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Barcelona holds off Chelsea to secure 3rd straight UWCL final


Barcelona are into a fourth Champions League final in five years after a nervy 1-1 draw against Chelsea at Spotify Camp Nou on Thursday saw them progress 2-1 on aggregate.

Caroline Graham Hansen, who scored the winner in the first leg of the semifinal last weekend, broke the deadlock after the break, but Guro Reiten’s 67th-minute equalizer set up a nervy finale. But Barca — who beat Chelsea 4-0 when the sides met in 2021 final — held on in front of a crowd of just over 72,000 to reach their third straight final and set up a meeting with either Arsenal or Wolfsburg in Eindhoven in June.

Chelsea boss Emma Hayes praised her team for their performance, insisting that the tie was lost with the 1-0 home loss in the first leg.

“We are disappointed,” she said. “I don’t know too many teams that come here as brave as we were. You have to survive the first part of the game, there is a huge crowd here and an incredibly intimidating environment.

“The players managed it well and grew into the game. In the second half we dominated, yes they had transitioned, that’s normal, but I am very proud of the players.

“I am not frustrated. We’re not going through because of the home tie. Nothing to do with coming here. If there was longer in the game, I think we would have won it. They were panicking, you could hear it on the touchline. Even their manager got booked. They were not used to that.

“We are out because we conceded so early at home, nothing to do with here.”

However, Hayes’ Barcelona counterpart, Jonatan Giraldez, said his team was worthy winners over the two matches.

“A semifinal is about both legs,” he said. “We were better in the first leg and I thought the result could have been bigger with the chances we created. And again I thought we were better today for the majority of the game.

“We didn’t take the openings we created in the first half. I don’t know how many chances we created in the first 60 or 70 minutes. After their goal, Chelsea were more aggressive and we had to compete, but I didn’t have the sensation they were creating a lot, either.”

Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas was named to a Barca squad for the first time this season after recovering from an ACL injury, but she watched on from the bench in the first half as her teammates dominated from the start.

The goal set up a pretty nervy finish but Chelsea couldn’t find another goal to send the tie into extra-time and it’s Barca who are through to a third straight final.

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