The Blues' Champions League dream has come to an end at the semi-final stage after we were held to a 1-1 draw against the holders in front of a record crowd at Kingsmeadow.
This was arguably the biggest fixture in Chelsea Women's history, as we faced the side which had won the trophy three times on the bounce, looking to book our place in the final for the first time as we took part in our second successive semi-final in the competition.
Just as in the first leg in Lyon, we were unfortunate to find ourselves trailing to a Eugenie Le Sommer goal which took a deflection on its way in, but our response was emphatic as we took the game to the visitors and deservedly restored parity. Ji So-Yun was a scorer in a Champions League semi-final at Kingsmeadow for the second time, curling home a spectacular free-kick to draw us level before the break.
Chances came and went in the second half as we enjoyed the better of the play and pushed Lyon to the wire, with goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi pulling off some fine saves and one strike from Karen Carney cannoning back off the post. A record crowd for a Chelsea Women's home game of 4,670 almost witnessed one of the greatest afternoons in the club's history but, alas, this was not to be our day.
Lyon now go on to play Barcelona in the final after the Catalan club recorded a second 1-0 win of their semi-final tie with Bayern Munich to secure a 2-0 aggregate triumph. Budapest's Ferencvaros Stadium plays host to the showpiece occasion on Saturday 18 May.
LYON (H) UWCL 18/19
Highlights from our UEFA Women's Champions League second-leg v Lyon.
While the visitors made one change to their starting line-up, bringing in Amel Majri in place of Jess Fishlock. Emma Hayes kept faith with the same matchday 18 which had impressed in the 2-1 defeat in the first leg, when a goal from Erin Cuthbert had kept us in the tie after we trailed 2-0.
That meant Ann-Katrin Berger lining up behind a back four of Maren Mjelde, Millie Bright, Magda Eriksson and Jonna Andersson. With Sophie Ingle sweeping up in midfield, there was plenty of attacking licence for the players in front of her, as Ramona Bachmann, Ji So-Yun, Erin Cuthbert and Karen Carney provided plenty of support for lone striker Fran Kirby.
In between the two legs Lyon won the French title for the 13th successive season, and they began the match displaying all the confidence of a side on top of their game. The Blues' underdog status simply seemed to serve as further fuel for the Kingsmeadow crowd to make themselves heard, and the atmosphere at our KT1 home was like an old-school FA Cup tie. All that was missing was a tinfoil replica of the Women's Champions League trophy.
Just as in the first leg of this contest, it was a relatively solid start by two teams looking to feel their way into a game with so much at stake. After Mjelde overran the ball with an opportunity to get in behind, Amandine Henry threatened for the visitors when she flicked a header over the bar from a set-piece, having scored in the first leg with a rather more deft effort.
Lyon wouldn't have to wait long to get their noses in front, however, and just as their opener in France it was steeped in good fortune. It was a lightning-quick break, which ended with Ada Hegerberg squaring for Le Sommer to slide a low shot past Berger with the aid of a deflection off Mjelde. Before kick-off, one goal and a clean sheet would have been enough to send us through; now we needed to score two, without conceding again, just to force extra time.
The response from the Blues, roared on by a raucous Kingsmeadow crowd, was swift and there was a huge shout for handball just moments after we went behind. Cuthbert's header was not threatening the target, but Blues players and the supporters behind the goal were convinced it should have been a penalty, and replays – which the officials don't have the benefit of, unlike in the men's competition – suggested we had a pretty strong case.
A booking followed for Lyon as Henry lunged in on Ingle, who took evasive action to avoid being clattered, and they were lucky to get away with only that punishment a few minutes later, as Cascarino clipped the heels of Cuthbert as the Scot looked to get in behind. Having decided contact was outside the box, referee Sara Persson awarded a free-kick but opted only to book the Lyon wide player, despite the fact Cuthbert was in on goal.
Given her prowess from dead-ball situations, there was only ever going to be one person stepping up to strike it – and Ji certainly didn't disappoint, clipping a delightful shot over the wall and into the top corner of the net. Kingsmeadow erupted as one! We were well and truly back in this tie.
There was one last chance in the first half for Lyon on the stroke of half-time, as Hegerberg met a cross on the volley but sent it the wrong side of Berger's far post. It's fair to say the half hadn't gone as the visitors expected and that was apparent by the substitution made by manager Reynald Pedros at the break, as he introduced Jess Fishlock in place of Selma Bacha in a bid to regain control of the midfield battle.
It seemed to work for the first 10 minutes of the second period, as Lyon dominated possession and inched further and further into Chelsea territory, with almost every member of the Blues back-line called upon to block shots.
However, a swift reminder was provided that it wasn't all one-way traffic, as Kirby ran at Wendie Renard and fired a low cross which found Bachmann at the back stick, only for her shot to be blocked. And there was an even bigger let-off for Lyon just a minute later, with the woodwork coming to their rescue to keep out a curling effort from Carney which left Bouhaddi rooted to her line.
Both Hannah Blundell and Bethany England came on for Chelsea either side of those chances, replacing Andersson and Bachmann, and we continued to press for the goal which would send the game into extra time. We could hardly have hoped for a better opportunity than the one which fell to Bright after Eriksson had kept alive a free-kick into the box by Cuthbert. Bouhaddi's save, from point-blank range, was perhaps the best of the many impressive stops she has made across the two legs.
When another Cuthbert set-piece found its way to substitute Drew Spence unmarked at the back stick and the Blues No24 could only scuff her effort wide of the post, it looked as though our race was run. And save for a few half-chances in the closing stages of an utterly enthralling contest, that was it. A 3-2 aggregate defeat hardly seemed fair reward for two excellent performances, but that's football.
Chelsea had pushed the holders all the way, producing a performance which had merited more than the status of unlucky losers. Indeed, our season will now end without a trophy for the first time in three years, as we've bowed out of all three domestic competitions at the last-four stage. But the cries of 'We love you Chelsea, we do' told you exactly what the crowd thought of their efforts at the end of an epic tie.
Attention now turns to the end of our WSL season, with our final two fixtures both away from home. First up there is a trip to Yeovil Town on Tuesday 7 May and then we finish up at Reading on Saturday 11 May.
Chelsea (4-1-4-1) Berger; Mjelde, Bright, Eriksson, Andersson (Blundell 56); Ingle (Spence 77); Bachmann (England 62), Ji , Cuthbert, Carney (c); Kirby
Unused subs Lindahl, Thorisdottir, Carter, Engman
Scorer Ji 34
Booked Bachmann 35
Lyon (4-3-3) Bouhaddi; Bronze, M’Bock Bathy, Renard, Bacha (Fishlock 46); Marozsan, Henry (Kumagai 83), Majri; Cascarino (Van de Sanden 69), Hegerberg, Le Sommer
Unused subs Weiss, Buchanan, Jaimes, Simon
Scorer Le Sommer 17
Booked Henry 28, Cascarino 33, Bouhaddi 35, Fishlock 64, Renard 72
Referee Sara Persson