Ladies report: Bayern Munich 2 Chelsea 1 (2-2 on agg, Chelsea win on away goals)

A precious away goal from Fran Kirby proved the difference on a dramatic night in Munich as the Blues advanced to the last 16 of the Women’s Champions League on one of the greatest days in Chelsea Ladies' history.

And what a game it was! Leading by a goal from the first leg, it looked like Kirby’s superb strike on the hour would give us an unassailable lead, but Bayern hit back with two goals of their own setting up an agonising final quarter-of-an-hour.

Resilience, grit and last-ditch defending had been the order of the tie up to that point and there was plenty more on display as the clock ticked oh-so-slowly towards the game’s conclusion. A couple of further scares and more than six minutes of stoppage time later, and we had done it!

In the same city that our men’s team enjoyed their finest hour, the Ladies had done likewise and now have next week’s draw to look forward to. After these two performances, they will feel anything is possible.

Emma Hayes saw no need to make any chances to the side that had beaten Bayern a week ago. That meant six players returned after the boss had opted to rotate her squad at the weekend against Liverpool.

For the hosts, their head coach Thomas Worle made a single change from the last encounter, bringing in Mandy Islacker – a winning goalscorer for Frankfurt in the 2015 final - for Melanie Leupolz.

Play got underway to a constant drumbeat from the home supporters, watching their side at the ground Bayern’s men’s team played at between 1926 and 1972. There was also an impressive contingent of travelling Blues fans inside the 12,500-capacity Grunwalder Stadium, which currently also houses 1860 Munich.

On the pitch, it was, as expected, Bayern who started with the greater attacking intent. They delivered a series of low crosses early on, one of which Hedvig Lindahl successfully kicked away.

The first real scare for the Blues arrived shortly after the 20-minute mark. Lindahl palmed a fierce shot only as far as Islacker who volleyed narrowly over with the goal gaping.

Chapman, from much further out, went just as close midway through the half with a sweetly-struck left-footer that briefly had Manuela Zinsberger in the Bayern goal worried. Then Maria Thorisdottir got her head on a Ramona Bachmann corner at the back post but couldn’t quite guide it goalwards.

Between those chances, Gina Lewandowski was the first player booked, for dissent.

Chelsea had grown into the game by the half-hour mark and were keeping the ball much better. Bachmann wasn’t far wide with another testing long-ranger, and Magdalena Eriksson was the next to try her luck from range. The Swede’s brilliant piledriver from fully 30 yards out was met by an equally good save from the flying Zinsberger.

Dominika Skorvankova half-volleyed well wide with the final meaningful action of a tense opening period during which Hayes’s Blues had matched the determination and defensive solidity on display last week. You sensed plenty more would be required in the remaining 45 minutes – or potentially longer.

We were not able to make the most of a couple of promising counter-attacking opportunities soon after the restart and were nearly made to pay when Leonie Maier blasted wide at the end of a scramble inside the box.

Hayes used her first sub of the evening on 54 minutes, bringing Crystal Dunn on for Drew Spence, who had required lengthy treatment in the first half. Worle made a couple of changes of his own in reply.

On the hour, the moment arrived. And in some style! A Bayern move broke down and Blundell’s clearance fell Bachmann’s way a few yards inside her half. The Swiss star cleverly headed upwards, and then had the presence of mind to spot Kirby racing clear through the middle, and the ability to play the pass into the striker’s path.

Kirby still had plenty to do, and plenty of time to think about it as she bore down on goal. She took it a little wide but used the angle to her advantage, clipping an exquisite finish high beyond Zinsberger and into the far corner.

She darted to the dugouts to celebrate with Hayes and everyone else of a Chelsea persuasion with even Lindahl joining in.

Bayern now required three goals to score and they got one of those on 76 minutes after a sustained spell of pressure. Millie Bright had already made yet another superb block, and then sub Lineth Beerensteyn headed wastefully over, before the scores with levelled as we couldn’t clear a corner and Fridolina Rolfo stabbed home, despite sub Gemma Davison’s best efforts on the line.

We were down to 10 at that point as Blundell received treatment, and the left wing-back was immediately replaced by Karen Carney.

The story was the same for Bayern’s second seven minutes later, with Thorisdottir the player off the pitch getting treatment this time. Again a corner was not fully cleared and after Lindahl saved the initial effort, Lucie Vonkova bundled it in from close to the goalline.

Seven minutes plus a hefty amount of stoppage time remained. Could the Blues hang on?

It looked like Bayern would get a third when Beerensteyn got the better of Bright, wide on the left, and cut back invitingly to Skorvankova. The deflected point-blank strike deflected agonisingly wide.

Six added minutes were signalled but pleasingly much of it was spent in Bayern's half as we pressed them backwards. Lindahl claimed a couple of crosses and then, with more than the alotted time up, the final whistle went and the celebrations could start. 

Chelsea Lindahl; Bright, Flaherty, Eriksson; Blundell (Carney 77), Chapman (c), Mjelde, Thorisdottir; Spence (Dunn 55), Kirby (Davison 63), Bachmann.
Unused subs Spencer, Ji, Cuthbert, Aluko.
Scorer Kirby 60
Booked Thorrisdottir 80

Bayern Zinsberger; Demann, Laudehr, Lewandowski; Maier (Beerensteyn 71), Behringer (c), Islacker (Vonkova 56), Faisst; Rolfo, Rolser (Leupolz 56), Skorvankova.
Unused subs Korpela, Wieder, Wenninger, Roord.
Scorers Rolfo 76, Vonkova 83
Booked Lewandowski 27

Referee Katalin Kulcsar from Hungary
 

HIGHLIGHTS: Bayern Munich Women (A) UWC 17/18