GOTHENBURG: Barcelona became the first Spanish side to win the women’s Champions League with a stunning performance to thrash Chelsea 4-0 in Gothenburg on Sunday. The La Liga champions scored all four goals inside 36 minutes as a Melanie Leupolz own goal, Alexia Putellas’s penalty and simple finishes from Aitana Bonmati and Caroline Graham Hansen killed the game as a contest.
Barca have romped to the Spanish title with a 100 percent record after 26 games in La Liga, boasting a 123 goal difference. “Congratulations, champions, you are unstoppable,” tweeted Barcelona president Joan Laporta. “You are a reference. You are an example. You are one of the big reasons that make Barca more than a club. You moved us with your magnificent victory.”
Chelsea had been on course for a quadruple, but even the big-spending English champions were no match for the Catalans’ speed of thought and movement. “Today was difficult because the game was over before it began,” said Chelsea manager Emma Hayes. “We will learn from because this is the next step up. I thought we showed some naivety at times. We’re not quite European champions yet, but we are the second best team in Europe and I’ll take that as a step in the right direction.”
The Blues were rocked after just 33 seconds when after Lieke Martens’s shot came back off the crossbar, Fran Kirby’s attempted clearance looped into her own net off the unlucky Leupolz. Chelsea had the chance to hit back immediately as Pernille Harder, who cost a world record transfer fee when she arrived in London from Wolfsburg in September, fired over from close range.
Jenni Hermoso pulled another big chance wide for Barca before Harder was denied again by a last-ditch tackle in an end-to-end start. But Chelsea were shell-shocked once Hermoso went down under Leupolz’s challenge and Putellas confidently slotted home the spot-kick.
A brilliant team move made it 3-0 as Martens fed Hermoso, who drilled a pass into the path of Bonmati and she beat Ann-Katrin Berger from close range. Martens was toying with Chelsea right-back Niamh Charles and the Dutch international laid the fourth on a plate for Hansen to tap into an empty net.
Two years ago it was Barca who found themselves 4-0 down after just 30 minutes against a dominant Lyon side in the Champions League final in Budapest. “We deserve it. It has been a lot of work since the final in Budapest. We had a goal to get back to the final and win it and we’ve done it,” said Bonmati, who won player of the match.
The French giants had won this competition for the past five seasons, but their reign was ended by Paris Saint-Germain in the quarter-finals, who were then eliminated by Barcelona in the last four. Chelsea will be hoping to show similar resilience to come back and win the competition for the first time as they missed out on becoming the first English side to become European champions since Arsenal in 2007.
Sam Kerr missed a number of chances to pull a goal back for Hayes’s women in the second-half. But Barca could afford the luxury of withdrawing Hansen and Hermoso as they cruised towards the title and set a new record winning margin in a women’s Champions League final. – AFP