Chelsea boss Emma Hayes was left “exhausted” after watching her side advance to the semi-finals of the Champions League on penalties against reigning European champions Lyon at Stamford Bridge.
Hayes’ side were facing elimination two minutes into injury time at the end of extra-time following Sara Dabritz’s goal that looked to have won it for Lyon.
They were rescued by Maren Mjedle’s penalty after Lauren James had been tripped inside the box, with a protracted VAR check leaving the tie in limbo for almost five minutes whilst a decision was reached.
Mjedle then showed an ice-cold nerve to step up and take the first kick of the shootout, before goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger made herself the hero with saves from Wendie Renard and Lindsey Horan to cap an incredible fightback.
It kept alive Chelsea’s hopes of becoming the first English side to win the tournament as they continue to chase an unprecedented treble.
“We’ve never won a shootout so can you imagine what was going on in my mind,” said Hayes. “I was forced into every substitute tonight. They were all injuries. I had to be so conscious, even in extra-time, were the penalty takers on the pitch? I didn’t see a goal in us.
“When I saw Lyon’s substitutes coming on, world-class talent. I think we managed the best we could in the circumstances. It was the most character-building performance, even if it was the ugliest.
“It doesn’t feel like it’s a really special moment. You know I only take it one game at a time. I felt like we went away from home and performed well last week, but I knew Lyon would come for us today. I’m just relieved it’s over and we’re through that.
“Our depth wasn’t big tonight, players have come in and played multiple roles. For Maren to do what she did with the last kick of the game. She’s a Chelsea legend. She deserved her night.
“I knew if we got to that moment then momentum would turn. Drama. I’m relieved and exhausted.”
Lyon coach Sonia Bompastor felt the decision by referee Ivana Martincic to award a penalty against her team was inevitable once she had been instructed to consult the pitch-side VAR.
“Disappointment is my feeling,” said Bompastor. “Frustration, injustice as well. My girls played the game we wanted, stuck to the game plan, played with their hearts and their heads. We showed a lot more than in the first leg.
“The referee made the right decision live (for the penalty). Then she was obliged by VAR to go and look. We know from experience that once they’ve been called over, it’s hard from them to go against what they originally thought. Chelsea were resorting to playing long balls into the box and hoping for a second ball.”