They’ve only gone and done it - Kirby brace puts Blues into Champions League final
By Paul Lagan at Kingsmeadow Stadium
Chelsea 4 v Bayern Munich 1 (5-3)
Fran Kirby struck twice as Chelsea overcame a 2-1 first leg deficit to beat Bayern Munich 4-1 at Kingsmeadow to create history by putting the west Londoners into the Champions League final beating the Germans 4-1 to make it 5-3 on aggregate.
This was a sublime performance by the Blues who showed character after being pegged back to 1-1 to keep plugging away and take the chances when they came.
Ji opened the score and further strikes by Kirby and Pernille Harder put the Blues ahead on aggregate before Kirby settled the match with the last kick of the game.
It was a vey nervy start by the Blues - caught between two stools, trying to prevent a quick counter-attack by the Germans, and trying to get the early strike themselves.
But they soon settled and a sensational break on 11 minutes saw Sam Kerr feed Fran Kirby in the middle of the pitch. Kerr held the ball long enough to produce a great return ball to Kerr who reciprocated the favour to in-running Kirby. The live wire striker, took one touch before sliding a deft low, left-footer past Laura Benkarth to open the score and lead on the away goals rule.
Jess Carter then blocked Lineth Beerensteyn’s goal-bound effort three minutes later, preserving the slender lead.
A clever pass by Melanie Leupolz almost caught the visitors napping, Kerr was the target but a late nick on the head by a defender put the ball away for a corner on 21 minutes.
Then an avoidable disaster struck.
While Chelsea, defending a corner with all their players in the penalty area, the ball fell to Sarah Zadrazil, who, unchallenged produced a world-class 35 yard strike that sailed past Ann-Katrin Berger to put the Germans level but crucially ahead on aggregate.
Had Chelsea done the simple thing and put Kirby up the pitch, that would have forced two Bayern players back - thus avoiding the free space given to Zadrazil.
Both sides has shouts for a penalty refused by Swiss referee Esther Stabui within minutes of each other.
The game turned again two minutes from the break, Kirby was fouled just outside the Bayern penalty area. Up stepped JI, but she shot straight into the wall, but the ball fell invitingly back to her and she slapped a daisy-cutter back on goal, and the ball seemed to take an age before nestling into the back of the net to restore the Blues lead but make it level on aggregate.
There were no changes by either side at half-time.
Within seconds of the restart Jess Carter was yellowed carded for a late challenge as the Germans sensed this was the time to turn the screw.
Neither side could however forge a true goal scoring opportunity as the game entered the final 10 minutes.
But wit six minutes on the clock, Carter was thumped to the ground by Beerensteyn. The Brummie took the free kick and sent in a glorious ball that Pernille Harder, up to that point a peripheral figure, raced clear of her marker and planted the perfect header into the back of the net to put the Blues 3-1 up and 4-3 ahead on aggregate.
Emma Hayes made her first change in personnel two minutes later taking off Leupolz for Erin Cuthbert.
Kerr should have scored seconds later when she raced clear, no one could catch her but she sent her shot wide of goal.
Magda Eriksson then cleared the ball off her goal line as Bayern threw the kitchen sink to the Londoners.
Drew Spence then replaced Harder.
Within seconds, Cuthbert collected the ball in midfield, sent the ball wide to Kirby, who with an empty net to shoot at slotted the ball into the back of the net to make it 4-1 and a trip to Gothenburg for the Champions League Final.
Chelsea: Berger Bright, Ingle, Carter, Leupolz , Ji, Kirby, ErIksson, Kerr, Charles, Harder
subs: Musovic, Telford, Blundell, England, Reiten, Fleming, Cuthbert Spence, Anderson, Fox