Despite taking a very early lead, Chelsea were pegged back by Wolfsburg, the Germans claiming pairty before taking the lead before half time, the scales weighted further after the break as Wolfsburg set their sights on a fourth UEFA Women’s Champions League final.
Blink and you’ll miss it
Well bruised by their previous two encounters with Wolfsburg, Chelsea wasted no time in claiming the lead at home, Ji So-yun on the scoresheet within two minutes. Determination from Fran Kirby saw her slip past Noëlle Maritz and feed the ball into the box, a swivel from the South Korean enough to ease away from Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir and slot the ball into the bottom right corner. Bolstered by their early goal the Blues were swift to press their unsettled visitors, the defence still looking shaky as the hosts came close to an instant double.
Growing into the game, the Wolves began to possess the ball, working their way forward, probing for openings, their equaliser coming from their first real chance. A sterling run forward from Lara Dickenmann saw the Swiss international gobble up the space on the left-hand wing before crossing at the by-line, Gunnarsdóttir’s late run into the box capped off with a bullet header.
Just as the opening goal had given Chelsea an extra edge, the equaliser saw Wolfsburg grow in stature, the German champions setting the rhythm and leaving the hosts to chase, unable to catch their tails. A nippy run and light touch with the ball had Ewa Pajor open up space in the box before striking low towards the far post, her low effort enough to beat Hedvig Lindahl but not the post. With six defensively minded players in their starting XI, Chelsea did their best to cover the spaces and reduce the options for the Wolves though their hosts were more than happy to press against them. Using the full width of the pitch and moving the ball through space, Wolfsburg continued to look dangerous in attack though still questionable in defence.
Swings and roundabouts
Determination from Erin Cuthbert had the young Scot chip the ball forward for Kirby, the visitors suddenly scrambling as they found themselves defending a Magda Eriksson corner. A clumsy foul from Nilla Fischer brought about the first booking of the game as she brought Cuthbert down just outside the box, the set piece once again delivered by Eriksson. The defender’s whipped effort punched away by Almuth Schult before she dived on Ji’s follow up.
From one counter to the next, Drew Spence was next in the book for a professional foul, Lena Goeßling’s free kick sent into the mixer and headed on by Alex Popp, the last touch coming from Millie Bright. The first half comeback complete with three minutes to spare, the pace refused to relent, the half time break coming all too soon for both teams who seemed desperate for the fourth goal.
Waiting for the fourth
Picking right up from where they left off, both sides went hammer and tong after the restart, an attack for the hosts flowed into a chance for the visitors, Pernille Harder’s direct free kick red and held by Lindahl. Another reset saw Chelsea flock forward once more, blue shirts suddenly flooding the attacking half as they looked to stretch the pitch, though the possession soon turned over as they went backwards and lost their bite.
The ball moved from one end of the pitch to the other before getting stuck in midfield, Wolfsburg the side edging it as the match past the hour mark. That edge of strength enough to see the Wolves claim their third goal of the tie, Caroline Graham Hansen’s cross acrobatically sent home by Dickenmann. Well involved all game, the versatile midfielder found herself in space in the box as the ball came in, improvising she threw her body backwards to catch the ball with a low bicycle kick, Lindahl unable to get to the ball as it bounced into the far side of the goal.
A handful of changes and more fouls trickled through, slowing the game down before Chelsea had half a sight of goal, the visiting defence out of sync as time ticked down, the ball turned over once more. Starting to flag at the back, Chelsea held their breath as the Germans attacked again, Pajor’s ball juggling on the turf teasing a grandstand goal as blue shirts grouped on the line, Zsanett Jakabfi’s follow up well wide.
Penalised for handling outside of the box, Lindahl was the last in the book as Wolfsburg lined up another set piece, the delivery headed clear by Katie Chapman before a substandard corner. Looking to finish with a flourish, Chelsea did their best to get forward again, Kirby’s curler easy enough for Schult to deal with, the striker stranded for the majority of the match. The game ending with a whimper for the hosts, half way through the tie and the Blues look to have come unstuck by the Wolves for the third season on the bounce.