November 29, 2022

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Chelsea 4-1 Bayern Munich: Emma Hayes side first-ever Women’s Champions League final

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It was ‘mindfulness’ that Emma Hayes had asked for, in an absorbing pre-match discussion of what it would take to end an English team to the Champions League final for the first time in 14 years. ‘Our ability to stay calm in every moment.’

And so it transpired. They rode their luck at the death but after a game played on edge throughout, made the critical breakthrough eight months from time when Pernille Harder ran across the face of goal to meet Jess Carter’s free kick with a header of supreme technical quality.

The goal, which Fran Kirby added to by passing into an empty as Bayern chased a decisive second goal of their own at the death, was a fitting conclusion to a win which will see Chelsea face Barcelona in the Gothenburg showpiece. They have failed at the semi final stage twice in the past

Kirby revealed again why she is the British game’s outstanding player. Magda Eriksson was a huge presence as the Germans drove for a second half equaliser. But it was also the afternoon when young full-back Niamh Charles made a big statement.

The most striking part of the game’s opening was the sense that Chelsea, a goal behind from the first leg, were in no way intimidated by the sudden jeopardy. They went at the German league leaders like an express train, with Kirby the driving force of the attacking trident which overwhelmed them.

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MATCH FACTS

Chelsea XI: Berger, Carter, Bright, Eriksson, Charles, Leupolz, Ingle, Ji, Kirby, Harder, Kerr

Bayern Munich XI: Benkarth, Ilestedt, Hegering, Glas, Beerensteyn, Zadrazil, Magull, Schuller, Simon, Buhl, Lohmann

Referee: E. Staubli (Switzerland) 

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The opening goal was an object of beauty – Kirkby driving ahead from her own half to find Kerr, who cut inside Amanda Ilstedt and returned the ball for Kirby to take a touch and score. Defender Carolin Simon was the wrong side of Kirby, who was granted too much space, but it was a supreme finish.

It was the goal of a side with balance and order restored after an anxious first leg. Captain Magda Eriksson’s return provided assurance missing in the Bavaria game and released influential Sophie Ingle, who had deputised for her, to create in midfield, her natural domain.

There is no way to legislate, of course, for moments of world class and the equaliser – a Austrian Sarah Zadrazil hitting across the ball to send a 30-yard half volley half swerving away from Ann-Katrin Berger – was precisely that.

What then ensued was not quite the performance of perfection that Hayes had hoped for. The tension inevitable took a toll at times. Bayern might have eased ahead again on one of the several occasions Lineth Beerensteyn was not marsallled tightly enough. Lea Schuller fired wide. Germany’s counter-attacking machine frequently took flight in a compelling second half. The goal-line clearance was one of three good chances.

But Carter won a free kick on the Chelsea right and delivered the ball, low in flight, which Harder connected with. Hayes, euphoric at the end, becomes the first woman coach in 12 years to coach a team in the Champions League final. She is not finished yet.

More to follow… 

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