With defensemen Millie Bright and Kadeisha Buchanan injured, Emma Hayes had to retouch the game plan against Barcelona. “Chelsea is a much stronger team defensively than the one we found ourselves in the 2021 final, especially since they signed Buchanan,” Jonatan Giráldez, Barça coach, assured in the run-up to the duel. “We decided not to start Lauren James to play with 3-5-2 and thus control Barcelona more,” Hayes said after the game. The English coach’s idea was, fundamentally, to control Carolina Graham Hansen. She could not. “Carolina is phenomenal one on one. You can’t let it penetrate through the center, nor through the bottom line. So it’s hard. I don’t think anyone does it better than her right now”, highlighted the footballer blueGuro Reiten.
Nobody completed more dribbles than Graham Hansen, five. None as forceful as the first. In the third minute, the Norwegian dribbled past Carter and signed the only goal of the duel at Stamford Bridge. “A bad start. A bad time to concede a goal because gifts cannot be given at this stage”, Hayes explained. And he completed: “The quality of Barcelona, they have so many outstanding footballers…”. While the Chelsea coach highlighted Barcelona’s attack, Jonatan Giráldez praised his full-backs. “We played a very good game defensively. All the work we had done paid off. We play as a united block. We were very focused throughout the game and we played well positioned. That made us much more capable of coping with Chelsea’s transitions”, analyzed the Barcelona coach.
However, Barcelona had to correct the pressure after passing through the locker room. In the first half, the Catalans suffered in transitions. And Chelsea took advantage of it: four shots, two between the three posts. In the second act, on the other hand, the blues they tested Sandra Paños only twice. “In the first half we let them go a long way. Practically, their centrals launched from the center of the field and that made us play in our area. It was almost a goal chance. What we did in the second half was to try to avoid those long balls, which were more difficult to throw”, explained Irene Paredes. And she added: “It is very important to leave a clean sheet against a team that generates chances almost without wanting to”. “Why did it cost us?” Aitana said; “because it’s Chelsea”. “He is a difficult rival to beat and he has had a good season. Competing with them is difficult. We have shown a great personality and, although there are 90 minutes left in the tie, the things we have done well today have helped us a lot”, closed Giráldez.
Barcelona closed the goal of Paños, while hooking Graham Hansen to find his ticket to Eindhoven. In the other semifinal, Wolfsburg will host Arsenal this Sunday at the Volkswagen-Arena.
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