You wait a whole decade for a Champions League final and then two come at once.
Such has been this 2020–21 season for Chelsea Football Club where both the men’s and women’s teams have reached the final of the Champions League, and made history by becoming the first ever club to do so. We ain’t got no history and all that jazz.
What awaits is even better — Chelsea FC Women can beat Barcelona Femení in the final and become the only club to have ever won the Champions League in both the men’s and women’s game. (Barcelona can achieve the same by beating Chelsea but that’s not happening, right?)
Emma Hayes’ mighty Blues are having a season to remember. Having already beaten Manchester City 2–0 in the Community Shield, won the Continental League Cup by thrashing Bristol City 6–0, and sealed the Women’s Super League title, Chelsea FC Women have a very realistic chance of doing the quintuple. (Chelsea are also in the quarter finals of the FA Women’s Cup, scheduled to end in late 2021). Unprecedented.
Chelsea FC Women have already made light work of this grueling season and could end it in spectacular fashion by the sealing the ‘Big One’.
Let’s have a look at how we made it so far.
Round of 32
Chelsea entered the competition at the Round of 32 stage (two legged knockout) and faced Benfica.
The Blues comfortably beat them 5–0 away thanks to a red card for Benfica and a brace from Fran Kirby. With the tie more or less sealed, Chelsea went through the motions in the second leg, winning 3–0 at Kingsmeadow thanks to a brace from Bethany England.
Chelsea 8–0 Benfica on aggregate.
Round of 16
Chelsea were then drawn with Atlético Madrid in the Round of 16. The first leg at Kingsmeadow was quite a memorable one.
Sophie Ingle saw red as she conceded a 12th-minute penalty. However, Ann-Katrin Berger was in inspired form as she saved the spot kick from Deyna Castellanos. Later, Chelsea’s got a penalty of our own when Sam Kerr was fouled on the area. Maren Mjelde expertly slotted it home. Fran Kirby then made it 2–0, putting the Blues in the driving seat in the tie. Although Berger conceded another penalty, she managed to make amends by saving yet again. The 2–0 win at home meant that Chelsea here on track to qualify to face the team that had eliminated Manchester City in the previous two seasons.
The away leg was played in Monza, Italy due to travel restrictions in Spain caused by COVID-19. Chelsea managed the game expertly as Mjelde converted yet another penalty in the 78th minute to confirming a spot for the Blues in the quarter-finals. Atlético managed to get a consolation in added time but that didn’t change anything.
Chelsea 3–1 Atlético Madrid on aggregate.
The quarter-final draw put Chelsea against VfL Wolfsburg, who had eliminated Chelsea from the competition in three consecutive seasons, from 2015–16 to 2017–18. Chelsea’s record against Wolfsburg was — P: 6 | W: 0 | D: 1 | L: 5.
Despite having a great team, Chelsea were considered underdogs in the tie. Both legs were played in Budapest because of travel restrictions in Germany due to COVID-19.
Chelsea saw off Wolfsburg comfortably in the “home” leg, winning 2–1 thanks to goals from Sam Kerr and ex-Wolfsburg striker Pernille Harder. A week later, Chelsea shifted up a gear and beat Wolfsburg 3–0 in the “away” leg, thanks yet again to goals from Kerr, Harder and Kirby.
This tie was a huge test to Chelsea’s credentials and the team’s mental prowess. To beat a bogey team twice in two legs did a world of good to Emma Hayes’ flying Blues. The 5–1 aggregate win took Chelsea to our third ever semi-final in this competition.
Chelsea 5–1 Wolfsburg on aggregate.
After overcoming Wolfsburg, Chelsea were drawn against another German team in Bayern Munich.
Bayern Munich Frauen are not the juggernaut that their men’s team are, but they are no pushovers either. With both teams looking to reach their first ever Women’s Champions League final, this promised to be an entertaining tie.
In the first leg in Munich, Chelsea were without influential captain and defender, Madgalena Eriksson. The nerves of the Blues showed as Bayern started strongly and took the lead in the 12th minute. Twelve minutes later, fortune favored the Blues as a lucky clearance bounced off ex-Bayern captain Melanie Leupolz’s head and looped into the far corner giving Chelsea a valuable away goal.
However, that setback inspired Bayern to dominate the rest of the game. They got their well deserved second goal in the second half, taking a 2–1 lead to Kingsmeadow. The tie was still in the balance thanks to Chelsea’s away goal.
The second leg was a different game altogether. Chelsea were dominant from kick-off and deservedly went in front thanks to Fran Kirby’s goal in the 10th minute. Bayern took the game briefly to Chelsea and found an equalizer for their efforts at the half-hour mark, putting them back ahead on aggregate. Chelsea kept pressing for our second and found it through Ji So-Yun just before half time.
With the game poised at 3–3 aggregate and heading in extra time, Chelsea rallied and found the winner through Bayern’s arch enemy in the Bundesliga Frauen, Pernille Harder, five minutes from time. Harder came to Chelsea to win this trophy and has repaid Emma Hayes’s faith by scoring crucial goals in the knockout rounds.
With Bayern pressing for a winning second goal, Chelsea managed to add the next one instead, thanks to Fran Kirby who broke free from the halfway line and slotted home into an empty net, confirming Chelsea’s place in the Champions League final for the first time ever.
The celebrations that followed this goal showed what this achievement meant to this group of players, Emma Hayes and her staff; who had achieved this feat and became only the second English team to reach the UWCL final after Arsenal on 2007.
Chelsea 5–3 Bayern Munich on aggregate.
Chelsea will be facing Barcelona Femení in the Champions League final at 8pm BST on Sunday, 16th May, 2021 at the Gamla Ullevi in Gothenburg, Sweden.