Barcelona reached its third straight Women’s Champions League final with a 1-1 draw against Chelsea on Thursday, ensuring the Spanish club advanced 2-1 on aggregate.
But, in front of 72,000 fans at the Camp Nou, Guro Reiten equalized for Chelsea within five minutes to give the London side a glimmer of hope.
Chelsea pushed for the goal that would bring the two sides level on aggregate – Lauren James and Pernille Harder being sent on by Chelsea manager Emma Hayes in an attempt to grab that important goal – but to no avail.
Barcelona will face the winner of the other semifinal between Arsenal and Wolfsburg, which is level at 2-2 after the first leg, in the final which takes place on June 3 at the Philips Stadion in Eindhoven, Netherlands.
Barcelona midfielder Aitana Bonmatí said her team’s qualification for the final is the result of a lot of hard work.
“We’ve worked day and night for years to achieve this. To reach the final in front of our own fans was fantastic, but now we have to go and win it,” Bonmatí told reporters.
“In the second half I knew that it was a tense situation but also a dangerous one because one slip from us could have let Chelsea level the tie.
“Then, when Chelsea scored so soon after we went ahead it was time to ‘manage’ our performance and that’s key in elite football – you can enjoy yourself but you’ll always have to suffer.”
Overcoming a one goal deficit already looked a tall task for Chelsea traveling to Spain; facing a team who had won its last 19 matches and in front of a raucous crowd – one which was only heightened further when it was announced that Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas was named on the bench.
In what was a rematch of the 2021 Women’s Champions League final in which Barcelona comfortably beat Chelsea 4-0, Thursday’s game was a much tighter affair, with both sides having good chances.
Graham Hansen eventually opened the scoring midway through the second half, sending those in attendance into delirium as their final spot looked all but sealed.
But Reiten’s leveler ensured a nervy final 20 minutes, but Chelsea was unable to find that illusive goal.
“I cannot ask any more from my players. We are proud to be Chelsea,” Hayes said afterwards.
“I think we lost the tie because of the home leg. We were brave, we executed the game plan, everyone delivered a performance and I’ve never seen a Barça team so panicked. Especially second half, I thought we were the better team.
“We’ve had the hardest draw in this tournament. We’ve shown a lot of wisdom and experience tonight. It just wasn’t enough.”