Chelsea Ladies 0-3 VfL Wolfsburg Frauen: Blues sing the blues at the Bridge

Last year’s runners up, VfL Wolfsburg got their UEFA Women's Champions League campaign off to a flying start with a comprehensive 0-3 win over Chelsea.

Blues settle first but come unstuck

The game started slowly with the hosts on the attack, with Beth England using her return to the starting XI to showcase her talents getting forward on the right with Eni Aluko looking to get in behind Nilla Fischer with her renound pace. The visitors struggled to offer much going forward in the opening exchanges, but began to work forward and test Hedvig Lindahl, although Babett Peter’s volley from the first corner of the game was less than spectacular.

The two sides were evenly matched, one went forward and the other dropped back before pushing their opposition right back. However as the Blues looked to use Aluko and limited the numbers going forward, the Wolves brought more and more bodies forward as they searched for the opener.

Well settled with a lay of the land, Wolfsburg struck first. Lena Goeßling’s long ball over the top found Zsanett Jakabfi, one-on-one with Claire Rafferty the attacker nodded the ball on before squirming around Rafferty’s back. With her toe on the ball first, Jakabfi lifted it over Lindahl and the Swedish number one was forced to watch the ball float over her head and into the back of the net.

With the crowd firmly behind them the Blues looked to mount a meaningful attack, Wolfsburg had numbers back but no one closed down the ball; they did just about enough to repel the advances of Karen Carney, Aluko and England. There was a sense of something building over the Bridge as the home fans watched blue shirts cleave out of their own half. The hosts were lucky not to have seen their disadvantage doubled ten minutes after the first. The visitors scythed forward, pinning blue inside of their own half. Caroline Graham Hansen’s ball flashed across goal and evaded Lindahl but Sara Bjork Gunnarsdóttir was equally as mistimed, arriving well but failing to connect.

Wolfsburg Hungary for a second

The crowd got off their seats when the hosts won a deep throw-in and with England’s first delivery nodded back out, her second was half-cleared by a leaping Peter. Carney’s volley deflected between Aluko and Almuth Schult, but the 'keeper claimed the looping ball. Confusion in midfield saw Niamh Fahey rob Alexandra Popp before breaking in behind, Anna Blässe sprinted away to knock the ball away before Fahey could be afforded a chance. The resulting corner half-cleared before Blueed forward again, Blässe tracked back once more to mop up on the right.

The visitors carried a persistent threat when they got forward, though Lindahl afforded a chance to relax when Millie Bright charged down an attempted pass to Gunnarsdóttir on the edge of the box; the defender deflected Isabel Kerschowski’s driven shot just wide. Lindahl was called back into action at the corner that followed, dropping Jakabfi’s header and just catching it before the offending object rolled between her ankles.

Jakabfi was the player to double the advantage for the visiting Wolves, nodding Lara Dickenmann’s whipped ball past Lindahl at the far post. Her marker was once again beaten as the ball arrowed into the far side of the net, with Gunnarsdottir thumping the ball over the line half a yard out for god measure. Bright then was on hand to make sure the hosts weren’t undone by exactly the same move again one minute later, as Dickenmann’s searching ball nodded over by the utility defender.

But with each Wolfsburg attack the Blues only came forward harder, more determined to give the fans something to cheer. Green shorts slid around left and right as Aluko, England and Carney marched on, the tackles frantic and badly timed, no contact but with no hope of winning the ball off of the determined attackers. But each attack left the hosts further and further out of position, and Dickenmann grew as a threat as she continued to find space down the left; the defence scrambled with each whipped cross. Hansen’s stoppage time side-footed volley from one such cross left Lindahl rooted, breathing a sigh of relief as she watched the ball drift wide of her upright.

Hungarian hat-trick

After Emma Hayes had already gone to her bench during the first-half to replaced the injured Ana Borges with Ji So Yun, and the Chelsea boss went back to the subs during the break, hoping the introduction of Gemma Davison would be the catalyst for a Chelsea come-back.

The Blues once again looked to hurt their opposition from the off but their possession for nothing as the sea of blue couldn’t build in the attacking half. The hosts were susceptible to being caught on the counter, and found themselves undone once again by Jakabfi as she poked Hansen’s squared ball past an out of position Lindahl for her hat trick. Hansen looked to add a goal to her assist as she smuggled in behind the pushed up defence once more, one-on-one with Lindahl the Swede was equal to her effort.

The crowd backed the hosts to the hilt as Davison ripped one from distance, as the ball hooked through the air and slipped past the post. Davison involved moments later as she fired the ball at Kerschowski’s hand, the referee didn't hesitate to award the free kick just outside of the box.

Carney’s delivery was almost enough for the hosts and the ball pinged back and forth, half cleared and set back, half cleared and sent back once again, the noise rising, was this the moment? The ball finally was brought clear as Blässe looked to break, holding the ball up for her teammates, as Chelsea closed out the attempted counter.

The visitors were denied a fourth in the 70th minute, when substitute Tessa Wullaert’s dangerous ball across was met by Gunnarsdóttir. Lindahl parried the effort back at the Icelandic international before making a quick-fire second save against the midfielder. Lindahl was once more a match for a Wullaert-driven attack as the attacker broke beyond the back line once more, before firing at the near post; the Swedish number one was never under any real threat, though.

Schult was kept increasingly busy during the last fifteen minutes. A spectator for much of the game, she had to be alert to snuff out the mounting danger as Chelsea began to rip out the kitchen fixtures to throw at the away goal.

But there was to be no joy for the home fans who’d turned out to cheer on their team, Wolfsburg outclassed them across the pitch and there is now a mountain to ascend in Germany next week if they’re to progress to the Round of 16. Last year’s runners up looked as good as they have all year; they’ve thrown down the gauntlet for all teams in the competition.