70 mins: Wolfsburg make a change, bringing Shanice van de Sanden on for Roord.
69 mins: Wolfsburg effortlessly pass the ball around the edge of Chelsea’s area for a while before finally working space for Hendrich, but a defender gets in the way of her shot.
66 mins: Chelsea have been sending a succession of high crosses into the box, which doesn’t really suit them at all. It does suit Almuth Schult, who is tall and confident and comes out well either to punch or catch.
64 mins: Chelsea make a change, Fran Kirby coming on for Beth England.
63 mins: Nearly a fourth for Wolfsburg! Waßmuth runs down the right, cuts in and sends a left-footed curler towards the far post, but Berger saves!
62 mins: Bright’s cross from the right is pretty good, but there’s nobody there to meet it and eventually Reiten runs onto the now bouncing ball and hammers a half-volley well wide.
58 mins: Wolfsburg send a long ball towards Waßmuth. Again Carter gets there first, but she doesn’t risk a back-pass and instead turns the other way and boots into touch, to cheers from the crowd.
54 mins: A chance for Wolfsburg! Wedemeyer plays Waßmuth through, but she blasts over the bar from out to the left of goal. She’s immediately taken out by a defender making a desperate attempt to block, but the referee either thinks there was no foul, or that the ball was already out of play when it happened, or that fouls after a player shoots don’t count.
53 mins: Remarkable match, this. I can’t remember another game in which an outstanding team has conceded three such calamitous goals (and there’s still time for more).
GOAL! Chelsea 2-3 Wolfsburg (England, 51 mins)
The corner is sent long to Reiten, who heads back into the mixer where it drops to Beth England, whose low shot flies past Schult!
50 mins: A chance for Chelsea, but Ji and Harder get in each other’s way and they end up with nothing but a corner.
GOAL! Chelsea 1-3 Wolfsburg (Waßmuth, 48 mins)
Chelsea’s defence stars in Death Wish Part III! The ball is played down Wolfsburg’s right but Carter gets there first, only for her to attempt a pass back to Berger and massively underhit it. Waßmuth nips in and passes into the net!
47 mins: Eriksson ushers the ball out of play on Chelsea’s left, and Huth runs over, arrives just as the ball crosses the line and barges her in the back. The referee has a word.
The players are back out and preparing for more action. There have been no halftimely substitutions.
Half time: Chelsea 1-2 Wolfsburg
45 mins: At the end of a half with three goals the referee plays three seconds of stoppage time. For 20 minutes Chelsea looked in a permanent state of about-to-score, but Wolfsburg’s first goal took the wind out of their sails and their second seemed to shatter them completely. A dramatic half of football, but work to do at half time.
45 mins: Huth gets down the left, and Carter does well to sprint to the near post, cut out the low cross, and then follow her prodded clearance back to Huth and stop her sending it back into the box.
41 mins: Chelsea are playing as if in desperate need for half-time and the chance to be reminded about what it is that makes them, collectively, good.
38 mins: They don’t have another shot. Instead Reiten chips it into the area, but to a green shirt.
38 mins: Roord is booked for a foul on England. Chelsea can have another shot from the free kick.
36 mins: Wolfsburg have had three shots, two on target, both a result of criminally poor decision-making in the Chelsea defence. Chelsea have had seven shots, lead 6-0 on corners, but there has been no criminally poor decision-making in the Wolfsburg defence and thus they are trailing.
GOAL! Chelsea 1-2 Wolfsburg (Roord, 33 mins)
More chaos from Chelsea! Berger’s extremely poor goal-kick towards Leupolz is intercepted by Lena Oberdorf, who passes to Roord, who shoots low into the corner from 20 yards!
33 mins: Janssen’s shot misses by a distance, and would have been saved it it didn’t.
32 mins: Probably Wolfsburg’s best passage of play ends with Huth being taken out. She was a good 35 yards from goal, but Janssen appears to be eyeing up a shot here.
30 mins: The ball has been bogged down in midfield for a couple of minutes. It’s fair enough, really, given how little time the ball had spent there previously.
27 mins: Chelsea go close again, but Leupolz’ shot from just outside the area misses the far post by a foot. This game has been extremely chance-heavy.
26 mins: Wolfsburg have improved since their goal, though from a pretty low base. They just worked some good space for Wolter on the left, but the pass through to her was a little long and ran out of play.
23 mins: Another chance for Chelsea, but England sends Harder’s pull-back straight to Schult in the Wolfsburg goal.
20 mins: What a stinking miss from Kerr! It’s another Chelsea corner (their sixth), which drops to Harder who completely misses her kick, and is sent back into the box by Bright. Kerr is on her own at the far post and just needs to half-volley it in, but she gets it entirely wrong. The assistant referee then waves her flag, probably just to save Kerr some embarrassment.
GOAL! Chelsea 1-1 Wolfsburg (Waßmuth, 18 mins)
Absolute defensive chaos! A massive, blind punt out of defence bounces into the Chelsea half. Eriksson leaves it for Berger when she could have dealt with it, Berger doesn’t get there in time, and Waßmuth nips in and passes it into an empty net!
16 mins: The thing about that Kerr finish wasn’t that it went in – with the ball bouncing and Schult advanced and exposed it was pretty straightforward to put it in the net – it was that it was perfect. The loop over the keeper, the dip just under the post, the landing right in the corner of the net. Yum.
14 mins: Beth England collects the ball on the half-turn, just outside the centre circle, and passes it through to Kerr. The ball is slightly overhit, though, allowing Schult to collect, but that was really nearly another great chance for Chelsea.
GOAL! Chelsea 1-0 Wolfsburg (Kerr, 12 mins)
That’s a fabulous finish from the Australian, who runs onto an excellent bouncing through-ball from Ji and lifts it over Schult and into the far corner!
10 mins: Save! Ji So-yun takes the free kick, and Almuth Schult saves low at the near psot.
9 mins: Yellow card! Reiten bursts into the box but is tripped by Tabea Waßmuth just before she gets there. Free kick, and a booking.
8 mins: Chelsea win another corner, and Jez Smith writes having watched today’s other Group A game. “On our way home from watching Servette’s 0-3 defeat against Juventus,” he says. “Fantastic crowd of 5,849, bigger than some men’s Swiss Super League matches this season. Really proud of how SFCCF played, kept shape, a penalty save and near misses – now can watch our other opponents.”
7 mins: Tommy Stroot, Wolfsburg’s head coach, is really very young. He’s so young that he’s pairing a suit with bright white new trainers and doesn’t look embarrassing.
5 mins: Another Chelsea corner. It’s been an excellent start for the home side, and the smell of home goal is in the air.
2 mins: Now Kerr is played in inside the area, but she both completely fluffs her shot and is offside.
1 min: Chelsea win a corner after 20 seconds, which Reiten sends towards Harder, who peels off towards the near post. It’s obviously a planned move, but the ball is a bit behind Harder, who scuffs her shot.
Out come the players! There seems to be a decent crowd in – either that or the broadcasters have placed their microphones very cleverly – and the atmosphere is good as the Women’s Champions League anthem plays.
Live coverage of this match, or at the moment of players warming up for it, is available on YouTube here:
Tonight’s weatherwatch: Cool, clear, no chance of rain, and a very light breeze. Ideal footer conditions, really.
Chelsea will be wearing black armbands tonight in memory of Sam Hasan, who according to Linkedin had worked at the club for more than 17 years and was most recently accounts payable supervisor. I think it’s lovely, and appropriate given his length of service, to see a member of a club’s administrative staff remembered in this way. My thoughts are with his friends and family.
Tonight’s line-ups are in, and here they are:
Chelsea: Berger, Bright, Carter, Eriksson, Cuthbert, Leupolz, Ji, Reiten, England, Kerr, Mosegaard-Harder. Subs: Musovic, Nouwen, Ingle, Kirby, Fleming, Mjelde, Charles, Spence, Andersson, Telford, Fox.
Wolfsburg Women: Schult, Wedemeyer, Hendrich, Janssen, Rauch, Huth, Oberdorf, Lattwein, Wolter, Wasmuth, Roord. Subs: Blasse, Kassen, Starke, Smits, Svava, van de Sanden, Weiss, Cordes, Knaak.
Referee: Lina Lehtovaara (Finland).
Last season, for the first time in their history, Chelsea knocked Wolfsburg out of the Champions League, after losing to the German side in three successive seasons between 2016 and 2018. This being the first game of the first ever women’s Champions League group stage, and with these two teams favourites to emerge from Group A, nobody’s being knocked out tonight.
“We are familiar with Wolfsburg now. We’ve played them a couple of times and they are going to be a tough opponent,” says the Swedish defender Magda Eriksson. “Looking at the ranking it’s the toughest in our group so it would be great to start with a win. It’s amazing that we get to go into this group stage in the Champions League, a historical moment for women’s football, and we get to do that together with our amazing fans. I’m getting chills just talking about it now, so I’m really excited.”
Aren’t we all! There might be no immediate peril for either side but this is still a big game between two giants of women’s football, albeit giants who don’t currently top their domestic leagues – Chelsea are third in the WSL despite winning three on the spin since losing their first game of the season to Arsenal, while Wolfsburg conceded for the first time this season in drawing 2-2 at previously pointless Freiburg at the weekend and are thus two points behind Bayern Munich, who after four league games have already accumulated a goal difference of +21. Plus twenty-one! After four games!
“German teams have got unbelievable results over the years in Europe. We respect Wolfsburg as a team,” says Emma Hayes, the Chelsea coach. “They’ve recruited, they’ve got a new coach. They are still in the early stages of their team development under their new coach but what I know with a Wolfsburg team is they are unbelievably athletic. It will be a high intensity game.”
So, consider the scene set. Welcome!