Five-time Women African Footballer of the Year and Super Falcons forward, Asisat Oshoala, yesterday with Barcelona Femeni edged past Chelsea FC 2-1 on aggregate as the Spanish side reach the tournament’s final for the third consecutive time.
The feat, no doubt asserts the Nigerian star as the first African to play in the prestigious women’s tournament for the third time aside the fact that she was the first African to score in the final match when Barcelona lost 1-4 to Lyon two seasons ago with Oshoala scored the consolatory goal for her team.
But yesterday, it was Caroline Graham Hansen that haunted Chelsea again having scored the lone goal in the first leg at Stamford Bridge last week to give Barcelona a slender lead to the Camp Nou match
But the English side facing a side who had won their last 19 home games in Europe, were equally preared for the night before 70,000 fans and even score four minutes after the home aside scored in the 60th minute.
Chelsea pushed for the winner as they still trailed on aggregate but it never came as Barcelona confirmed their place in the final for a third successive year.
It ends Chelsea’s pursuit of a Treble but they remain firmly in the Women’s Super League title race and will compete with Manchester United for the Women’s FA Cup.
Meanwhile, Barcelona head into the final looking to reclaim the crown they lost to Lyon last year. They face the winner of the second semi-final between Arsenal and Wolfsburg, which is finely poised at 2-2 following the first leg.
Chelsea travelled to Barcelona knowing they had to produce arguably the greatest performance in their history to overturn the first-leg deficit.
The atmosphere before kick-off was carnival-like, with Barcelona fans draped in the club’s colours waiting to greet the team bus and chant the name of returning Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas, who was named on the bench for the first time in 10 months following a serious knee injury.
With the a hostile crowd an intimidating backdrop, Chelsea’s gameplan was clear: they wanted to frustrate Barcelona, keep them at bay and stay in the game for as long as possible – and they did it well initially.
Barcelona could not manage a shot on target in the first half, although they squandered several chances.
Mariona Caldentey was teed up by Graham Hansen but fired over while Aitana Bonmati’s teasing cross almost crept under the bar before goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger clawed it off the line.
Oshoala misfired on a few occasions, while Graham Hansen – the goalscorer at Stamford Bridge in the first leg – was a constant terror.
But despite defending well for more than an hour, Chelsea were always going to have to take risks and that meant they were vulnerable to counter-attacks.
Bonmati, who pulled the strings for Barcelona in midfield, waited for the perfect opportunity to slip in Graham Hansen and when that break eventually came the Norwegian made no mistake.
Chelsea’s response was immediate, Reiten finishing off a well-worked ball over the top to Kerr but it was not enough to knock formidable opponents off balance.
The hosts kept causing problems until the final minute and Chelsea could not muster another chance as their Champions League dream slipped away for another year.