Chelsea Ladies Football Club comprehensively beat French side Montpellier 5-1 over two legs, including 3-1 at home on Wednesday, as they blazed a new path for the club by advancing to their first ever semi-finals in the UEFA Women’s Champions League. Chelsea’s deepest run before this season was the Round of 16.
Chelsea join fellow WSL powerhouse Manchester City (who beat Sweden’s Linkopings 7-3 on aggregate), defending champions (and four-time winners) Olympique Lyonnais, and arch-nemesis Wolfsburg in the semi-finals. Wolfsburg will in fact be up next for Emma Hayes’s side — the German champions knocked out Chelsea in each of the last two tournaments, each time by an aggregate score of 1-4.
But this Chelsea is the best Chelsea yet.
On Wednesday, holding a 2-0 lead from the away leg, the Blues showed no mercy and quickly excised any bad feelings from the weekend’s disappointing 2-2 draw against Reading that has given Manchester City the advantage in the league once again. Fran Kirby got first blood inside of four minutes by seizing on a mistake by the defense and beating the goalkeeper to her left.
Montpellier equalized just past the half-hour mark on what looked like a cross, but which ultimately looped over Hedvig Lindahl’s reach. Then, inside of five minutes in the second half, Kirby struck quickly again, this time with a sweet pass from midfield that sprung Ramona Bachmann for a curler.
And when Ji So-Yun stopped, started and tip-toed through the box before being brought down, it was Kirby to do the emphatic honors on the penalty kick.
Today’s results mean an all-England final is still possible. Not only has that never happened, just one English club has ever reached the final. That was Arsenal in 2007, when it was called the UEFA Women’s Cup and they won it.
Wolfsburg are a formidable, experienced opponent and will probably feel confident taking on Chelsea after beating them twice in two years. But this is the Chelsea’s third time around in the Women’s Champions League and they’re no longer neophytes. It all starts up again on Friday, April 20 at home — this date may not be official just yet — and it should be epic.
UPDATE: On March 29th, UEFA announced that the first leg of the semi-final will be held at Kingsmeadow on Sunday, April 22nd at 6pm. It’s the same day as the men’s team’s FA Cup semi-final against Southampton at Wembley, making it almost impossible for anyone to attend both. The second leg is set for Sunday, April 29th at AOK Stadion.