The 2021-22 UEFA Women's Champions League kicked off this week with the first round of the group qualification stage. Several Australians and New Zealanders had success and progress to the second round.
New 2021-22 UEFA Women's Champions League competition explained
The 2021-22 UEFA Women's Champions League marked a new dawn for women's European football club play. The tournament kicked off with a new format, changed to increase completion in Europe.
The first-round of group stage qualification saw teams separated in fifteen groups of four. Eleven of these groups were clubs competing in the champions pathway, while the other four groups had clubs competing in the league pathways.
The champions pathways are for clubs who have won their countries' league. The league pathways are reserved for teams who have qualified lower down their countries' league table. The different pathways were conceived to ensure that at least ten nations will be represented in the sixteen teams who qualify for the group stage.
Not all clubs enter at the first-round. Some enter at the second-round and four country champions enter directly in the group stage. Where clubs enter the competition depends on their country coefficient.
Tuesday and Wednesday marked the semi-final of the first-round of group stage qualification. The third place and first place matches of the first-round of group stage qualification occurred on Friday and Saturday.
Losers of the group's respective semi-finals proceed to the third placed game for their group, and are then eliminated from the UWCL. Winners of the semi-finals proceed to their group's first place game with the fifteen group victors proceeding to the second-round of group stage qualification.
The second-round will add a further three other country champions and six other league path clubs to the fifteen first-round victors. Once again split into champions and league paths, the teams will be drawn into groups of two to play two-legged ties. The seven champions path winners, five league path winners, and the other already qualified four country champions will then proceed to the group stage.
The group stage will be composed of the sixteen teams split into four groups of four. They will play a total of six games, each team facing each other in home and away matches. The top two teams form each group will then proceed to the quarter-final knock-out stage.
Australian and Kiwi performance in the semi-final first-round of group stage qualification
Seven Australians and two Kiwis saw action in the first-round of group stage qualification on Wednesday and Saturday.
Aussie Jacyntha Galabadaarachchi and Football Fern Olivia Chance were both on the bench for Celtic FC's first- round semi-final, a game which also marked the first time the club's women's team was competing in Europe.
Sadly the result did not go well. Competing in the league pathway, they met Spanish side Levante who defeated them 2-1. Celtic then meet Belarussian side Minsk in their third place match. Chance was used as a substitute in this second match, with Celtic losing to Minsk in extra time.
Jess Coates featured in her Bulgarian club NSA Sofia's champions path semi-final game against Ukrainian club Kharkiv. Coates played the full ninety minutes in the 5-1 defeat.
NSA next meet Latvian side Rīgas FS in there third place match. Coates played the full 90 in that match as well, with her Bulgarian winning the match by a score of 2-1.
Aoife Colvill and Glasgow City won their opening semi-final match against Maltese side Birkirkara by a margin of 3-0. Glasgow of course has a long history of Champions League football having qualified through their winning of the Scottish league for the previous fourteen consecutive years.
Colvill did not feature in either UWCL matches. Glasgow went on to win 1-0 against Kazakh team BIIK-Shymkent to progress to the second round of group stage qualification in the champions path.
Football Fern C.J. Bott won her match with club side Vålerenga 5-0 against Kosovo side Mitrovica. Bott was an unused sub. Bott did feature as a substitute in her Norwegian team's first place match 2-0 win Greek club PAOK. The win ensured progress to the second-round in the champions path.
Joe Montemurro's first competitive match with new side Juventus went fantastically well. His team beat North Macedonian club Kamenica Sasa 12-0. It was Juventus women's first ever Champions League win. They then beat Austrian side St. Pölten 4-1 in their first place champions path game.
Amy Harrison featured for PSV in their match against Russian side Lokomotiv Moskva. She replaced Desiree van Lunteren in the 70th minute of play. PSV won their game 3-1 making it the women's club's first victory in the Champions League.
Arsenal encountered Kazakh team Okzhetpes in their semi-final match. Both Steph Catley and Caitlin Foord saw action after coming on in the 62nd minute of play. Foord made an immediate impact, with two tries for goal within two minutes of entering the game. Arsenal ultimately won the match 4-0 in what turned out to be a very contentious fixture. Lydia Williams was an unused sub.
The Gunners next meet Harrison's side PSV in their league path first-round final. Harrison and Foord were both substitutes in the second half of the game, while Catley played the full 90 minutes and Williams did not feature. Arsenal beat the Dutch team 3-1 to proceed to the second-round of group qualification stage in the league path.