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Chelsea and Hayes fall short again in the Champions League

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 27 Apr 2024

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Chelsea and Emma Hayes have once again fallen short of securing a place in the final of the Champions League.

There will be a feeling of déjà vu as Barcelona stopped Chelsea at this stage of the competition last season and seem to be the Blues’ Achilles’ heel.

Hayes, who is leaving at the end of season to manage the US Women’s National team, was hoping she could complete her last season with Champions League glory, the only trophy to elude her during an illustrious spell at Chelsea, but it was not to be.

Chelsea had pulled off a remarkable result in the first leg and were leading 1-0 at the halfway point of the tie.

With a record crowd of 39,398 roaring them on, it felt like Saturday could be the night on which Chelsea changed their fortunes in this competition.

However, the Catalan holders showed their big-game mentality and Ballon d’or winner Aitana Bonmati had cancelled out Chelsea’s lead in the tie within 25 minutes at Stamford Bridge.

The drama ensued from that point on with two huge decisions by referee Iuliana Demetrescu sealing the Blues’ fate.

Kadeisha Buchanan was given her marching orders when she received a somewhat harsh second yellow card just before the hour mark for a foul on Salma Paralluelo, then Fridolina Rolfo scored the all-important goal from the spot when Ashley Lawrence was adjudged to have fouled Bonmati.

Hayes felt aggrieved by the calls made by the Romanian referee and made her feelings known to the officials at the full-time whistle, when she could be seen mouthing the words; ‘we’ve been robbed’.

Hayes could not hide her disappointment when speaking to the media after the tie and had strong words for UEFA.

“I didn’t feel we got the opportunity to lose the game, that was taken away,” said Hayes.

“I was surprised when I saw her [Demetrescu] selected because she’s famous for easy cards and I think that [Buchanan’s sending-off] is probably the worst decision in UEFA Women’s Champions League history.

“So when you get such a shocking official decision, there’s nothing you can do about it.

“It’s hard enough when we’ve got 11 against them [Barcelona], but when you’ve got 10 it’s virtually impossible.

“Even Barcelona players said to us they knew the referee was helpful for them. I didn’t think it was a foul [from Buchanan] let alone a yellow card. I’m gutted for the players, we were robbed.”

On the red card, Hayes added: “I was stood there and I looked at the fourth official and I said, ‘Surely that will be checked?’ and she said, ‘It can’t on a yellow’.

“But as I said, I think the toughest thing to take is that we didn’t lose it.

“There’s nothing you can do when there’s such a terrible decision and it’s already hard enough. They are a top team. When that’s taken out of your hands, that’s a tough one to take for the players.”

Hayes may have reason to question the appointment of Demetrescu as the data shows she has awarded four penalties in three UEFA Women’s Champions League games this season, more than any other referee.

Barcelona have now reached the final for the fourth consecutive year and will face either eight-time champions Lyon or Paris Saint-Germain, the finalists from 2015 and 2017.

Bonmati shared her elation about winning the tie with DAZN after the game, saying: “A little bit lucky but sometimes you have to shoot in the box and you never know.”

“It’s amazing, another final,” Bonmati added as her team-mates danced and sang in the rain in front of the travelling fans.

“It wasn’t easy because we had a tough team in front of us. We had to sweat our T-shirts to achieve it. I’m proud of my team and let’s go in for another final.”

This win saw Barcelona earn their fifth clean sheet from 10 matches in the competition this season, a higher total than any other team has managed.

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