Chelsea 0-2 Barcelona (agg. 1-2): Emma Hayes' Champions League dream ends

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

So now the house that Emma built will be forever left with one brick missing.

Emma Hayes’ 12-year construction project was closer than ever to completion, and at the very last chance too.

Her Chelsea Women project has sorely craved the cherry of Champions League crown. But at a sold-out Stamford Bridge – a first for a Chelsea Women’s match – the Blues could not quite deliver, leaving that European finishing piece in rubble.

Hayes can still add to her six Women’s Super League titles before leaving for the USA this summer, but now that elusive Champions League will remain ever thus.

Kadeisha Buchanan endured a night to forget as Chelsea slipped out 2-1 on aggregate to holders Barcelona at the semi-final stage, despite a women’s record 39,398 attendance in west London. The centre-back’s sliding deflection left Hannah Hampton helpless to stop Aitana Bonmati’s low first-half effort.

Then Buchanan was booked twice in four second-half minutes, for a red card that turned the tie fully in Barcelona’s favour. Fridolina Rolfo’s nerveless penalty then killed Chelsea’s night and tournament at the semi-final stage.

The Blues had brought a 1-0 lead back from Barcelona, but just as Hayes had warned, the job was far from done.

As the game drifted out of Chelsea’s grasp at the death, a rare stamp of frustration from Hayes at one half-chance falling away was all that was left of a gloriously golden stewardship that had everything but this European nugget.

Chelsea again opted for a compact 3-5-2 shape, in a bid to limit Barca as they had in the first leg. The visitors’ set-up off the ball was even more stifling than that of the Blues though, leaving Hayes’ team struggling for a consistent foothold.

Barcelona then cut the palpable tension with a goal of impressive industry but no little fortune.

Bonmati shifted feet neatly after the Blues had failed to clear their lines, but her low shot would certainly not have found the net but for a deflection from the sliding Buchanan. The unwanted flick spun the ball into the corner of the net, with Hampton floored and flummoxed in equal measure.

Chelsea spurned a glorious chance for an equaliser minutes later, when Melanie Leupolz inexplicably thundered against the bar from point-blank range.

Catarina Macario sent Lauren James down the inside left, and a fine cutback positively begged to be buried. The woodwork sent the ball cannoning clear, though in the event a flag also popped up for offside.

Either way, this was a chance Chelsea should never have bungled.

Chelsea rallied, but to no avail, Macario seeing a long-range effort tipped round the post. Nusken seized on a Barca mistake to tiptoe round the back, but the Blues failed to latch onto her fine cutback.

Erin Cuthbert met her wild effort that wound up in the stands by throwing down her arms in frustration.

Barcelona’s plan was working, but should again have been picked apart by a rare Chelsea raid after the break. Nusken poked a full-stretch effort against the post, to let the visitors off the hook once more.

Just as Chelsea sought some sustained dominance though, Buchanan’s red card changed the tie’s entire complexion.

Only four minutes after being booked, Buchanan was then sent off for a second yellow, a soft dismissal by any measure.

The unmarked Salma Paralluelo flicked high and wide as Barca grabbed control. Nusken’s tame shot spurned a fine opening when the midfielder should have sought support in the Barcelona area.

But then the Catalan giants killed the game and the tie.

Rolfo kept her cool to wrongfoot Hampton in the Chelsea goal from the spot, after a soft penalty. Jess Carter and Ashley Lawrence sandwiched Bonmati in the box, but not even a VAR check could save Chelsea despite the questionable decision.

There would be no challenging Rolfo’s dead-ball skills though, as the Sweden star swept home with confidence and surety.