It was a difficult week for Chelsea FC, which included two positive COVID-19 cases and has concluded in their 2021-22 Champions League campaign being over. Elsewhere in the competition four other Matildas did progress to the knock out stage.
Chelsea FC's loss in their last group stage game of the Champions League left last year's runners-up eliminated from the competition prior to the knock-out round. The loss followed a poor showing in the Champions League by FA WSL opponents Arsenal FC who managed to pull through.
UEFA Women's Champions League
- Last year's UWCL runner's up Chelsea FC have been eliminated at the group stage.
- Arsenal FC progressed despite poor showing against Hoffenheim.
- Olympique Lyonnais, Juventus and title winners Barcelona also through.
More Australian women's football news can be found on The Women's Game.
Playing in from of a bosterious German crowd in Wolfsburg, Chelsea FC looked uncharacteristically disjointed during their last UEFA Women's Champions League group stage match. Arguably, this was the worst performance of the season for a number of their players.
Chelsea entered the fixture knowing that a win would allow them to progress to the knockout phase. However, if Wolfsburg and Juventus registered wins and surpassed Chelsea's goal difference the Blues would be eliminated. This is precisely what happened on Thursday evening.
Wolfsburg opened their scoring account in the 16th minute. Shanice van de Sanden's shot on goal was deflected only to be put in by Svenja Huth. The Wolfsburg captain then doubled her side's lead seven minutes later to make it 2-0 with Chelsea suddenly in position to be knocked out.
Chelsea Head Coach Emma Hayes made a number of changes starting late in the first half, but the Blues' general poor play only continued. This year's Champions League group stage leading scorer Tabea Wassmuth made it 3-0 in the 59th minute. She then scored again for Wolfsburg and put the final nail in the coffin for the Blues.
Chelsea finished third in Group B, with three wins, two losses and one draw. They were equal in points with first placed Wolfsburg and second placed Juventus, but third due to their goal difference. Prior to the start of this group stage, the general consensus was that this group was the most difficult group in the competition.
The elimination continued Chelsea's difficult week. The club lost in the WSL to Reading FC over the weekend and then confirmed they would be without starting goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger and midfielder Drew Spence who tested positive for COVID-19 prior to the trip to Germany.
Asked after the match if fixture congestion could be the source of Chelsea's recent woes, with the Blues women having played 4 matches in 12 days including an FA Cup final and two Champions League games, Hayes instead turned the attention to the current COVID-19 situation within the team and the squad's mental state due to the pandemic.
"We had 20 cases of COVID last year that saw my entire team struck off and unable to go home and able to see their families," said Hayes.
"They do not earn hundreds of thousands of pounds every week."
"A few days ago we had two players struck down with COVID and we know inevitably when we land tomorrow there will be positive cases. Our heads were all over the place. We are human beings.
"The stress, the anxiety, the worry of having to perform in a game when you are thinking I just want to go home, I haven't seen my family, I have been to an Olympics, oh no another Christmas alone.
"I am not making excuses for the players but I can tell you that the last three days have been all over the place with worry that we have to play this game.
"So while fixture congestion is a thing, COVID is real. When you are in a team environment and you know it spreads like wildfire in a team.
"I am gutted, gutted for the players because we all know that is nowhere near a team that represents my team.
"I got players being sick in there, they have got diarrhea, they are exhausted and maybe some of that mental anxiety plays a part in it.
"I just feel that this is deja vue and we are here again 12 months after a really really bad COVID outbreak at exactly the same time last year and I think that made a major part in our performance tonight."
Kerr, who played the full match, was not the only Australian in Group B. Juventus Head Coach Joe Montemurro was able to get his side through to the knockout stage. Tessa Tamplin and her Swiss side Servette were eliminate alongside Chelsea, with the former Newcastle Jets player making her seventh Champions League appearance on Thursday against Juventus.
Elsewhere in the Champions League four other Australians progressed.
Arsenal FC had a difficult last match against Hoffenheim. The side's recent defensive issued continued with a 4-1 loss to the German side. Matildas Lydia Williams and Steph Catley both played the full 90 minutes, with Caitlin Foord an unused substitute.
Jule Brand opened the scoring for German team in the first half. Hoffenheim then went on a four minute scoring spree in the second half with Chantal Hagel getting a brace in the 55th and 57th minute followed by Gia Corley finding the back of the net in the 59th minute.
Arsenal's sole goal of the evening came courtesy of Hoffenheim's defender Laura Wienroither, who scored an own goal while trying to defend the ball. While they finished even with Hoffenheim on points, the Gunners did make it through to the knockout stage on goal difference.
Last year's Champions League winners Barcelona topped Arsenal's Group C, winning every match for 18 points, scoring 24 goals and conceding only one score by Arsenal in their second match. PSG and Real Madrid made it through in Group B.
The only Matildas' player who had a good week in Europe was Ellie Carpenter. The defender has featured in every Champions League match for Olympique Lyonnais this campaign, playing the full 90 minutes in their last group game against Dylan Holmes' former club, B.K. Häcken.
Goals from Amandine Henry, Catarina Macário, Delphine Cascarino and Janice Cayman led to the 4-0 win against the Swedish side and resulted in Lyon winning the group with 15 points, their only loss having been a 1-0 loss away to Bayern Munich who also qualified in Group D.
The Women's Champions League quarter-final and semi-final draw will take place next Monday. The quarter-finals are scheduled for late March, the semi-finals in late April and the final on May 22, 2022.