Asian Icons

Ji, Kerr help Chelsea to UEFA Women’s Champions League final


London: Two of Asia’s brightest stars will fight for the European club title after Chelsea defeated Bayern Munich 5-3 on aggregate to qualify for the UEFA Women’s Champions League Final on Sunday.

Trailing 2-1 after the opening match in Germany, Chelsea won 4-1 in a breathless second leg, with Korean star Ji So-yun among the scorers and Australian national team captain Sam Kerr the chief creator for another of the goals.

The London club will meet FC Barcelona in the final, to be held in Gothenburg on May 16, after the Spanish side completed a 3-2 aggregate win over Paris Saint-Germain earlier on Sunday.

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Coming into the deciding leg behind the eight-ball, Chelsea quickly wrestled back control of the tie when Kerr provided an excellent run and pass for Fran Kirby’s 10th-minute opener, putting the Blues ahead on away goals.

But Bayern struck back in spectacular style when Sarah Zadrazil scored with a scorching half-volley in the 29th minute, leaving Chelsea goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger powerless to stop the 25-yard effort.

Chelsea hit back through Ji two minutes before half-time, with the Korean star first striking a free-kick into the Bayern wall, before pouncing on the loose ball to send the ball bouncing in at the far post after an inventive volley to make it 3-3 on aggregate.

Ji and Kerr looked Gothenburg-bound when Danish striker Pernille Harder headed home Chelsea’s third on the day in 84th minute, but a frantic finale followed, with a one-on-one miss by Kerr followed by a desperate goalmouth scramble at the other end, with only a goal-line clearance from Magdalena Eriksson preventing Bayern from scoring a decisive second away goal.

With Bayern goalkeeper Laura Benkarth joining in the attack, Chelsea broke to seal their victory in the fifth minute of added time, with Kirby calmly rolling the ball into the empty net to end a thrilling 90 minutes of football.

If successful in the final, Ji and Kerr will follow in the footsteps of Japan’s Saki Kumagai and Australia’s Ellie Carpenter, who both received UEFA Champions League winners’ medals with Olympique Lyonnais last season.

Kumagai – who recently announced that this will be her last season in Lyon – is Asia’s most successful player in the competition, having won the title five times.

Photos: AFP

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