The Chelsea Women are one of the most distinguished groups in Europe, especially over the last decade with Emma Hayes in charge. The Blues have captured nine trophies with Hayes at the helm—four FAWSL titles, two FA Cups, two League Cups and a Community Shield—making the London native the winningest manager in the club’s storied history. Despite all of the success, there is one trophy that has haunted Hayes: the UEFA Women’s Champions League. Chelsea has come close to securing European glory on numerous occasions, but fallen flat each time.
The Blues are once again making a run at the UWCL title, but they have been given a humungous obstacle this time around. Chelsea drew Wolfsburg—a 2016, 2018 and 2020 runner-up—in the quarterfinals of this season’s tournament. Wolfsburg has been the bane of the Blues’ existence over the years, sending the English side packing in three of its last four UWCL campaigns. However, Chelsea showed on Wednesday that it will not simply roll over and let the ghosts of European past haunt it. The Blues captured their first win over Wolfsburg in club history, defeating the German outfit 2-1, in the first leg in Budapest.
How did Chelsea play in the home leg of the UWCL contest against Wolfsburg?
Behind the goalscoring brilliance of Sam Kerr and Pernille Harder, a former Wolfsburg striker herself, Chelsea was able to gain an advantage going into the second leg. There were nervy moments throughout the match and Wolfsburg fans might even consider the “hosts” lucky to have escaped with a win. The Germans hit the post on numerous occasions and the Blues relied on the heroics of Ann-Katrin Berger in goal a handful of times.
However, the name of the game is goals, and Chelsea capitalized on its chances. Kerr opened the scoring with a world class finish right after halftime before Harder doubled the English side’s advantage. It was a huge mistake at the back for Wolfsburg that allowed Harder to get an uncontested look at goal and to put it simply, she doesn’t miss those opportunities. Despite all of Wolfsburg’s attacking brilliance, it relied on a mistake by Chelsea captain Magdalena Eriksson to score its lone goal. Eriksson brought down an opposing attacker in the box and Dominique Janseen finished the spot-kick brilliantly to cut the lead in half.
The Blues escaped the day with a win, but the job is far from finished.
The “away” goal—both legs will be played in Budapest—could come into play when things are said and done. Wolfsburg had a lot of quality chances on target throughout the first leg. The Blues were lucky Berger was at her best. If the Germans bring their shooting boots in the second leg, things could get messy for Chelsea. Luckily, Hayes and her side will have a chance to rest and regroup at the weekend as 10th-place Aston Villa poses no real threat in the league.
No mention of the match would be complete without shouting out Millie Bright, Jonna Andersson and Niamh Charles. Each of the aforementioned defenders had clearances off the line at one point or another. If not for Berger’s heroics, Charles would’ve run away with the Woman of the Match award, despite playing in an unnatural position at right back.
All of this goes to show that the Blues are not off the hook yet. The historic victory is something to be celebrated but the tie is still up in the air. The second installment of this historic clash between the two clubs will surely see Wolfsburg at its best, Chelsea will need to keep its eyes on the prize.
Round one of this bout goes to the Blues. All eyes remain on Budapest and the second leg though, as Chelsea continues its hunt for the Champions League trophy its prestigious cabinet is missing.