An efficient Barcelona took the early advantage in their tie against Chelsea in the semifinals of the Women’s Champions League.
Caroline Graham Hansen scored the only goal in the third minute of the game — and what a goal it was.
The Norwegian forward cut inside from the right before striking the ball to Ann-Katrin Berger’s far post, leaving the keeper with no chance at a save.
Despite taking the early lead, it wasn’t an easy first half for Barcelona who did well to withstand a Chelsea side looking for an equalizer, pushed on by the Stamford Bridge supporters.
But the backline of Lucy Bronze, Irene Paredes, Mapi Leon and Fridolina Rolfo more than held their own with particular praise for the two center-backs — Paredes and Leon — who were very attentive of Sam Kerr. Chelsea kept playing the ball over the top to try to get in between them. Both snuffed out those attempts time and time again.
The match was reminiscent to the first leg quarterfinal where Barcelona scored early against Roma but were unable to add a second. The Italian side were the better team in the second half and probably should have scored at least an equalizer.
On this occasion, Barcelona imposed their style in the second half against Chelsea. Marta Torrejon, who replaced the injured Bronze, saw her header hit the post. The opening half saw a bit of a back and forth affair. The second half was quite the opposite where Barcelona didn’t face the same pressure as in the first.
In fact, Chelsea didn’t have a clear goal-scoring opportunity. Lauren James struck a ball from outside the area which didn’t trouble Sandra Paños. It was a calmer end to the game for Barcelona and a more straightforward one despite only being up by one goal.
Manager Jonatan Giraldez was proud of his team and provided a positive update with regards to Bronze, saying she was fine and made the substitution because the injury initially looked bad.
The second leg will take place on Thursday, March 27 at the Camp Nou. While her status is still up in the air, it could very well be the game where Alexia Putellas makes her return after being out the entire season with an injury. Barcelona will be looking to win and go to their third Champions League final in the last four years.