Chelsea Women put on a great shift in France to beat eight-time Women’s Champions League winners, Olympique Lyonnais Féminin, 1-0 in the first leg of their quarterfinal encounter. Tonight’s match was all about keeping that effort up, even though injuries would keep manager Emma Hayes’ options limited.
The Blues boss chose a defensive lineup with five defenders on the pitch, and Lyon would try to profit from that option by keeping the hosts with their backs against the wall from kick-off. The visitors got three chances to score in a matter of minutes, but they were all thankfully sent off-target.
But the best chance to score in the first 15 minutes was Chelsea’s. Sam Kerr laid the ball to Lauren James so the English international could kickstart a counterattack and the winger played it back to the Australian striker. It did not get in because Lyon’s goalkeeper, Christiane Endler, defended the shot with her face.
Such was the tune for most of the first half. Lyon won most midfield battles and were able to dominate possession and reach the final third. But on the opposite side Chelsea looked better whenever they found any breaks, as it was the case with James almost scoring a worldie from a cut-inside and Kerr nearly finding the opener with a header. Endler once again was the difference-maker for the French outfit.
That does not mean Lyon did not get a share of opportunities to draw the aggregate score before the first half ended. Still the Blues held strong against Lyon’s will to harm our European aspirations.
In the second half Chelsea started out better, but soon stopped attempting more shots at goal and started defending more often in true “parking the bus” manner. That would be our downfall as Lyon found the goal to level the aggregate score via Vanessa Gilles.
Now with the threat of extra time and with Lyon trying to keep themselves in the lead at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea got themselves back forward. That did not last long as Lyon went back to attacking, in an attempt to wrap the match up in regular time.
With the aggregate score tied at 1-1 in regular time, extra time was upon us. But instead of pushing for the tie at the Bridge and thus the win in the aggregate score, Chelsea let Lyon grow instead. Their second goal would come in extra time’s second half, with Sara Däbritz scoring for the French outfit.
That however was not the end of the thrill at our home turf. In the last minute of extra time James was fouled in the area and VAR called it out to the referee. The penalty was given, with Maren Mjelde stepping up and converting for the Blues so we could go to penalties.
And thanks to two saves from Ann-Katrin Berger, Chelsea beat multi-champions Lyon to go through to the semifinals.
- Either a 4-3-3 with Niamh Charles playing upfront, or a three-woman backline with Ève Périsset and Charles as fullbacks/wingbacks given the initial lineup.
- Subs are Sophie Ingle for Melanie Leupolz, Maren Mjelde for Ève Périsset, Johanna Rytting Kaneryd for Guro Reiten, and Jessie Fleming for Erin Cuthbert.
- Loads of fouls from Lyon, and no punishment whatsoever.
- Magda Eriksson is really struggling to find her usual groove in defence. All respect to her history as a Chelsea player but next window we really need to find reinforcements to her role.
- When will Lauren James’ bad shooting luck finally turn around?
- We have been spoiled by Sam Kerr destroying the opposition. Especially in nights like today’s, where we really miss her goals.
- Danielle Van de Donk bloodies Melanie Leupolz. No card, however.
- Even with the penalty miss, thank the heavens for Lauren James.
- Ann-Katrin Berger. Nothing else to be said.
- Next up: Aston Villa away in the Women’s Super League.