This midweek, Chelsea Ladies created history as they reached the Champions League Quarter Finals for the first time in their history. Having lost in the last 16 stage two years ago and then leaving the tournament even earlier in the round of 32 stage last year, Emma Hayes and her team could be forgiven for thinking it would be another tough task this season. However, the team has shown a clinical determination to get to this stage and will now start thinking of going even further!
The Blues couldn’t have wished for a tougher start in the opening round of 32 as they were drawn against Bayern Munich. A team they had previously been comfortably beaten by in pre-season and again facing German opposition who had knocked them out of their two previous European campaigns. Chelsea were drawn at home for the first leg and the Bavarians came to Kingston in a confident mood as favorites having won 3 of their previous 4 games at that point. The game proved to be a tight affair but most importantly, Chelsea came out on top after an early Drew Spence goal and a assured rear guard performance meant Chelsea were able to take a 1-0 lead to Munich.
The second leg was a tense and cagey affair with Bayern controlling the tone of the game but Chelsea remaining strong. The first half ended goalless with Chelsea still holding the slim advantage. In the second half the game got a lot more exciting; Fran Kirby got an excellent goal in which she finished so smartly after being released one on one with the keeper and Chelsea had their away goal which they thought had ended the contest. However, Bayern hit back with two quick fire goals and with ten minutes left only needed one more to tip the tie in their favour. These final minutes were frantic as Bayern laid siege to Chelsea’s goal and in reality, the Germans probably should have got the winner with some of the clear chances they created. However, lady luck was shining on Chelsea and Hedvig Lindahl in the Chelsea goal and The Blues managed to go through on away goals with the score at 2-2 on aggregate.
In the round of 16 stage, Chelsea were drawn against Swedish team FC Rosengård. As with the last round Chelsea were to play the first leg at home at Kingsmeadow. The outcome of this first leg was much more convincing. Chelsea ran out 3-0 winners after a commanding display in which the Swedes had no answer to Chelsea’s incisive attacking play. Kirby got her second Champions League goal of the season in the 30th minute to calm any nerves. Then in the second half, Chelsea were able to control things and extend their lead further with goals from Ramona Bachmann and Gilly Flaherty.
After doing most of the hard work in the first leg, Chelsea came into the second leg in Sweden with an air of invincibility and that is exactly how they played. Again, they controlled possession and never had to get out of gear one. It was only a matter of time before they scored and put the game completely to bed. That goal came early in the second as Ji So-Yun’s deflected effort trickled into the bottom corner. The game petered out after that point and Chelsea celebrated another step on their development ladder.
Chelsea have displayed the many facets of their side in both rounds of the Champions League so far. They have been delightful going forward as shown in their first leg victory over Rosengård, while they have also shown how difficult they are to break down, evidenced in their first leg win over Bayern. Getting to the quarter finals would have been a minimum for the team but now they know they can go further and compete with Europe’s best when the Champions League restarts again in March.