Barcelona have reached their third successive Women’s Champions League final despite a 1-1 draw with Chelsea at Camp Nou as they emerged 2-1 winners on aggregate.
Chelsea Women, thrashed by Barcelona Femenino in the final two years ago, knew they had to score in Spain to overturn a 1-0 first leg deficit.
Guro Reiten cancelled out Caroline Graham Hansen’s opener, but despite Chelsea’s best efforts they couldn’t find a second goal as Barcelona booked their place in the final at Eindhoven – to be played against either Arsenal or Wolfsburg on Saturday, June 3.
READ ALSO: Title race not decided yet – Pep Guardiola
Chelsea knew the size of the task facing them having lost the first leg 1-0 at Stamford Bridge, with Barcelona’s winning streak at home stretching back as far as February 2019.
Therefore, Emma Hayes’ side will have been satisfied to have gone in at half-time with the game scoreless; although the Catalan club had dominated proceedings, they failed to register a shot on target.
The inclusion of two-time Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas in the Barcelona squad for the first time in 10 months raised excitement before kick-off, but it was Graham Hansen – scorer of Barcelona’s goal at Stamford Bridge – who the crowd was gripped on in the first half. She had a goal ruled out for offside before laying on an opening for Mariona Caldentey who shot over.
But the perseverance of the Norway international shown through in the second half when she ruthlessly finished off a fine counter-attacking goal in the 63rd-minute following a superb run by the excellent Aitana Bonmati.
READ ALSO: Chelsea 0-2 Real Madrid: Pathetic Chelsea dumped out
However, the Blues were back in the tie just four minutes later when Reiten converted with a rebound after Sam Kerr was denied by goalkeeper Sandra Panos. The goal stood following a VAR check after a strong challenge by Erin Cuthbert in the build-up.
The visitors were brave in their attempt to send the tie into extra-time but the Catalan club – who kept Putellas on the bench – held on amid jubilant scenes at the final whistle.
Chelsea have faced 16 different opponents in the Women’s Champions League and beaten 15 of them – the only side they haven’t beaten is Barcelona (P3 L2, D1).
Barcelona are favourites
Barcelona will go into the final on 3 June as heavy favourites whoever they play, having dominated in Europe in recent years.
Their defeat to Lyon 11 months ago came as a blow after they had swept aside the competition in 2021, but the French giants were beaten by Chelsea en route to the semi-finals this year so will not stand in Barca’s way.
They continue to showcase their astonishing talents with Bonmati and Graham Hansen particularly impressive against Chelsea – and superstar Putellas could yet be unleashed for the final.
For Hayes, it is another disappointing end to the pursuit of a trophy that has eluded her grasp throughout her Chelsea tenure.
Her players looked understandably distraught at full-time and they did not stick around as their counterparts did a lap of honour.
Chelsea’s season is far from over, though, and this defeat will only make them hungrier as they continue to fight for silverware on two fronts.