Chelsea hand Barcelona first home defeat in five years in one of Emma Hayes’ finest wins

Erin Cuthbert found the space before firing her side into the first-leg lead in the Women's Champions League semi-final
Erin Cuthbert found the space before firing her side into the first-leg lead in the Women's Champions League semi-final - EPA/Enric Fontcuberta

Barcelona Femenino 0 Chelsea Women 1

Chelsea put an end to Barcelona’s awe-inspiring five-year unbeaten streak at home, in a result that puts them within touching distance of the Champions League final.

It is no exaggeration to say this 1-0 gutsy win was one of the finest results of Emma Hayes’s entire 12-year tenure at Chelsea. Decked out in a royal blue suit, she fist-pumped on the touchline as the final whistle blew. It was an understated celebration after an unusually testing few weeks for the Chelsea manager.

A first-half goal from Erin Cuthbert was enough to down the European champions in this first leg, and it kept Hayes’s hopes of an elusive European title in her final season with Chelsea very much alive. But such is the challenge to beating Barcelona over two legs, that Hayes appeared unsatisfied with the scoreline.

She said a sell-out 40,000-strong crowd at Stamford Bridge was “essential” to boosting her side’s chances at next week’s return fixture. So far, 24,000 tickets have been sold.

“I think it’s essential, we’ve watched many clubs sell stadiums in the biggest games,” Hayes said. “I think it’s crucial for our football to do everything by a team that has brought a lot of success over the years. Our girls deserve to play in front of a full house to give ourselves the

Catarina Macario (C) is challenged by Barcelona's Spanish forward Victoria Lopez and Barcelona's Swedish forward Fridolina Rolfo
Chelsea kept the ball well as they frustrated Barcelona throughout - AFP/Pau Barrena

best possible chance because we are going to need them. Barcelona will throw absolutely everything at us.”

Ahead of this clash, Hayes had said: “Barcelona’s team will go down in history as one of the greatest women’s teams ever”. Some might call that taking the pressure off her team, and there will be a lot of that at play – especially after her side’s sub-par performances in the domestic cups.

But when you look at Barcelona’s record, Hayes’s words are far from hyperbole. Two European titles in the last three seasons. A squad full of Spain’s World Cup winners. And, until Saturday, they had not lost at home in any competition since February 2019. Only that level of mind-boggling, enduring dominance can put a hugely successful outfit like Chelsea in an underdog position.

The last time Barcelona failed to score in a match was back in April 2022. They had not even trailed in a match since January. But Chelsea somehow broke those streaks, thanks to some heroic defensive work – in particular from Jess Carter – and a belter of a goal from Cuthbert.

Chelsea spent a lot of the early stages of the scrappy first half retreating back and, out of possession, they were falling into a back five, with Johanna Rytting Kaneryd dropping into line. It worked well once Chelsea settled, helping ensure that Barcelona’s speedy top scorer in this campaign Salma Paralluelo was blocked twice.

On the other side of the pitch, Mayra Ramirez helped to stretch Barcelona by holding off defenders with her strength. It meant Chelsea got a bit more space to come forward. Chances, while thin on the ground, eventually came.

Enter Cuthbert, who said before the match that, as a Scot, she thrives on being the underdog. And thrive she did. Sjoeke Nuskin held off three circling defenders to turn and nudge the ball towards Cuthbert who scurried wide of Ingrid Engen to get her shot up. It took a slight deflection before it found the back of the net to momentarily silence the shocked home crowd.

Erin Cuthbert scores for Chelsea
Erin Cuthbert's goal silenced the Barcelona crowd but it was no less than Chelsea deserved - Shutterstock/Enric Fontcuberta

This goal marked the first time Chelsea had led against Barcelona after two heartbreaking previous losses: in the 2021 final and then in last year’s semi-final exit. The biggest challenge was holding on.

The worst scare came in the first few minutes of the second half, as Barcelona were awarded lsea, judging Paralluelo to be interfering with play from a marginally offside position and the penalty was disallowed.

From thereon the Barcelona crowd were out for blood. The penalty decision turned the atmosphere tenser, and they mercilessly jeered Chelsea for wasting time. While the fans were on top form, the Barcelona team were far from their best, finishing the match with one shot on target (which came in stoppage time). This is a team that has scored 32 goals during their nine previous matches in this campaign.

A late Paralluelo effort went agonisingly wide. Aitana Bonmati, Barcelona’s supreme playmaker, punched the ground after yet another Barcelona cross was cleared. When Alexia Putellas missed a sitter at the death it was clear this was not the reigning champions’ day.

At the close, the crowd chanted “si se puede” (”yes we can”), but Chelsea will do everything they can to squash that belief come next week.

Match details

Barcelona (4-3-3): Coll; Batlle (Bronze 63), Engen (Putellas 63), Paredes, Rolfö; Guijarro, Walsh, Bonmati; Graham Hansen, Mariona (Lopez 73), Paralluelo. Subs: Panos, Fernandez, Pina, Torrejon, Vilamala, Brugts, Dragoni,  Ari, Martina
Bookings: Paredes
Chelsea (4-3-3): Hampton; Lawrence, Carter, Buchanan, Charles; Cuthbert, Nüsken, Leupolz; Rytting Kaneryd, Ramirez (Reiten 90+2), James (Macario 73). Subs: Musovic, Cox, Bright, Ingle, Kirby, Persist, Beevor-Jones
Referee: Stephanie Frappart
Attendance: 36,428

Barcelona blunted by disciplined Chelsea, As it happened

02:54 PM BST

Emma Hayes speaks to DAZN – ‘I was disappointed we didn’t score a second’

On the win...

 “It’s just half-time. Nobody should get carried away with that and to be honest I’m disappointed we didn’t get the second goal. It’s a difficult place to come, they carried out the game plan I asked them to do so from that perspective I’m happy. A lot of teams come here and go 1-0 or 2-0 down early on and you have to ride that. They have unbelievable players that are world class in everything they do but for the most part we limited them.”

On knowing how to beat Barcelona...

“I think I know how to come away from home and get a result. We have not performed against Barcelona at home. We have under-performed when we played at home. Barcelona have another level in them and I think that’s clear. Maybe they don’t feel they were at their best today and we have to anticipate that.”

On next week’s second leg...

We will only be as strong as the crowd hat comes out. It’s important we pack Stamford bridge out to give half a chance against the best team in the world. We are at half-time and there is another level to Barcelona.”

On the VAR decision...

“For the first time ever we’ve had a VAR decision that’s gone in our favour. You do need a little bit of luck. She [Salma Paralluelo] is offside and she’s interfering. That’s the rules.”

Emma Hayes
Emma Hayes is after her first Champions League title - Getty Images/David Rogers

02:34 PM BST

The second leg

Takes place at Stamford Bridge next Saturday. Chelsea know that if they avoid defeat they’ll be in the final.

Emma Hayes
Will Emma Hayes leave Chelsea having finally won the Champions League? Today's result makes that more likely... - Getty Images/David Ramos

02:30 PM BST

FULL-TIME: Barcelona 0 Chelsea 1

Remarkable win for Chelsea who were brilliant. They executed their plan to perfection, as Barcelona, a team who’ve scored 164 goals this season, didn’t have one shot on target.

The west Londoners looked comfortable and have become the first team to beat the hosts at their stadium for over five years.

02:28 PM BST

98 mins: Barcelona 0 Chelsea 1

Free-kick for the hosts - a last chance to level the score. Can they make it count?

They very nearly do! The ball is delivered tp the back post where it is headed into the middle of the box, Putellas is there and in space and the Spain international hits it first time wide of the right post...

02:26 PM BST

97 mins: Barcelona 0 Chelsea 1

Long ball over the top for Paralluelo sees Hampton rush off her line and does enough to disrupt the Barcelona player.

02:24 PM BST

96 mins: Barcelona 0 Chelsea 1

Barca have averaged four goals a game in the Champions League this season. Today, they’ve failed to get a shot on target, testament to how well Chelsea have played. Dogged, disciplined defence from the west Londoners who, if truth be told, have looked very comfortable today.

02:22 PM BST

96 mins: Barcelona 0 Chelsea 1

From the resulting set-piece Chelsea head well wide. They won’t mind that, though, it’s just taken up more precious time.

02:21 PM BST

95 mins: Barcelona 0 Chelsea 1

Throw for Chelsea in the final third. They do well to win a corner - just what they want and Barca don’t need.

02:19 PM BST

92 mins: Barcelona 0 Chelsea 1

Change for Chelsea - Ramiraz, who’s worked really hard up front all game, makes way for Reiten.

02:18 PM BST

90 mins: Barcelona 0 Chelsea 1

There will be nine minutes, yes nine, for Chelsea to hang onto their 1-0 lead.

02:17 PM BST

89 mins: Barcelona 0 Chelsea 1

Still no shots on target for Barcelona. Hampton has had a very easy afternoon.

02:15 PM BST

87 mins: Barcelona 0 Chelsea 1

Time is running out for Barca, Bonmati is in the box but is brilliantly tackled by the impressive Carter who’s been player of the match.

02:14 PM BST

85 mins: Barcelona 0 Chelsea 1

Great chance for the hosts thanks to a lovely ball from Hansen to the back post where Paralluelo hits it first time. The attempt however, is wide, it looked as though it hit her shin.

02:12 PM BST

83 mins: Barcelona 0 Chelsea 1

Barca are still without a shot on target. A reminder: the hosts have scored 164 goals this season...

02:11 PM BST

81 mins: Barcelona 0 Chelsea 1

The Barca players are losing their discipline, they give away two free-kicks in quick succession the second of which sees Paralluelo shown a yellow for a foul on Nusken. They are rattled and looking at a first home defeat in five years.

02:08 PM BST

77 mins: Barcelona 0 Chelsea 1

Chelsea still look the more likely to score. They’ve worked their socks off and are seeing more of the ball at the moment.

02:06 PM BST

77 mins: Barcelona 0 Chelsea 1

More positive signs for Chelsea as Putellas gives the ball away twice - a collector’s item.

02:05 PM BST

Heated stadium

Since that penalty was overturned, the atmosphere has been getting more and more heated in the stadium. Chelsea players have been jeered for seemingly time-wasting even after Carter was being assessed for a head injury and the Barcelona players are leaning into that animosity from the crowd.

Pressure is mounting on Chelsea and Barcelona’s depth is insane: casually bringing on a subs like Lucy Bronze and Alexia Putellas. Can Chelsea hold on?

02:03 PM BST

73 mins: Barcelona 0 Chelsea 1

Here’s another stat - Barca haven’t been beaten at home since February 2019...they’re starring defeat in the face at the moment and as I type that they nearly go two goals down as Ramirez makes a nuisance of herself and gets away from the hosts’ defence before firing over the bar. She should have done better there.

02:00 PM BST

71 mins: Barcelona 0 Chelsea 1

Another change for Barca - Lopez, just 17 years old, is on for Caldentey.

Meanwhile, Lairen James makes way for Macario on the Chelsea side.

01:58 PM BST

68 mins: Barcelona 0 Chelsea 1

A flurry of corners for the hosts, the last of which serves up no danger at all for Chelsea. Barca, with all this talent to call upon, have been poor today. Credit to Chelsea for completely nullifying the considerable threat.

01:56 PM BST

66 mins: Barcelona 0 Chelsea 1

Chelsea are looking the better side at the moment and the hosts are still yet to have a shot on target. Remarkable.

01:53 PM BST

63 mins: Barcelona 0 Chelsea 1

More promising signs for Chelsea as James’ shot from outside the box goes just wide. Barca aren’t used to being under the cosh like this. The longer the game has gone on the more confident the west Londoners have looked.

01:52 PM BST

62 mins: Barcelona 0 Chelsea 1

Changes for Barcelona. Lucy Bronze and Alexia Putellas are on for Ona Batlle and Ingrid Engen. Decent pair to bring on...

01:49 PM BST

60 mins: Barcelona 0 Chelsea 1

Here’s a stat: Barca are yet to have a shot on goal. Considering the number of goal they have in this team that is testament to Chelsea’s brilliant, disciplined defending.

01:48 PM BST

58 mins: Barcelona 0 Chelsea 1

Once play resumes - and the home fans stop moaning about the length of the stoppage - there’s another Chelsea play down, this time it’s Ramirez who got a kick in the leg. Barca fans once again voice their displeasure over what they perceive to be time wasting.

01:45 PM BST

56 mins: Barcelona 0 Chelsea 1

Paralluelo’s fierce shot is stopped by the back of Jess Carter’s head - ouch. The Chelsea defender is down and there’ll be a break in play while she’s seen by medical staff.

01:39 PM BST

53 mins: Barcelona 0 Chelsea 1

Penalty for Chelsea! It’s come courtesy of a handball  as Paredes’s shot from outside the box is stopped with her arm by Buchanan.

HANG ON! There’s a VAR check...they’re looking into whether there’s an offside. And Stephanie Frappart reverses the decision, deciding that Paralluelo was indeed offside.

Penalty shout
Penalty, no penalty - Getty Images/Pau Barrena

01:37 PM BST

48 mins: Barcelona 0 Chelsea 1

Good start to the second half from Chelsea, they’ve seen a lot of the ball and have patiently attacked. Their latest foray up front ends with an Ashley Lawrence shot being saved by Coll.

01:34 PM BST

47 mins: Barcelona 0 Chelsea 1

I suspect the message to Chelsea from Emma Hayes was ‘more of the same, please’.

Barca attack and Bonmati’s shot is well blocked, but it was offside and wouldn’t have counted had it gone in.

01:33 PM BST

45 mins: Barcelona 0 Chelsea 1

They’re back under way in Barcelona - no changes to report from either side.

01:23 PM BST

Chelsea silence home crowd

Erin Cuthbert said before the match that, as a Scot, she thrives on being the underdog. She has just given Chelsea the lead in this Champions League semi-final with a brilliant finish, in what could prove to be a crucial goal over these two legs. And it was Chelsea’s first solid chance of the game.

It also momentarily silenced this home crowd. By my count, the last time Barcelona failed to score in the first half of any match was back in December.

Big first-half performance there from Chelsea who held off a couple of dangerous runs from Salma Paralluelo in particular. Jess Carter has been incredibly strong.

Advantage Chelsea.

01:18 PM BST

HALF-TIME: Barcelona 0 Chelsea 1

Just what Hayes would have wanted. Barca have dominated possession, but failed to put Hampton under any real pressure in the Chelsea goal. Meanwhile, Chelsea have taken one of their two chances and go into the break a goal to the good.

01:16 PM BST

45 mins: Barcelona 0 Chelsea 1

There will be one minute of added time.

01:15 PM BST

42 mins: Barcelona 0 Chelsea 1

This is just the start Hayes would have dreamed of. Nullify the Barca attack and then hopefully score on the attack.

In the words of Hannibal from the A-Team: ‘I love it when a plan comes together.’

01:10 PM BST


Barcelona 0 Chelsea 1

Cuthbert gives the visitors the lead with a well-taken goal.

Lauren James does brilliantly to win the ball on the left before it’s moved infield to Cuthbert. The captain plays Nusken in in the box, the German then lays it off to Cuthbert whose shot into the far corner gives Coll no chance.

01:09 PM BST

37 mins: Barcelona 0 Chelsea 0

One of the big battles out there is Carter vs Paralluelo and the Chelsea defender is edging it at the moment. That, as much as anything, explains why Chelsea have looked quite comfortable so far.

01:07 PM BST

35 mins: Barcelona 0 Chelsea 0

First corner of the game for Chelsea. Can they create something from this? ‘Nope’ is the answer as Cuthbert’s ball is too close to Coll and the Barce keeper claims the ball well.

01:05 PM BST

33 mins: Barcelona 0 Chelsea 0

All in all this is going the way, I suspect, Emma Hayes would have wanted. For all their possession dominance Barca haven’t forced Hampton, in the Chelsea goal, into making a save.

01:04 PM BST

30 mins: Barcelona 0 Chelsea 0

It’s a tight, close encounter Chelsea aren’t committing too many bodies in attack, they attack through Ramirez who’s played through with a lovely ball from Nusken. The Colombian cuts back and sets up Leupolz whose shot is just wide.

01:01 PM BST

27 mins: Barcelona 0 Chelsea 0

Good defensive line from the visitors finds Barca offside. That’s the sort of discipline they need, they cannot afford any mistakes.

As I typed that Paralluelo drives at the Chelsea box before being tackled well. All in all this has been a good first half-hour for Hayes’ team.

12:58 PM BST

25 mins: Barcelona 0 Chelsea 0

The past five or so minutes have been better from Chelsea. They’ve seen more of the ball and while Coll in the Barca goal hasn’t had a save to make the fact that they’re keeping the ball better bodes well and also gives their ever-vigilant defence a bit of a breather.

12:57 PM BST

22 mins: Barcelona 0 Chelsea 0

Free-kick for Chelsea on the left, it’s a good delivery from Cuthbert that Charles gets on the end of, but it’s a heavy first touch and the chance disappears into the ether...

12:53 PM BST

Barca in charge

Quite the atmosphere here at the Estadi Olimpic, and the home side have mostly been in charge so far.

Chelsea are having to do a lot of retreating back, dealing with high pressure from Barcelona on the rare occasion they actually have possession.

Out of possession, they are falling into a back five, with Rytting Kaneryd dropping into the backline.

As a side note, Emma Hayes has dressed for the occasion, decked out on the touchline in a royal blue suit in an appropriate tribute to the club colours.

12:52 PM BST

20 mins: Barcelona 0 Chelsea 0

Caldentey attacks down the left and delivers a cross that Charles heads clear well. Barca are knocking on the door here...

12:50 PM BST

18 mins: Barcelona 0 Chelsea 0

A bit of possession for Chelsea, Barca are laying off a bit, but it’s all in front of the hosts and too deep and, subsequently, oh so easy to defend.

12:48 PM BST

14 mins: Barcelona 0 Chelsea 0

Lightning counter attack from Barca who break at pace with Bonmati before the Spain international lays the ball off to Paralluelo whose left-footed shot is deflected over by Jess Carter. Good defending from Carter there who’s already been called into come last-ditch defending. More danger signs for Chelsea, however...

12:43 PM BST

11 mins: Barcelona 0 Chelsea 0

Yet more Barca pressure, Hansen has two bites of the cherry as Chelsea lose the ball in the box, but the visitors regroup and block the resulting cross.

The west Londoners have to be disciplined at the back, they cannot afford to needlessly give the ball away.

12:41 PM BST

Barcelona with all the early pressure

Salma Paralluelo
Salma Paralluelo crosses from the left for Barcelona - Reuters/Albert Gea

12:39 PM BST

8 mins: Barcelona 0 Chelsea 0

This time the host attack down the right before Hansen, who’s no stranger to scoring against Chelsea, delivers a low ball to the near post where Carter is alive to the danger and concedes a corner.

Chelsea then clear the danger from the resulting set piece.

12:36 PM BST

6 mins: Barcelona 0 Chelsea 0

Throw in for Chelsea in the final third - can they create anything from this? ‘No’ is the long and short of it. They go backwards and the chance to put the Barcelona backline under pressure goes begging...

12:34 PM BST

4 mins: Barcelona 0 Chelsea 0

As expected it’s the hosts with all the early possession. Chelsea will have to be disciplined in defence and make the most of any chances that come their way.

12:33 PM BST

2 mins: Barcelona 0 Chelsea 0

Barcelona with the ball early on, they attack down the left through Paralluelo who crosses, and Hansen is in space but her first touch lets her down and is unable to get in a shot on goal. Chelsea got away with one there...

12:31 PM BST

1 min: Barcelona 0 Chelsea 0

They’re under way in Barcelona. The hosts in their famous kit of darkish blue and darkish red, and Chelsea in their away kit of lime green.

12:28 PM BST

The teams are on the pitch

And we’re moments away from kick-off.

12:25 PM BST

Conditions are perfect

12:25 PM BST

A bit strange

12:13 PM BST

The two teams in black and white

BARCELONA XI TO FACE CHELSEA: Coll, Batlle, Paredes, Engen, Rolfo, Bonmati, Walsh, Guijarro, Hansen, Paralluelo, Caldentey. Subs: Panos, Jana Fernandez, Pina, Torrejon, Putellas, Bronze, Vilamala, Brugts, Dragoni, Lopez, Arias, Martina Fernandez.

CHELSEA XI TO FACE BARCELONA: Hampton, Lawrence, Carter, Buchanan, Charles, Kaneryd, Cuthbert, Nusken, Leupolz, Ramirez, James. Subs: Musovic, Bright, Ingle, Macario, Reiten, Kirby, Perisset, Beever-Jones, Cox.

Two bits of good news for the west Londoners. First Lauren James is in the starting line-up. The England international missed Wednesday’s win over Aston Villa and was a doubt for today, but has been deemed fit and starts in a boost for the visitors. The second piece of good fortune is that Millie Bright is on the bench. The Euros winner has been out since November with a knee injury, but is one of the subs today.

12:01 PM BST

Erin Cuthbert

Played in both legs of last year’s semi-final and is all too aware of what Chelsea are up against today. But Emma Hayes’ side is well used to must-win games and Cuthbert is hoping they can harness that experience to pull off a shock.

“Every game, for the past couple of months, has felt like a cup final. It’s a must-win, every game,” Cuthbert said.

“I love this part of the season, I thrive on this pressure of performing. It brings out a different side of me, a different animal, and I’m really excited to play against some of the best players in the world and show them what I can do as well.”

Erin Cuthbert
Erin Cuthbert knows Chelsea need to bring their A-game today - Action Images via Reuters/Matthew Childs

11:55 AM BST

Today’s stadium

Is the arena that hosted the Barcelona Olympics in 1992. Anyone remember the archer lighting the Olympic flame?

Antonio Rebollo  memorably lights the Olympic flame in 1992
Antonio Rebollo memorably lights the Olympic flame in 1992 - AP/Dominique Mollard
Barcelona 1992
The Olympic stadium in 1992 - AFP/Michel Gangne

11:46 AM BST


Are good (to (quoting Basil Fawlty) ‘state the bleeding obvious’) , and it will take possibly two of the finest performances of the Emma Hayes era for Chelsea to go through.

That’s something not lost on the manager.

“Barcelona have done amazing things.Listen, I think [this Barca team] will go down in history as one of the greatest women’s teams ever,” Hayes said. “Barcelona is a generation that deserves the credit they get. They’ve done amazing things on the pitch. People don’t realise how hard it is to play against them.”

11:40 AM BST

Here’s the Barcelona XI

11:29 AM BST

Here’s the Chelsea XI

11:28 AM BST

Chelsea have arrived

11:15 AM BST

‘Don’t overthink it’ Emma Hayes tells Chelsea

If Chelsea are to give Emma Hayes the perfect send off with their first ever Champions League title they know they cannot afford a poor game today in Barcelona.

With the Women’s Super League on a knife edge, and defeat to Manchester United sending them out of the FA Cup, the Champions League offers the west Londoners possibly their best route to silverware this season. But only if they can get past the Catalans over two legs, starting today.

How do you go about trying to beat the defending champions? By not overthinking it, according to their soon-to-be-departed manager.

“Barcelona have been the top team in Europe in recent years,” Hayes said. “Results have suggested that, they are world champions and European champions, but this is a football match and there’s two legs.

“Our job is to get ourselves in a position where we can come here and give them competition.

“You have to be in it to compete for it and you know that you’re going to face a team like Barcelona at some stage, and it happens to be at the semi-finals.

“We understand the team, we understand the opponent, and we respect them. They are world class and have unbelievable players.

“We’ve had a game Wednesday and we’ve only had the one training session today [Friday] so we’re not overthinking or overanalysing anything.”

Chelsea have never won the Women’s Champions League with their best performance being a final appearance in 2021 when Barcelona thrashed them 4-0.

Arsenal are the only English club to win the trophy, a distant 17 years ago in 2007.

“We just have to keep building on our experiences in Europe,” said Hayes. “No player needs motivation to play this game.

“Next week we get a little more time together on the grass to work on things between the two games, based on the learnings.

“For this game we have to keep doing the good things that we’ve been doing throughout Europe this year.”

Stay here for all the team news and action with kick off set for 12.30.

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