Barca edge Chelsea in WCL semi first leg | Hayes: You have to be in the tie & we are

Caroline Graham Hansen’s fine strike saw Barcelona take a slim 1-0 lead in their Women’s Champions League semi-final against Chelsea, as Lucy Bronze hobbled off with injury.

The two sides met for the first time since Barcelona’s 4-0 win in the 2021 Champions League final, and looked to be on the verge of another victory as Graham Hansen smashed home the opener inside four minutes.

But Chelsea responded well in the first half at Stamford Bridge. Guro Reiten thought she had equalised as she turned home in the 25th minute, but the offside flag was correctly raised against Sam Kerr in the build-up.

Caroline Graham Hansen of Barcelona celebrates with team-mates
Caroline Graham Hansen celebrates with team-mates after putting Barcelona ahead at Stamford Bridge

Barcelona dominated the second period – hitting the post late on – and take a slender advantage into Thursday’s second leg at the Nou Camp.

However, there will be real concerns for Bronze, who went down mid-way through the half clutching her knee. She later reappeared on the bench with ice around her knee and was walking around the pitch with her team-mates at full-time.

Barcelona manager Jonatan Giraldez looked to assuage any fears of a long-term injury after the game, saying: “Initially Lucy was a bit worried about her injury, she felt her pain in her knee, but now she’s feeling much better about it.”

It comes after England captain Leah son was ruled out of the World Cup on Friday after tearing her ACL as the Lionesses injury worries continue to mount.

How Bronze’s injury unfolded in pictures

Lucy Bronze went down injured in the 67th minute
Barcelona's Lucy Bronze sits injured during the Women's Champions League semi-final, first leg at Stamford Bridge
Lucy Bronze receives treatment for an injury
Lucy Bronze is helped off the pitch after picking up an injury
Barcelona's Lucy Bronze walks off injured

How Barcelona edged Chelsea in the first leg

Chelsea were on the back foot inside four minutes. Graham Hansen was slipped in down the right and afforded far too much space to drift inside before unleashing a thunderous effort that nestled into the far corner.

Barcelona continued to rack up half chances as Chelsea’s tactic of floating balls up to Sam Kerr from midfield struggled to produce results. Graham Hansen was again allowed to strike before Geyse also fired from the top of the area, but both were collected by Ann-Katrin Berger.

Team news headlines

  • Lauren James was named among the substitutes as Emma Hayes adopted a more defensive approach to the first leg. Pernille Harder – returning from a hamstring injury – joined her on the bench.
  • England internationals Lucy Bronze and Keira Walsh started for Barcelona as they aimed to reach a third successive Champions League final.

Emma Hayes soon sent Reiten up top with Kerr to play as a front two – and Chelsea’s first real chance of the game came soon after as Sandra Panos made a good save from a deflected Kerr effort. The Blues had the ball in the back of the net soon after, but Reiten’s strike was correctly ruled out for offside against Kerr, who had squared the ball for her team-mate.

There were half chances for either side at the start of the second half – Berger needing to save from a Keira Walsh cross into the area, before Lauren James’ shot went straight at Panos.

Chelsea's Guro Reiten scores but sees her effort ruled out for offside
Chelsea’s Guro Reiten scores saw a first-half goal ruled out for offside

Bronze’s worrying injury then happened in the 65th minute. After receiving some treatment on the pitch, she tried to walk off herself but her knee appeared to give way underneath her. She hobbled forward before hopping down the tunnel, almost in tears.

However, Bronze later sat on the bench with her knee iced and was in far better spirits after the game as she thanked the Barcelona fans. She was walking with her team-mates with only a slight limp to ease some of England’s injury fears.

Barcelona dominated the remainder of the game as both teams made multiple substitutions. Their best chance came from a corner in the 82nd minute, which Marta Torrejon met with a header towards the back post.

However, it cannoned off the woodwork as Chelsea survived a late onslaught to give themselves a fighting chance in Thursday’s second leg.

Hayes: You have to be in the tie – and we are

Chelsea manager Emma Hayes:

“Barcelona are an amazing team. We had a disappointing start, we gave away a 0.03 xG chance, this brilliant individual play. But we grew into the first half, scored a goal that was offside, but as I said before, you have to be perfect to be these guys.

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Chelsea boss Emma Hayes insists the tie isn’t over, despite suffering a 1-0 defeat to Barcelona in their Champions League semi final first-leg.

“The second half, we have to be better on the ball in the right moments. But it’s 1-0 and I’m grateful to be in the position where the tie isn’t over after 25 minutes. I see that as progress.

“You have to be in the tie and we’re in the tie. Now we have to prepare again for another game and our players have experienced that. It’s important we learn and stay in the tie – it’s my big message.

Guro Reiten reacts after her goal is ruled out
Guro Reiten went close for Chelsea against Barcelona

“Yes, they had a lot of the ball, but we put them in the areas we wanted to be in. Their best chances came sometimes off throw-ins and transitions and quick restarts. I didn’t see anything I don’t already know.

“We have to be better going forward. There were no issues with us defensively.

“You have to suffer. You’re going to be without the ball and positional error from us and it cost us the goal. They have different threats… but we limited them to few chances as we possibly could have. I’ll take that going into the next leg.”

Giraldez: The work we put in paid off

Barcelona manager Jonatan Giraldez:

“We started with intensity, and we got a good early goal. I think overall we controlled the match, more or less from the start to finish. I liked the first minutes where we began so well, it allowed us to stay calm throughout.

“We viewed Chelsea as difficult to beat and they’ve had a good season. Competing with them was going to be tough. We showed really good personality here and though there are 90 minutes left in the tie, the things we did well today really helped a lot.

“We played a really good match defensively. All the work we’d put in paid off. We played like a unified block. We were super-concentrated all match and we played well positionally. That made us much more able to cope with Chelsea’s transitions.”

What’s next?

It is a quick turnaround for the second leg. Chelsea travel to Barcelona on Thursday and will play at the Nou Camp; kick-off 5.45pm.

Chelsea then return to WSL action on Wednesday May 3 as they host Liverpool at Kingsmeadow; kick-off 7.15pm.

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