Nervy Chelsea beat Atletico to reach Champions League last eighton March 10, 2021 at 4:46 pm

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Maren Mjelde scores as Chelsea move into the quarter-finals of the Women’s Champions League with a 3-1 aggregate win over Atletico Madrid.

Maren Mjelde scores for Chelsea against Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League last 16 tie

With the Blues 2-0 up from the first leg but under increasing pressure, England’s Duggan blasted her penalty on to the bar with 15 minutes left.

But within three minutes Mjelde’s cool penalty as good as put them through.

Emelyne Laurent’s injury-time equaliser was little consolation for Atletico.

Two-time semi-finalists Chelsea find out their next Champions League opponents when the draw for the quarter-finals and semi-finals is made on Friday.

Boss Emma Hayes, who described her side as “a bit leggy”, was cautious about Chelsea’s chances of lifting the trophy, but was impressed by the spirit and resolve.

“You’ve seen us at our best with 10 players last week, and even when we weren’t at our best, we’re still winning,” she added.

“That is a sign of a good team. To become a great team, we have to keep finding the other levels. We haven’t accomplished anything yet.

“The domestic league in England is so tough. It takes something out of the players.

“Plus, we played with 10 players last Wednesday and completed some physical stats that for some players were season-highs. We didn’t have the legs to get into certain situations.”

Atletico pay the penalty – again

Atletico were without home advantage with the game being played in Monza, northern Italy, because of travel restrictions between the UK and Spain, and posed little threat before the break.

But they dominated the second half with two strong penalty claims waved away before Niamh Charles was penalised for handball.

England striker Duggan took over spot-kick duties, having seen her team-mates denied by two sensational penalty saves by Blues keeper Ann-Katrin Berger in a pulsating first leg which Chelsea won despite playing nearly 80 minutes with 10 players.

Berger’s heroics were not needed this time, with the ball crashing back off the bar.

But the penalty drama was not over as Chelsea substitute Guro Reiten quickly won the fifth penalty of the tie. This one was far more controversial, with the ball brushing the side of Sonia Garcia as Reiten tried to run through.

Mjelde once again showed the way from 12 yards before Laurent’s calm side-footed finish – the first the Women’s Super League leaders had conceded in almost five full games – was some reward for an impressive second half by the hosts.

Attack the best form of defence

Fran Kirby in action for Chelsea against Atletico Madrid

An attacking line-up of Beth England, Sam Kerr, Fran Kirby and Pernille Harder showed the away team’s desire to put the tie beyond doubt rather than defend their hard-earned first-leg lead.

The positive approach almost worked early on, Harder narrowly off target with a rasping 25-yard effort and Kirby shooting over on the follow-up after Kerr’s low cross was almost diverted in to her own net by Grace Kazadi.

But the hosts were the more threatening thereafter, with the pace and direct running of Ludmila and the quality of Duggan posing regular problems.

Duggan had two decent long-range efforts on goal, the first going just over and the second forcing a fine stop from Berger.

Atletico’s pressure continued to build in the second half but Millie Bright and Mjelde stood firm at the heart of an overworked defence thanks to a combination of some fine defending and generous refereeing.

The two penalties that were were awarded brought a frantic finish but Chelsea managed to stay calm enough to progress and keep alive their hopes of a first Champions League success.

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