Women’s Champions League: Glas gives Bayern first-leg edge over Chelsea

Women’s Champions League: Glas gives Bayern first-leg edge over Chelsea

Chelsea’s defensive fragility was brutally exposed as they lost 2-1 against Bayern Munich in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final.

Desperate to break the semi-final glass ceiling, having twice failed to reach the final, Chelsea instead hit the Glas ceiling after the Swedish defender Hanna Glas provide the assist for Sydney Lohmann’s opener and scored a stunning solo goal, sandwiching the leveller deflected in by the former Bayern captain Melanie Leupolz.

“It’s half-time,” the Chelsea manager, Emma Hayes, said. “We’ve got an away goal and it’s half-time. The lesson for our team sometimes is you don’t win the tie this round.”

After the final whistle had ended a bruising second half in the 2-2 draw against Manchester City on Wednesday as Chelsea took a point from their rivals and closed in on retention of their league title, Hayes had said she was “relieved”. What did she want to see done differently in Munich? “Do what I want you to do, don’t do something else,” was the message from the manager.

Perhaps it was a nervousness at being 180 minutes away from a first Champions League final that rattled the Chelsea ranks but they looked far from the fluid, potent side Hayes would have wanted to see and that we have gotten used to this season. Instead, it was the out-of-form Bayern who exploded out of the blocks and put the make-shift visiting defence under pressure.

A long-term injury to the right‑back Maren Mjelde meant Jess Carter once again started while the ongoing absence of the captain, Magda Eriksson, meant Sophie Ingle partnered England’s Millie Bright in the centre of the defence.

After a stunning late save prevented defeat in Manchester, the goalkeeper Ann‑Katrin Berger was at fault for the opener. Glas beat the left‑back Jonna Andersson and Berger’s mistimed punch skidded towards Lohmann who headed past her into the open net.

Hayes had spoken of the resilience of her side after the game on Wednesday and the confidence that gave her heading to Germany: “Sometimes when you don’t play your game plan exactly how you want to you have to dig yourselves out, you have to gut something out,” she had said.

That mental toughness was tested further as Bayern, buoyed by their lead, pounded forward. The equaliser came from a familiar face, literally and figuratively: Guro Reiten’s free‑kick was headed by Marina Hegering into the face of the former Bayern star Leupolz and rebounded in.

The Bayern manager, Jens Scheuer, had said he was looking forward to the tactical battle but acknowledged his team would “have to play at our limits, at our best” to overcome the Women’s Super League champions. They did. With almost an hour played Andersson sat back as Glas raced towards the box, cut inside the hesitant Swede and lashed high into the net.

Scheuer went straight to Glas on the final whistle. “I went to her and congratulated her, I was just surprised that she can even score with her left foot, I underestimated her a little bit,” he said with a laugh. “She is one of the best right-backs in the world.”

Favourites going into this tie, with Bayern having laboured to a 3-2 win against Turbine Potsdam four days after back-to-back defeats to end a 26-game winning run before this first leg, Chelsea’s Champions League final dream looked to be unravelling. All is not lost, they have an away goal but, as they found two years ago against Lyon, returning to Kingsmeadow a goal down against one of Europe’s best is not an easy turnaround.

For all the talk of the strength of the squad and their attack, a lack of depth at the back has been laid bare by the injuries to Eriksson and Mjelde, something Hayes will undoubtedly be looking to address in the summer. “She’s our captain, we’ve lost experience with Maren and Magda, two really senior leaders in our side. So yes, of course I think it’s a loss but it’s up to the rest of the group to make sure it doesn’t become one we talk about,” Hayes said. “Yes I plan to strengthen in the summer but I’ve got to put all my focus on getting to the Champions League final next week.”