Barca draw Chelsea to reach third Champions League final

Barcelona booked their place in a third consecutive women’s Champions League final with a 1-1 draw against Chelsea on Thursday at Camp Nou, progressing 2-1 on aggregate.

First-leg goalscorer Caroline Graham Hansen broke the deadlock after 63 minutes but Guro Reiten quickly levelled from a rebound after Sam Kerr was denied.

In front of over 72,000 fans, the third highest attendance in the competition’s history, behind two records set by Barcelona last season, the 2021 winners held on to reach a fourth final in five years. 

Chelsea showed plenty of grit to stay in the tie against a superior Barca, becoming the first side to stop them from winning in a home match all season across all competitions.

“There was a period after their goal where it seemed they were more in our half of the pitch, but we stopped them creating chances,” said said Barca coach Jonatan Giraldez.

“We are very happy, for the team and for the fans. We suffered when we had to suffer, we know it’s not easy — and we’re in another final.”

Barcelona were without England defender Lucy Bronze after knee surgery, while Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas was on the bench for the first time this season after her ACL injury last July.

However the Spanish star was not risked as a substitute in a tense and hard-fought game which went down to the wire.

“The game was too open, the speed was too high, and for a return it was too risky,” said Giraldez.

“We will try to get her out there in the next game.”

Graham Hansen thought she had fired Barcelona ahead again early on but the strike was disallowed as she used her arm to control the ball.

Nigeria international Asisat Oshoala slashed wildly off target when well placed as the hosts dominated the ball but struggled to find the opening goal.

Aitana Bonmati showed fantastic footwork in the area but could not find the net, as Barcelona gave the Blues a lesson in possession football but not finishing.

Breakthrough

Graham Hansen danced across the box early in the second half but had her route to goal blocked as Giraldez’s side continued to control the match.

Eventually the Norwegian winger pounced after a fine burst downfield by Bonmati, who played in Graham Hansen to finish clinically.

Chelsea conjured an instant response when Erin Cuthbert won the ball with a powerful tackle on Mariona Caldentey, allowing Melanie Leupolz to release Kerr.

Barcelona goalkeeper Sandra Panos thwarted the Australian striker but Reiten was on hand to finish as the ball bounced her way.

Panos fielded a swerving Cuthbert drive from distance as Chelsea sought a goal to force extra-time, with Emma Hayes’ side finally on top.

Barcelona sought to kill the tie on the break and substitute Salma Paralluelo came close with a low strike tipped away by Ann-Katrin Berger.

Brazilian striker Geyse missed a good opportunity for Barcelona in stoppage time as the hosts kept Chelsea at bay and celebrated wildly with their fans at full-time, before doing a lap of honour.

Barcelona will face either Arsenal or Wolfsburg in the final in Eindhoven on June 3.

Chelsea finished runners-up to Barcelona in the 2021 final, suffering a 4-0 defeat, but Hayes said the gap between the sides was closing.

“I’m pretty certain the gaps are closing across Europe and today’s performance is evidence of that,” the Chelsea coach told reporters.

“We’re disappointed, I don’t know too many teams that come here as brave as we were, there’s no denying you have to survive in the first parts of the game.

“There’s a huge crowd here and it’s an incredibly intimidating environment, my players managed all of the situations and executed the game plan. In the second half I think we dominated.

“I’m really proud of the players, just disappointed with the result.”

Source: AFP

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