Two nights, two teams and a crucial 48 hours for English clubs in the Women’s Champions League. Yet when Emma Hayes was exhausted after Chelsea The dizzying escape against LyonOverwhelmed by the buzz that lingered in the air at Stamford Bridge, he understood the importance of not just one victory, but two victories. “They were brilliant, what a performance they did,” Hayes said, but Hayes spoke about Arsenal’s performance. In their spectacular win against Bayern MunichNot that Chelsea dethroned Lyon and joined the Gunners in the semi-finals.
Both Chelsea and Arsenal have made huge strides forward in the competition, with Arsenal reaching their first semi-finals since 2013, with Chelsea knocking out eight winners after the most dramatic night. Chelsea played their Champions League first qualifying match at Stamford Bridge, and the night after Arsenal set new records and made Emirates feel at home, they made a comeback in what will be one of the best teams in the club’s European history. Jonas Eidevall said that history is being written before his eyes and that bigger nights are now to come.
“I’m very happy for English football,” Hayes said after a week that could raise interest in the club game – just as the Lionesses started to crackle as they sprinted into the Euro final before they were crowned victorious at Wembley. If Chelsea or Arsenal go all the way and end English football’s 13-year wait to win the Women’s Champions League, then there’s the potential to be a similar seismic moment. Leah Williamson has already adapted with the suggestion that Arsenal could one day surpass the Emirates. their permanent home is now said to be a realistic vision.
The Champions League is key to this, with the competition providing an exclusive platform for unfolding scenes. The social media hit of Frida Maanum’s stunning goal against Bayern Munich was watched millions of times, even before Chelsea’s definitive penalty save against Lindsey Horan on Thursday night in London sparked a similarly frenzied reaction. At both the Emirates and Stamford Bridge, there was a feeling of coming together as clubs united by a purpose and vision.
This will now develop into the April semi-finals, which have the potential to break records and offer both an opportunity for advancement and a chance for revenge. Chelsea will play against Barcelona for the first time after being gutted in the 2021 final. Arsenal face Wolfsburg, the side that knocked them out in the quarterfinals last season. Crowds at Stamford Bridge and the Emirates were crucial as Chelsea and Arsenal moved forward and will continue to be so.
In doing so, Chelsea and Arsenal have become a reflection of their managers. Arsenal’s opposition to Bayern was a performance of the coming together process of work Eidevall put in more than 20 months to design the field that would dominate the Bundesliga leaders. It was their best performance under Eidevall, the night they hit the biggest stage, reaching their first Champions League semi-finals in 10 years.
Six miles to the west, Chelsea embodied Hayes’s never-to-die stance and refusing to be defeated, resulting in the biggest escapes in overtime. Chelsea played very little – Hayes gave up on his plans to play from behind and took the team long over and over – but they won and like most of their big game performances in the cup finals, that’s what counted. “It was the most character-enhancing performance, even if it was the ugliest,” Hayes said.
Among the madness were personal stories. Starting the season with the news that his thyroid cancer has returned, Berger became the hero of the penalty shootout with two saves in front of the Shed End. “After everything he’s been through, this was his memory,” Hayes said. An integral part of Chelsea’s success, Maren Mjelde kept her bravery twice under the most intense pressure, first equalizing Chelsea’s opening penalty in the penalty shootout and then scoring, even as other star players got more attention.
Eidevall spoke to the bigger picture and the structure behind the women’s team that led to Arsenal’s breakthrough. “The support from the entire club is amazing,” he greeted, “There’s always a lot of talk about acting classy – you really understand what that means when you’re inside the organization. The communication and belief from them is incredible.” Mikel Arteta was in the Emirates stands as was Graham Potter at Stamford Bridge.
It’s already being built towards the end of April – towards bigger games and bigger crowds. Meanwhile, the Women’s Super League is heading towards its most exciting title race ever; Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United and Manchester City are still in contention and are separated by the best margins at the top of the table. Decisions may have to be made with the London club’s European pursuits in mind, but the last two nights should show Chelsea and Arsenal where their priorities lie. After all the drama, there’s no limit to what can happen next.