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Chelsea see off Bayern to set up first Champions League final with Barcelona 

If Emma Hayes’ heart had taken a beating last week it was pushed to the limit at a crisp Kingsmeadow. Fran Kirby scored twice for Chelsea and so booked their place in the Champions League final for the first time after coming from behind in the tie to stun Bayern Munich 4-1.

The Blues are the third team in the competition’s 20-year history to lose a semi-final first leg and still make the final after they overturned the 2-1 defeat in Germany.

Kirby opened the scoring before a stunning strike from Sarah Zadrazil gave the Germans the advantage, but a free-kick from Ji So-yun, a header from Uefa’s player of the year Pernille Harder and another from Kirby sealed the win.

The return of the captain Magda Eriksson was a huge boost for the Blues, with Chelsea having struggled in recent weeks without the influential centre-backs partnering Millie Bright.

Left-back Jonna Andersson had struggled against Hanna Glas in the first leg and Hayes did not take the risk in the second. Jess Carter and Niamh Charles, who have both shone while sharing right-back duties, were trusted either side of Eriksson and Bright. Hayes would be rewarded for her faith in the fringe pairing, with both outstanding and Carter, critically, getting in the way of an on-target Lineth Beerensteyn strike.

Bayern had shifted things around too, somewhat surprisingly given the effectiveness of their set-up in the first leg. The back three with a bank of five in front was swapped for a more traditional 4-4-2 and Kirby and Kerr would find the space between the lines that had so effectively shut them out in Germany.

It took just 11 minutes for the home team to take the advantage in the tie. Melanie Leupolz won the ball in the middle and teed up Kirby who raced from within her own half before squeezing the ball between three red shirts into the feet of Kerr on her left. Kerr cut round Amanda Ilestedt and swept a pass into the feet of Kirby, who had continued her run and lifted the ball over goalkeeper Laura Benkarth and into the far corner.

The ‘Kerrby’ connection was back with a bang. Buoyed by having finally broken through the resilient Bayern backline Chelsea poured forward. Sophie Ingle, back in the midfield having stepped back in the absence of Eriksson, would fire over from a short corner, while a teasing cross over the top from Leupolz was narrowly missed by Kerr at the back post within minutes of the opener.

Where Glas’s solo effort had swung the advantage Bayern’s way in the first leg, it would need another moment of individual brilliance to put them back in front overall and quell Chelsea’s momentum. Just before the half hour mark an innocuous clearance fell to Zadrazil and the midfielder took one touch before lashing her curling strike into the corner from 25 yards out.

Beerensteyn would almost provide a second when she robbed Leupolz in the centre circle before playing in Lea Schuller but the forward sliced wide from 12 yards.

They would be instantly punished for their profligacy. Kirby, targeted throughout, was awarded a free-kick after she was downed by Lina Magull on the right. Ji’s free-kick looped back to her off the wall and she slipped it low into the far post.

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With the tie level for the first time Bayern went on the hunt in search of a second away goal, but it would be Chelsea who would edge towards the final for the second time.

With six minutes to play Beerensteyn’s studs-up challenge on Carter would prove more costly than just the yellow card, as the full-back’s delivery from the resulting free-kick was headed powerfully past Benkarth by Harder.

In the 90th minute Eriksson’s return and importance was underlined, as a comer punched clear by Ann-Katrin Berger was knocked back in only for Eriksson to force it off the line as she fell backwards into the goal. Kirby then went on to roll the ball into the empty net almost on the whistle as Chelsea broke after a Bayern corner, with their goalkeeper high up the pitch and stranded.

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