Blues beaten 1-0 at home to top-class Barcelona in first leg of Champions League semi-final
By Paul Lagan at Stamford Bridge
Chelsea 0 v Barcelona 1
It’s only half time, there’s still 90 minutes left to go.
Whatever cliche one can come out with, the fact remains Chelsea were outfought, out thought and ultimately outgunned. And they lost, at home 1-0 to Barcelona in the Champions League semi-final first leg.
It might be only a single goal deficit, thanks to a stunning effort by Carolina Graham Hansen, but there was more to see in Barcelona’s performance to suggest the return leg will see them power through to the final.
Chelsea, deprived of defenders Millie Bright and Kadeisha Buchanan and striker Fran Kirby though a long-term layoff look a pale side of the side, who, when fully staffed can dig themselves out of a hole.
This side looks anaemic in comparison.
Sam Kerr, cut a lonely figure up front, aided by Guro Reiten when needed. But with a three-player defence and ineffectual,wingbacks going forward, the Australian was isolated to the extent that she might as well have been in the bench.
It took Barcelona just five minutes to open the scoring and as a real ripper from Hansen.
She executed the perfect long-range curling left-footer that saw the ball bend past the helpless Ann-Katrin Berger and the ball bulleted into the back of her net.
The opening exchanges up until then were fairly even, but with a defensive mindset and a lone Sam Kerr up front, the last thing the west Londoners needed was to concede an early goal.
The away side dominated the game, but the Blues by and large kept them a bay - Geyse had a low, edge of the penalty area shot saved by Berger.
Chelsea fans and players got excited when a Kerr shot appeared to hit the arm of Barca defender Irene Paredes. But VAR did not even bother to double-check as the game continued much to the Blues annoyance.
Guro Reiten thought she had equalised on 29 minutes but while her pass from Kerr was perfect as she slotted home, Kerr had, not for the first time this season - nor last, strayed offside.
The Lino let the play develop and VAR agreed when the offside flag was raised.
Reiten almost scored a legitimate goal when she latched onto a wonderful flick by Kerr. But her angled goal-bound shot was hacked away to safety by Lucy Bronze.
A change was needed by Emma Hayes and she opted to bring on mercurial Lauren James for Jelena Cankovic.
But it made little difference as the Spanish giants continued to dominate the ball and press Chelsea further back.
This gave Hayes no option other than to try again, this time Erin Cuthbert exited for fellow midfielder Sophie Ingle.
But again nothing really changed for Chelsea.
In fact Barcelona hit the post through the unchallenged header from Marta Torrejon.
With the game seemingly drifting to a 1-0 defeat, it was the case of a last chance saloon as Hayes made a triple substitution this time, Pernille Harder - back from a long-term hamstring injury, Johanna Rytting Kaneryd and Jessie Fleming came on for Melanie Leupolz, Reiten, and Eve Perisset.
But it couldn’t alter the play and the game petered out.
The return leg is on Thursday at the Nou Camp.
Teams: Chelsea, Berger, Carter, Leupolz, Reiten, Perisset, Eriksson, Mjelde, Kerr, Charles, Cuthbert, Cankovic,
Subs: Musovic, Orman, Ingle, James, Fleming, Rytting Kaneryd, Harder, Abdullina
Barcelona, Panos, Paredes, Leon, Hansen, Guijarro, Bonmati, Bronze, Rolfo, Parralluelo, Geyse, Walsh
Subs: Coll, Panedas, Fernandez, Pina, Crnogorcevic, Torrejon, Caldentey, Vilamala, Oshoala, Rabano, Syrstad Engen, Lopez
Referee: Jana Adamkova