Chelsea 4-1 Bayern Munich: Emma Hayes’ side make history by reaching their first-ever Women’s Champions League final thanks to goals from Fran Kirby, Ji So-yun and Pernille Harder
- Chelsea opened the scoring the first half with a goal from Fran Kirby
- It was Sarah Zadrazil who equalled the score with a 29th minute goal
- Ji So-yun provided another to help Chelsea take the advantage again
- Before Kirby provided another goal to make it 4-1 and progress through
Emma Hayes had insisted beforehand that this game must not be viewed as a big occasion.
‘No-one’s getting married,’ she pointed out, trying to maintain a sense of calm and perspective in an absorbing pre-match discussion of what it would take to deliver an English team to the women’s Champions League final for the first time in 14 years.
It certainly didn’t feel that way on Sunday night. With the strains of Five Star booming out from her team’s dressing room, Hayes was able to reflect on finally crossing the threshold, after the despair of Chelsea’s semi-final eliminations in both 2018 and 2019.
Emma Hayes’ side make history by reaching their first-ever Women’s Champions League final
Hayes’ (right) incredible Chelsea side are also chasing a historic quadruple this season
Victory in the final over Barcelona in Gothenburg on May 16 would be immensely well timed, with the British domestic game on the cusp of the vastly increased profile that next season’s Sky and BBC WSL TV deal will bring.
But the technical excellence of the football – matching the Premier League, as this Chelsea team have often done this season – was testament to levels the women’s game has reached, not just where it is going.
The game had been played on a relentless edge, with Bayern’s counter-attacking a source of constant jeopardy, before Pernille Harder made the critical breakthrough, six minutes from time.
Running across the face of goal to meet Jess Carter’s free kick, the Dane dipped a header beyond the goalkeeper – a skill carrying a high degree of technical difficulty.
Chelsea opened the scoring the first half with a goal from Fran Kirby in the 10th minute
Kirby has been on fire for Chelsea as of late and went on to score another goal during the game
However, it was Bayern’s Sarah Zadrazil who equalled the score with a 29th minute goal
MATCH FACTS AND PLAYER RATINGS
Chelsea (4-3-3) Berger 6.5; Carter 6, Bright 6, Eriksson 7.5, Charles 7.5; Leupolz 6 (Cuthbert 88), Ingle, Ji 8; Kirby 8.5, Harder 7 (Spence 90), Kerr 7
Manager: E Hayes 7.5
Bayern Munich (3-5-2) Benkarth 5.5; Glas 5.5, Hegering 7, Ilestedt 6 (Laudehr 87); Simon 6 (Wenninger 75 6), Schuller 6 (Dahlmann 60 6.5), Magull, Zadrazil 7, Beerensteyn 7.5; Lohmann 6.5 (Asseyi 75 6), Buhl 7
Manager: J. Scheuer 7.5
Referee: E. Staubli (Switzerland) 7.5
Fran Kirby – who added a fourth – was the game’s outstanding player. So-Yun Hi was effortless again.
The final will hopefully reveal her quite exquisite gifts to a wider audience. Magda Eriksson was a huge presence as the Germans drove for a second half equaliser.
But it was also the afternoon when young Merseyside full-back Niamh Charles made a big statement. As Liverpool’s ambition in women’s football withered, Charles left the club last year.
It was Chelsea’s gain. This feat is reward for the club’s commitment to a women’s team spanning a decade. Hayes reflected on Sunday night on a conversation with the club’s chairman Bruce Buck and former director of football Michael Emenalo in 2012, in which she promised them it would be Chelsea in the final one day.
‘I do think it’s a big moment for women’s football,’ Hayes reflected.
‘We’ve always had to play second fiddle to the men in European football. I hope this might encourage more English teams to think about it.
‘I also just hope there were little girls sitting at home, 10-year-olds, building their own stories. I never had [female football] role models and I hope these girls now do.’
It is lost on no-one at Chelsea, who are favourites to have wrapped up the WSL title before the final, that the club could record the historic feat of winning the men and women’s Champions League in the same season.
Chelsea initially went at the German league leaders like an express train, with Kirby the driving force of the attacking trident which overwhelmed them before opening the scoring.The 27-year-old drove forward from her own half to find Kerr, who cut inside Amanda Ilstedt and returned the ball for Kirby to ease it into space to score.
Nevertheless, Chelsea went on to take the advantage again thanks to Ji So-yun (middle)
There is no way to legislate for an equaliser like Bayern’s. Austrian Sarah Zadrazil hit across the ball to send a 30-yard half volley half swerving away from Ann-Katrin Berger and into the top corner.
But Ji provided class of her own, driving a free kick into the Bayern wall and easing the rebound through a forest of players to put the aggregate scores level. Harder’s third goal was by no means the end of it. Eriksson cleared off the line in the 90th minute, falling into the goal as she did so.
Bayern manager Jens Scheuer claimed Chelsea were ‘not the best team over the two matches.’ His side did spurn chances. Lineth Beerensteyn a relentless threat, supplying the one which Lea Schuller drove wide with the scores at 1-1.
They were also hammering on the door for the second goal which would have eliminated Chelsea. But Kirby saw things through in injury time – passing the ball into an empty net on the counter with stranded German goalkeeper Laura Benkarth joining her team’s attack.
A moment of history lies ahead, whatever the outcome. The final will be contested between two sides who have never reached it before. For the first time since Arsenal won it in 2007 – with Hayes on their coaching staff – neither a French nor German side will lift the trophy. And Hayes will become the first woman in 12 years to coach a team which has reached it. But she is not finished yet.
Before Kirby scored again to make it 4-1 and take Chelsea through to the upcoming final
WOMEN’S FOOTBALL 5-A-SIDES
BY IAN HERBERT AND KATHRYN BATTE
1 – The FA’s director of women’s football Baroness Campbell has said the governing body will be issuing new guidance for women and girls after a study last week showed teenage girls are twice as likely as boys to suffer a brain injury from heading a football. ‘The fact we’re seeing enough evidence to give us concerns means we’re taking this very seriously, as we should,’ said Campbell.
2 – The governing body also say they will aim to ensure that every schoolgirl will have equal access to play football in PE lessons and extra-curricular clubs by 2024.
The FA have established 150 Barclays Girls’ Football School Partnerships, which currently reach 42 per cent of schools nationally. In the next three years they will look to increase this to 300 in order to reach 90 per cent of schools across England.
3 – Leyton Orient’s decision to cut ties with their women’s team is baffling. There was no advance warning. This reveals a lack of respect for the players who have worn the badge for the last six years.
4 – Birmingham will be left with a burning sense of injustice if the FA deduct three points from them for fielding an ineligible player against Reading. The players felt it was grossly unfair that the FA awarded Tottenham Hotspur the points after a game against them was cancelled in January because of Birmingham’s ‘unprecedented’ shortage of players.
Three other games were cancelled that weekend, including Everton’s, after manager Willie Kirk said that Covid infections left him with 14 fit players. Birmingham had even fewer than that available — but were the only side docked points.
5 – Chelsea’s interest in Lauren James presents Manchester United with the first challenge of a summer in which they will need to improve their facilities to the level of Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City to convince players of their ambition.
A move would unite James with her brother Reece at Chelsea but the 19-year-old would face a greater challenge getting regular starts.
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