Chelsea Make History

Chelsea 4-1 Bayern Munich

Chelsea win 5-3 on aggregate.

By Ben Gilby

Chelsea produced a performance to be proud of as they became only the second English team in history to make a European club final.

Chelsea welcomed back talismanic captain Magda Eriksson after being out for almost a month. Additionally, the club’s regular left back Jonna Eriksson was moved to the bench and replaced by the 21 year-old Niamh Charles.

Bayern went into the game having won all of their previous Champions League away legs this season at Ajax (Netherlands), BIIK Kuazygyrt (Kazakhstan) and Rosengard (Sweden), but Chelsea were a significant step above any of the German’s previous opposition.

Within the opening two minutes, Fran Kirby was found down the right and played in Ji So-yun. The South Korean magician’s ball in was headed behind for a corner by Amanda Ilestedt. Bayern cleared, but Chelsea maintained the possession.

The visitors were content to sit back and let the South Londoners have possession and this partly aided the home side in levelling the aggregate score in the tie with the first involvement of Sam Kerr on 11 minutes.

Kirby drove through the centre and laid off a pass to Kerr who was outside her on the left. The Australian cut across and threaded an inch perfect return ball into the box for Kirby who was never going to miss. The goal ensured that Chelsea now held the advantage having scored an away goal in Germany.

Ji was hugely influential in these early stages and she played a delightful dinked pass to Kirby who popped up on the right. The Lionesses’ star tried to curl a shot into the far corner from an outrageously acute angle and didn’t miss by much.

Bayern responded on 15 minutes when a ball was cut back to Dutch international Lineth Beerensteyn, who got a shot away which Jess Carter got in well to block for a corner.

Back came Chelsea on 19 minutes when the visitors repeatedly failed to clear a free kick which allowed Melanie Leupolz to hit a drive over the bar. Leupolz was involved shortly afterwards when her cross in towards Kerr was hit behind by Marina Hegering for a Chelsea corner.

Despite Chelsea having so much more of the game, just before the half hour mark a moment of individual brilliance from Sarah Zadrazil put Bayern back ahead on aggregate and wiped out any away goal advantage that the hosts could have after a sensational strike. Carolin Simon’s corner was cleared straight to the Austrian who was around 25 yards from goal. She took one touch to control the ball before firing an unstoppable shot which flew into the net.

With ten minutes of the half to go, Chelsea had a half-hearted penalty claim waved away by referee Esther Staubli when Ji tumbled in the area under pressure by Ilestedt.

The visitors narrowly missed taking the lead on 38 minutes when Beerensteyn picked Leupolz’s pocket and found Lea Schuller who unleashed a vicious strike which flew just wide of the left hand post.

Chelsea recovered from the initial flurry after the Bayern goal and were given a free-kick with two minutes of the half left. Lina Magull fouled Kirby to the right of centre just outside the box and received a yellow card. Ji’s free kick hit the wall and rebounded straight back to the South Korean star who then guided a shot into the far left corner which trundled into the net.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Bayern came out firing at the start of the second half. Klara Buhl’s tempting cross had to be headed behind by Carter who had Schuller waiting behind her to score.

Chelsea weathered the storm despite the pressure continuing to ratchet up on them. On the whole, it was a second half where clear cut chances were few and far between as the game entered its final stages.

There was a self-inflicted heart in the mouth moment for the home side with twelve minutes to go when Leupolz’s long back pass only just went the right side of the post from their perspective.

Chelsea created a rare chance afterwards when Sophie Ingle’s long ball to Kerr was beautifully controlled by the Australian before she combined with Harder to find Kirby. Her cross from the right was towards the Matildas star but Bayern sub Carina Wenninger got in first. The resulting corner saw Kerr’s header comfortably saved by Laura Benkarth.

The home side pressed again and Beerensteyn conceded a free-kick just outside the box on the right with seven minutes left. Carter curled a glorious ball in and Harder was completely unmarked to head home to put Chelsea in front on aggregate for the first time.

With two minutes to go Kerr had the chance to settle matters once and for all when she used her searing pace to break through and tried to curl a shot into the far right corner, but it was wide.

Bayern immediately hit back to force a corner which resulted in a shot by Buhl which Eriksson had to clear off the line. It rebounded straight to Simone Laudehr whose effort was blocked by Kerr. Ann-Katrin Berger also made an outstanding save with her foot during this period.

The closing stages saw the Germans lay siege to the Chelsea goal. In doing so, Bayern threw goalkeeper Benkarth up front. This desperate gamble had catastrophic consequences for them when Erin Cuthbert won possession just outside her own box and found Kirby. With no-one in goal the England star could not miss and Chelsea were home and hosed.

The Blues will now go on to face FC Barcelona in the Champions League Final in Gothenburg on 16th May.

Speaking after the game, an emotional Chelsea boss Emma Hayes said: “I’ve worked my whole life for today and I’m so proud of my players. In these situations it is so tense. This is the consequence of thousands of hours of travelling and set-backs for me. I’ve done it through hard work and determination. I work with a set of players who were always in control. They did everything possible today.

“We were terrible defending set pieces today, but the team put bodies on the line. I played them a video from a UFC star before the game with the girl saying ‘I’m the best’. We’re in this position because we deserve to be.

“I’ve been here for nine years. It’s been a long time coming. I’m going to have a lovely sing song and cry on the way home!”

The only previous time that England has had a representative in a European club final was Arsenal in 2007. The Gunners lifted the trophy that with a 1-0 aggregate win over Swedish side Umea. Their assistant coach for that game was none other than the present Chelsea head coach Emma Hayes.

CHELSEA: Berger, Charles, Eriksson, Bright, Carter, Ingle, Leupolz, Ji, Kirby, Harder, Kerr. Substitutes: Musovic (GK), Blundell, England, Reiten, Fleming, Cuthbert (for Leupolz 88), Spence (for Harder 90+2), Telford (GK), J. Andersson, Fox.

Scorers: Kirby 11, 90+4. Ji 44. Harder 84.

BAYERN MUNICH: Benkarth, Simon, Hegering, Ilestedt, Glas, Zadrazil, Magull, Lohmann, Buhl, Schuller, Beerensteyn. Substitutes: Grohs (GK), Boye Sorensen, Corley, Dallmann (for Schuller 61), Asseyi (for Lohmann 76), Wenninger (for Simon 76), Lehmann (GK), Laudehr (for Ilestedt 88), Vilhjalmsdottir.

Scorers: Zadrazil 29.

Referee: Esther Staubli (SUI).

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