Chelsea rally in late penalty drama to break Lyon's Champions League dominance
Chelsea 1 Lyon 2 (agg 2-2; Chelsea win 4-3 on penalties)
Chelsea's women's team had never seen scenes like this at Stamford Bridge, while holders Lyon have never looked so dejected. This was as dramatic and controversial a conclusion to a Women's Champions League quarter-final as you could imagine, and as Chelsea's penalty shootout-heroine Ann-Katrin Berger sprinted towards the fans in celebration after saving the decision spot-kick, the English club, somehow, incredibly, staggeringly, were through.
It took a questionable 128th-minute penalty for Chelsea to send this tense tie to a shootout, and then two super saves from Berger to eliminate the record eight-times European champions, and now Barcelona wait for Emma Hayes' team in the last four.
And it means there will be two English clubs in the semi-finals of this competition for the first time since 2018, but after an unforgettable evening, that will be the last thing on Chelsea's mind.
Stamford Bridge went wild as Berger – who was treated for thyroid cancer this season after the illness reoccurred last summer – won the tie by saving from the United States's Lindsey Horan. Berger also saved from France's Wendie Renard, with Lyon's third kick, before Lauren James was denied, but Berger's partner Jess Carter held her nerve to score from Chelsea's fifth spot kick and then the German keeper clinched it.
Lyon were furious that the tie had even reached that point. After a lengthy consultation with Var and a review of replays on the screen deep into added time, the Croatian referee, Ivana Martincic, decided that Lauren James had been fouled in the area by Vicki Becho. Hayes couldn't bring herself to watch. Maren Mjelde stepped up to score with the last kick of the extra time. The French team's dismay on the bench was all-too clear.
Germany midfielder Sara Dabritz's clinical low finish into the bottom corner with 10 minutes remaining of the additional 30 minutes had looked to have won it, after tiring Chelsea conceded a soft equaliser on aggregate with 13 minutes of the 90 to go when Vanessa Gilles' effort beat Berger at her near post.
At that stage, the atmosphere was flat and Chelsea were deflated. Chelsea's men's team manager Graham Potter was among those watching from the stands, as Hayes' team, runners-up in this competition in 2021, tried to hold on to their priceless 1-0 lead from the away leg.
The visitors looked very dangerous at set-pieces throughout the second leg, with their towering centre-half Renard attacking the penalty spot and Chelsea looking vulnerable without Millie Bright who was missing with a knee injury which she picked up in the first leg.
Lyon, the record eight-times winners of the women's European title, were handed a huge boost when their former Ballon d'Or winner Ada Hegerberg made her long-awaited return to Champions League action as a half-time substitute. The competition's all-time record goalscorer with 59 goals in European club matches had made her first appearance of the French league season on Saturday and, in that game, scored within a minute of coming on to the field. She looked fired up and lively but headed wide from her first chance in the second half, although it was a half-chance at best, before angling another header wide late on. She scored her penalty, but it was not enough.
The night, ultimately, belonged to Berger, and the decision to give Chelsea their 128th-minute penalty will be debated furiously.
Meanwhile, it was confirmed that Arsenal's semi-final opponents will be German side Wolfsburg, who knocked out Paris Saint-Germain earlier on Thursday in the day's early-evening kick-off.
Match details and marks
Chelsea (4-2-3-1) Berger 5; Perisset 6 (Mjelde 6, 73), Buchanan 7, Eriksson 6, Carter 6; Cuthbert 7 (Fleming 6, 111), Leupolz 7 (Ingle 6, 71); Charles 6, James 7, Reiten 6 (Rytting Kaneryd 6, 91); Kerr 6.
Substitutes Musovic (gk), Orman (gk), Abdullina, Cankovic. Booked Ingle.
Lyon (4-1-2-1-2) Endler 7; Carpenter 6, Gilles 7, Renard 7, Bacha 7 (Morroni 6, 106); Egurrola 6 (Dabritz 7, 56); Horan 6, Majri 6 (Becho 5, 73); Van de Donk 6 (Marozsan, 106); Cascarino 6 (Malard 7, 97, Bruun 6 (Hegerberg 7, 46).
Substitutes Belhadj (gk), Bosse (gk), Le Sommer, Sombath, Cayman, Benyahia. Booked Van de Donk
Referee Ivana Martincic (Croatia)