It’s too early to say it’s written in the stars, but that’s partially because Chelsea are one of the best women’s teams in all of Europe, and winning a Champions League trophy would be more of a validation of Emma Hayes’ team-building efforts, rather than the sort of lifetime achievement award that was handed to the men’s team by the football gods in 2012.
It’s also too early to say that because we’re just in the Round of 16, and as we saw tonight, you never know what can happen in elimination games on the biggest stage.
Chelsea came in as heavy favorites against only the fourth best side in La Liga Femenina this season, but that mattered little when Chelsea were reduced to ten just a quarter of an hour into the match. Sophie Ingle, deputizing at center back for injured captain Magdalena Eriksson, was not only adjudged to have fouled Rasheedat Ajibade in the penalty area, but it was deemed a denial of a goal-scoring opportunity by the referee as well. Out came the red card, and up stepped Atlético’s second-leading goal-scorer, Deyna Castellanos to the spot.
But Ann-Katrin Berger said not in my house, and saved the penalty down low to her right. She may or may not have been using the force, having put her arms behind her back to psyche out Castellanos at the start.
With a player short, Chelsea understandably prioritized defending over gung-ho attacking, and were able to get to the half unscathed.
But even with the numerical disadvantage, Chelsea were more than Atlético’s equals, and we showed our quality in the second half. Sam Kerr won a penalty just before the hour mark, which Maren Mjelde converted, then Fran Kirby did what Fran Kirby does, and doubled Chelsea’s lead not five minutes later. From 0-0 to 2-0 in the space of five minutes, and Chelsea could go back to shutting things down.
The drama was not over yet however, as Berger must’ve gotten a bit bored since her penalty save, so she gave herself another opportunity to save one, by rushing out ill-advisedly and fouling Ludmila in the area.
No matter, she saved this one, too. Not today, Atléti.
So, Chelsea take a 2-0 lead to next Wednesday’s second leg, which will take place in Monza, Italy.
As much fun as this one was, let’s make that one a bit less dramatic, shall we?