “panicked” as they held on for a narrow 2-1 aggregate win.

“If there was a little bit longer in the game, I think we would have gone on and won it,” Hayes said. "We grew into the game, we got more aggressive and we created some good chances. It wasn't quite enough and I'm stood here now just absolutely gutted to be totally honest.

“But I can’t ask for any more. I don’t know many teams that can come here and put them under pressure. They were panicking, you could hear it on the touchline. Even their manager got booked, they’re not used to that.”

Valiant effort: Chelsea fought to give Barcelona a rare fright at the Camp Nou (Getty Images)
Valiant effort: Chelsea fought to give Barcelona a rare fright at the Camp Nou (Getty Images)

Barcelona have won all 25 of their matches in Liga F this season, scoring 105 goals in the process and conceding just five. The sole game they have failed to win in any competition this term came in the defeat away to Bayern Munich in the Champions League group stage, and Hayes was left to reflect on Chelsea’s failure to make the most of home advantage at Stamford Bridge.

“Look at the previous results here,” said Hayes, after more than 72,000 fans turned out to watch the second leg at the Camp Nou. “I don’t think you understand how challenging it is playing in this stadium with an unbeaten record in the last four years.

“We’re going out in the competition because of the home leg. Today, I think the better team lost.”

Barca are into their third final in succession and are looking to regain the title they won when thrashing Chelsea 4-0 in 2021, having been upset by Lyon in Turin last year. Jonatan Giraldez’s side will face either Arsenal or Wolfsburg, who meet for their second leg at the Emirates Stadium on Monday with the tie poised at 2-2.

"In the second half I knew it was a tense situation but also a dangerous one because one slip from us could have let Chelsea level the tie,” said Barcelona midfielder Aitana Bonmati.

"Then when Chelsea scored so soon after we went ahead, it was time to manage our performance. That's key in elite football: you can enjoy yourself but you'll always have to suffer."