Chelsea emerged victorious over Lyon on penalties in the Women’s Champions League quarter-finals after forcing a shootout with a 128th minute spot-kick to conclude a tense two-hour slog at Stamford Bridge on Thursday night.
Chelsea had a narrow cushion as the game kicked off, but a late Vanessa Gilles goal squeezed in at the near post forced extra-time, before Sara Dabritz looked to have sensationally won the tie for the holders in extra-time. But Maren Mjelde had ice in her veins colder than a Norwegian fjord to convert from 12 yards right at the death and a VAR-awarded penalty.
The shootout was even more tense, but Ann-Katrin Berger made herself a hero with two saves, the second a decisive one to deny American star Lindsey Horan.
Lyon’s Signe Bruun was guilty of snatching at a glorious early chance, capitalising on a poor attempted clearance from Magdalena Eriksson but lacking composure and blazing wide. The same player also failed to hit the target moments later with a more difficult volley.
Sam Kerr ought to have given Chelsea more breathing room when Lauren James put her through on goal, but Christiane Endler was equal to it – the ball actually caught her full in the face. The Lyon goalkeeper was soon in action again when she tipped a fierce James shot over the bar.
Bruun volleyed straight at Ann-Katrin Berger in the closing stages of the first half and Lyon coach Sonia Bompastor turned to Ada Hegerberg for the second 45 – the iconic Norwegian only made her long-awaited return as a substitute at the weekend.
As the visitors probed looking to level the aggregate score-line, Chelsea looked vulnerable in a way that they hadn’t really in the first half. Eriksson risked being caught on the ball in a wrestling match with Danielle van de Donk, while Hegerberg was threatening to tune her radar.
With the game ticking into the final quarter, things became bitty, which suited Chelsea, although Melanie Leupolz receiving lengthy treatment for a bloody nose was certainly not a pleasant sight.
But just as it seemed like the tie would peter out, Lyon got their breakthrough. For all the technical quality on the pitch, it was a somewhat scrappy near post tap-in from Gilles. The Canadian got in front of Eriksson to connect with Lindsey Horan’s cross and Berger couldn’t keep it out.
Chelsea upped the tempo and intensity after that to try and avoid extra-time at the end of what has already been a hugely busy month – this was game seven in March – but there was no breakthrough.
Extra-time was dominated by a clear fatigue from both sides, exhausted from what had preceded. And it was tiredness in the Chelsea ranks that perhaps sealed their fate, failing to deal with a teasing Hegerberg cross from the right – Eriksson swung and missed – and handing Dabritz the chance to fire a scruffy low shot back across goal into the bottom corner.
Chelsea were furious in stoppage time at the end of extra-time when James went down under pressure from Vicki Becho. The referee was un-moved, but a VAR intervention sent Ivana Martincic over to the pitch-side monitor, pointing to the spot after a lengthy check. Mjelde had nerves of absolute steel to send the ball high into the corner beyond the reach of Endler.
Chelsea: Mjelde (scored), Kerr (scored), Fleming (scored), James (missed), Carter (scored)
Lyon: Marozsan (scored), Hegerberg (scored), Renard (missed), Dabritz (scored), Horan (missed)
GK: Ann-Katrin Berger – 8/10 – Got a hand to the Gilles goal but couldn’t keep it out. Probably would have expected to be busier outside the shootout but then showed her quality by saving two.
RB: Eve Perisset – 7/10 – Careful with the ball and a good outlet on the right. Forced off injured.
CB: Kadeisha Buchanan – 7/10 – Faced different kinds of challenges from Bruun to Hegerberg.
CB: Magdalena Eriksson (c) – 4/10 – Struggled more than once and appeared to be the weak link in the Chelsea back-line. Not able to get across to Gilles and missed a clearance before Dabrtiz scored.
LB: Jess Carter – 7/10 – Had a solid night overall against a variety of threats.
CM: Erin Cuthbert -7 /10 – Worked so hard just as you expect from her, but fatigue showed later on.
CM: Melanie Leupolz – 7/10 – A gruesome facial injury prematurely ended her night. it had been a disciplined and combative performance up to that point.
CM: Guro Reiten – 6/10 – Often gave the ball away trying to make things happens. Furious with James at one point for not laying the ball off on the counter.
RW: Niamh Charles – 7/10 – Struggled to impact the game in an attacking sense but did so much work off the ball for her team.
ST: Lauren James – 8/10 – Looked the Chelsea player most likely to create something, but arguably guilty of wanting to do it all herself at times. Won the last gasp penalty. Missed in the shootout.
LW: Sam Kerr – 6/10 – Probably should have scored when one-on-one with Endler in the first half and failed to hit the target with others. Got crowded out too many times.
SUB: Sophie Ingle (71′ for Leupolz) – 6/10
SUB: Maren Mjelde (73′ for Perisset) – 6/10
SUB: Johanna Rytting Kaneryd (91′ for Reiten) – 5/10
SUB: Jessie Fleming (111′ for Cuthbert) – N/A
Emma Hayes – 7/10 – Had to start without Millie Bright again. This game really tested the depth of her squad again and there were a lot of tired legs on show towards the end.
GK: Christiane Endler – 7/10 – Made important saves in the first half that stopped Chelsea running up the aggregate score-line. Commanding in the final stages too.
RB: Ellie Carpenter – 6/10 – Supplied decent delivery from the right and was strong in the tackle.
CB: Vanessa Gilles – 8/10 – Scored the goal that sent the tie to extra-time with a surprisingly composed finish. Strong defensively.
CB: Wendie Renard – 8/10 – Repelled everything that came her way.
LB: Selma Bacha – 7/10 – Always seemed to want the ball and usually had her head up looking forward.
CM: Danielle van de Donk – 8/10 – Seemed to cover every blade of grass. Tough in the tackle, although arguably fortunate not be sent off when going into challenges on a yellow card.
CM: Damaris Egurrola – 6/10 – Strong at the base of the midfield, but Lyon needed more if they were going to get on the scoresheet – as they later did.
CM: Lindsey Horan – 7/10 – Always ready for the ball around the box and put Gilles’ goal on a plate for the defender to score. Unfortunately missed the decisive penalty.
RW: Delphine Cascarino – 6/10 – Got the better of Carter a few times but failed to make it count.
ST: Signe Bruun – 5/10 – Missed a number of chances in the first half and was replaced at the break.
LW: Amel Majri – 5/10 – Didnt see enough of the ball to make a telling impact.
SUB: Ada Hegerberg (46′ for Bruun) – 7/10
SUB: Sara Dabritz (56′ for Egurrola) – 7/10
SUB: Vicki Becho (73′ for Majri) – 5/10
SUB: Melvine Malard (97′ for Cascarino) – 5/10
SUB: Perle Morroni (106′ for Bacha) – 6/10
SUB: Dzsenifer Marozsan (106′ for Van de Donk) – 6/10
Sonia Bompastor – 7/10 – So very nearly had her team in the semis.
Player of the match – Lauren James (Chelsea)
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