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    Saturday, April 22, 2023

    Hansen Strike Gives Barcelona Edge Over Chelsea in Women's Champions League Semi

    A stunning early strike from Norway star Caroline Graham Hansen gave Barcelona a 1-0 win over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the first leg of their Women's Champions League semi-final tie on Saturday.

    Hansen cut in from the right before arrowing a left-foot strike beyond the reach of Chelsea goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger in the fourth minute in west London, and Barcelona then held on for a result that leaves them in a strong position going into the return next Thursday.

    Barcelona will have a huge crowd behind them in the second leg at the Camp Nou as they aim to reach a third consecutive Champions League final, after beating Chelsea in 2021 and losing to Lyon last year.

    The winners will advance to the final in the Dutch city of Eindhoven on June 3 against either Wolfsburg or Arsenal, who clash in the first leg of their last-four tie in Germany on Sunday.

    "It was a strong start from us. Stamford Bridge is not an easy place to come and Chelsea aren't an easy team to beat. We can be confident going into the second leg now," Barcelona's English midfielder Keira Walsh told UEFA.com.

    Chelsea had knocked out Lyon in a dramatic penalty shoot-out in the quarter-finals but they were second-best here in front of a crowd of over 27,000 and will need a special performance in Catalonia to turn the tie around.

    "There's things I will look at that we have to get better with. It's 1-0, the tie's not over," Chelsea manager Emma Hayes, whose side lost 4-0 in the 2021 final, told UEFA.com.

    "I remember it was completely over after 25 minutes (in 2021) but they are the best footballing team in the world and I cannot ask for any more from the players today."

    Bronze injury scare

    Barcelona, who are close to sealing another Spanish title, may be able to call on Alexia Putellas in the second leg after the two-time Ballon d'Or winner travelled with the team to London. She has not played since suffering a serious knee injury last July.

    However, they must hope that an injury that forced England star Lucy Bronze off in the second half does not turn out to be serious.

    Bronze went down in the 66th minute and then hobbled off down the tunnel in obvious discomfort before reappearing on the bench with an ice pack around her knee.

    That will also have been a worrying sight for England coach Sarina Wiegman with the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand just three months away and after her captain Leah Williamson was ruled out of the tournament.

    Williamson suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury while playing for Arsenal in midweek.

    "She felt pain in the knee but I think she's fine right now. I was talking to her immediately after the game. It was scary at first but right now I think she's fine," Barcelona coach Jonatan Giraldez told UEFA.com of Bronze.

    Bronze had earlier made a crucial block to deny Guro Reiten after the Norwegian had rounded Barcelona goalkeeper Sandra Panos in the 27th minute.

    Reiten also had a goal disallowed for offside before that for Chelsea, who were given a huge boost late on when Denmark international Pernille Harder came off the bench for her first appearance since November after injury.

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