Hayes: We must sell out Bridge to win | Bonmati: Chelsea were dirty


Emma Hayes said Chelsea must be cheered on by a sold-out Stamford Bridge to reac the Champions League final, while Barcelona’s Aitana Bonmati labelled the Blues “dirty”.

The Blues stunned their hosts in their Champions League quarter-final first leg on Saturday, inflicting Barcelona’s first home defeat in any competition since March 2019 courtesy of Erin Cuthbert’s first-half winner.

Chelsea have been eliminated by Barca in two of the last three seasons of the competition, most painfully the 2021 final where they were thrashed 4-0.

With that in mind, Hayes said her side would need every advantage they could find in order to avoid defeat and finally get past the two-time winners at the third time of asking.

More than 25,000 tickets have already been sold for next Saturday’s game which kicks off at 5.30pm, but Hayes called for fans to pack out Stamford Bridge, which holds just over 40,000, to get her side over the line.

“It’s essential [the game is sold out],” she said. “Our girls deserve to play in front of a full house to give ourselves the best possible chance. We will need the crowd.

“Barcelona will throw absolutely everything at us. For us to progress, we need absolutely everything.”

Erin Cuthbert gives Chelsea the lead
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Cuthbert’s goal five minutes before half-time was enough to settle the game in Spain

Speaking to DAZN, she added: “I think I know how to come away from home and get a result. We have not performed against Barcelona at home.

“We have under performed when we played at home. Barcelona have another level in them and I think that’s clear. Maybe they don’t feel they were at their best today and we have to anticipate that.”

Chelsea found themselves the beneficiaries of a VAR call after a penalty awarded for a handball against Kadeisha Buchanan was overturned with the help of the video assistant, who ruled Barca striker Salma Paralluelo was offside and interfering with play at the time of the incident.

Hayes was relieved after expressing her frustration at refereeing calls during this season’s tournament, most notably after their group-stage draw at Real Madrid in November.

The hosts were awarded a penalty late on for a foul which clearly occurred outside the penalty area, but without the video assistant available to intervene, the decision was not overturned.

Referee Stephanie Frappart reviews the penalty decision before ruling it out
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Referee Stephanie Frappart reviewed the penalty decision before ruling it out

“For the first time ever we’ve had a VAR decision that’s gone in our favour,” she told DAZN. “You do need a little bit of luck. She [Salma Paralluelo] is offside and she’s interfering. That’s the rules.”

Chelsea held Barca back superbly for the majority of the match but were nearly undone late on when Paralluelo fired wide when unmarked, before Alexia Putellas also missed from six yards with the final kick of the game.

Hayes said: “First of all, I know why no team has beaten Barcelona here for five years.

“Barcelona are an extraordinary team and their short passing game makes it so difficult. You have to have such discipline to hold your positions which I think the team did. Of course, you need a bit of luck too.”

Bonmati: We warned referee Chelsea would play dirty

Bonmati, who has twice lifted the Women’s Champions League with her hometown club, hit out at what she perceived were Chelsea’s “dirty” tactics following Barca’s rare home defeat.

The 26-year-old suggested Hayes’ side had attempted to disrupt Barcelona’s passing style at the Miniestadi and that her team-mates had warned Frappart to be aware of their tactics ahead of the game.

“I am not in favour of playing with these interruptions, but we knew it,” she said, as per Spanish outlet Mundo Deportivo. “We had talked about Chelsea playing like this, which for me is playing dirty.

“We have warned the referee, but it is not up to us if they allow it. We have to know how to play with it.”

The midfieler also took issue with the manner of the VAR decision to overturn her side’s second-half penalty, given there were more than four minutes between Stephanie Frappart’s initial award and the eventual offside call.

“I have not understood why a penalty was called and why Mariona was preparing and then they began to review it,” she said. “In the end this has to be done the other way around. It is clear that there was an offside by Salma, I have not seen the play and I can’t say anything.

“If the VAR has marked this, we can’t do anything.”

Analysis: Hayes is the master tactician

Sky Sports’ Laura Hunter:

‘Masterclass’, the caption read on Chelsea’s X account, with a picture of Emma Hayes below it. This is the competition she craves, the only trophy to evade her across a magnificent 12-year reign, which meets its conclusion this summer.

Chelsea have always been hard-nosed and resilient. They’ve always been street-smart under Hayes, but never outsmarted Barcelona. Three previous attempts to beat the Catalonians have ended in disappointment – the most regretful of which was 2021’s Champions League final.

And so the Blues boss, with the benefit of experience, was particularly clever pre-match. She branded Barca as “world-class”, heaping praise on “the best women’s team of an era”. She spoke about her opponents in glowing terms, serving up the perfect tonic of pressure and expectation, before waiting to see how it would land.

Chelsea then initiated a classic snatch-and-grab on Spanish turf. It was perfect. “We’re at half-time against the best team in the world, who didn’t have their best game today,” she said post-match, doubling down on her stance.

Hayes is a master tactician. And if Chelsea manage to see this through, with the second leg to come at Stamford Bridge next Saturday, it will go down as one of her savviest yet.



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