It had been 11 years since an English team (Arsenal) reached the final of the Women’s Champions League. It is now 12.
Two English teams had reached the semifinals this season. Both lost. Manchester City went into Lyon after a scoreless first leg, but lost 1-0. That’s the second consecutive season that Lyon have dispatched City.
More pertinently, Chelsea fell 2-0 in the second leg at Wolfsburg on Sunday, though In truth, the deathblow was already administered last weekend when the German side notched an emphatic 3-1 win at Kingsmeadow in the first leg. Wolfsburg have now knocked out Chelsea Ladies in Europe three years in a row.
While the loss is disappointing, especially this close to the final, Chelsea have made significant progress this season. This is only the club’s third year in the Women’s Champions League. In the previous two, Wolfsburg knocked them out in the round of sixteen. Reaching the semifinal for the first time in club history means that Emma Hayes & Co are on the right track. The fact that the aggregate scoreline is actually worse this time around (5-1 aggregate, versus 4-1 the previous two seasons) probably isn’t relevant. Established European powerhouses like Wolfsburg and Lyon (four time champions) remain the standard by which progress will be measured.
Needing goals after conceding three at home last Sunday, Hayes fielded an attacking 3-4-3 lineup with Romana Bachmann, Eni Aluko, Fran Kirby and Ji So-Yun all getting the call. For 69 minutes the game was a stalemate. Chelsea hadn’t scored, but they hadn’t conceded either. They still had a chance, however slim.
Scoring chances were at a premium for both sides when, deep into the second period, Wolfsburg’s Pernille Harder made a strong run into the box and comfortably beat Hedvig Lindahl. Down by three (including three away goals) with just 20 minutes left, the tie was effectively over. Ewa Pajor headed-in another one nine minutes later and that was that.
This result is discouraging, but the season is far from over. Chelsea are nursing a slender three-point lead over Manchester City in the Super League One, having played one more (but ahead in goal differential.)
And on Saturday there’s another big match, the Women’s FA Cup final at Wembley against Arsenal. Two trophies still on offer. Glory beckons. COME ON, CHELSEA!