Chelsea have sealed our place in the semi-finals of this season’s Women's Champions League in the most dramatic of fashions.
We were going out of the competition until the last kick of extra time but that was a Maren Mjelde penalty that levelled the aggregate scores after Lyon had gone 2-0 up on the night.
When the penalty shoot-out followed, each side saw one kick saved before Ann-Katrin Berger made her second stop from Lyon’s fifth spot-kick to send the Blues through, knocking out the holders and eight-time winners in the process.
The game was played at Stamford Bridge and with so much at stake, the first half was tense and at times a little scrappy but both sides could have taken the lead. Lyon were left cursing some wayward shooting after Chelsea presented them a chance to score in the first few minutes. For the Blues Sam Kerr saw a shot saved when one-on-one with the goalkeeper who later kept out a fierce Lauren James drive.
Lyon brought on star striker Ada Hegerberg after the break as they sought a vital cutting edge. Chelsea kept them at bay relatively comfortably until there were just 13 minutes left of the 90 and two of our players had been lost to injury. Centre-back Danielle Gilles converted a half-chance at the near post to send the tie into extra time with the second Lyon goal coming 20 minutes into that, scored by substitute Sara Dabritz.
However a foul on Lauren James threw Chelsea a lifeline which was grabbed when the penalty was scored and although James missed one in the shoot-out that followed, Lyon failed to convert two and the Blues were through.
Over the course of the two games the team has shown plenty of character to secure this victory. It earns a tie against Barcelona who beat Roma convincingly in their quarter-final. The matches take place towards the end of next month.
Millie Bright did not win her race to be fit for the game having been injured in the first leg so skipper Magda Eriksson took the place of Kadeisha Buchanan's partner in central defence.
The other change from the game in France was a starting slot for Niamh Charles in place of Sophie Ingle. She played on the right of midfielder with Lauren James joining Sam Kerr in attack.
Erin Cuthbert was able to play despite having hobbled off at Man City on Sunday.
Early chances go begging at both ends
With the tie finally poised ahead of kick-off but Chelsea with the one-goal advantage, would we play it relatively cagey or could we put the foot on the accelerator, catch the French champions cold and extend that lead?
In fact it was the reigning European champions who started fast. There was a very early shot to save for Ann-Katrin Berger, playing her 100th Chelsea game, and a scramble when the ball bounced loose.
There then quickly came a big escape when Signe Bruun skied her shot after Magda Eriksson failed to clear a cross sufficiently. Bruun then missed with a tougher opportunity. All these incidents were within the first five minutes.
As the game settled down, it was Chelsea next to spurn a good chance. Lauren James burst through a tackle on halfway and laid the ball into the path of Sam Kerr but with just Christiane Endler to beat, our centre-forward’s shot was blocked by the Lyon keeper’s face.
Stretching the holders
Midway through the half came the moment of the game so far. Brilliance from James out wide on the left made space for her shot which had Endler stretching to tip over the goal at the Matthew Harding End.
Chelsea were seeking to get the ball up to Kerr early when the opportunities arose and one such long pass ended with the Australian teeing up Leupolz, but she shot off-target.
At the other end, Berger saved from an unmarked Bruun but Chelsea threatened again before the first 45 was out. James on the right this time squared and Kerr’s sharpness almost won the race to the ball but Lyon cleared. The first half ended without a goal.
Injuries and Lyon leveller
For the start of the second half Lyon brought on former Ballon D’Or winner Hegerberg. The striker had made her return from a six-month injury lay-off at the weekend.
Her Chelsea counterpart Kerr tried for a spectacular goal but could not pull it off on this occasion in one of the standout moments in the first 10 minutes after the restart. The other was when Eriksson was eventually fouled when she was put under heavy pressure when in possession inside the Chelsea penalty area.
There was a nasty moment 20 minutes in when Danielle van de Donk’s stray arm caught Leupolz in the face and blood flowed from the German’s nose. Sophie Ingle was her replacement. Eve Perisset followed off soon after with what appeared a muscle strain with Maren Mjelde introduced.
Following those interruptions in play and with the lead still slender and time ticking on, the tension was rising and Lyon grabbed the equaliser with 77 minutes played.
The danger was not wholly apparent when Lindsey Horan fired a low cross in from the right but at the near post, Gilles got her boot to the ball ahead of Eriksson and diverted it through the narrowest of gaps between Berger and the upright.
Far from being deflated by the setback, Chelsea quickly worked up a head of steam and pressed the French side back more than at any time in the game before. Free-kicks and corners were won and given the stoppages there were seven additional minutes at the end but with no further goals, extra time it was to be.
The additional 30 and penalties
After a first 15-minute period that produced zero moments of note, the goal that put Lyon ahead in the tie and 2-0 up on the night came five minutes after the interval. Again it was a ball drilled in low from the opposition right that did the damage. This time it evaded bodies in the middle and found its way to Dabritz. Her shot back across goal beat Berger and found the far side of the net.
But hope was not lost. With seconds left to play, James made a dart for the by-line inside the penalty area and was barged in the thigh by Vicki Becho. VAR sent the ref to look at the incident and the spot-kick was awarded.
After much delay, Mjelde kept her nerve to send the ball high into the net and ensure there were plenty more penalties to come.
Mjelde took the first in the shoot-out and this time scored low down. Kerr and Jessie Fleming also made no mistake but after Wendie Renard saw Lyon’s third kick saved, James shot straight down the middle and that was saved too. However Jess Carter made it 4-3 to Chelsea with a rocket and with the pressure on, Berger saved from Horan and it was all over!
The Blues are away to Aston Villa on Sunday, looking for a boost in the WSL title race having suffered only a second defeat in the competition this season when away to Manchester City last weekend. Kick-off is 6.45pm.
Chelsea (4-4-2): Berger; Perisset (Mjelde 73), Buchanan, Eriksson (c), Carter; Charles, Leupolz (Ingle 71), Cuthbert (Fleming 111), Reiten (Rytting Kaneryd f-t); James, Kerr.
Unused subs Musovic, Orman, Abdullina, Cankovic.
Scorer Mjelde pen 120+8
Booked Ingle 118
Lyon (4-3-3):Endler; Carpenter, Gilles, Renard (c), Bacha (Morroni 105); Van de Donk (Marozsan 105), Egurrola (Dabritz 56), Horan; Cascarino (Malard 97), Bruun (Hegerberg h-t), Majri (Becho 73).
Unused subs Belhadj, Bosse, Cayman, Sombath, Benyahia, Le Sommer.
Scorers Gilles 77, Dabritz 110
Booked Van de Donk 84, Marozsan 120+1
Referee Ivana Martincic from Croatia.