Controversy reigned at the Estadio Alfredo di Stéfano as Chelsea were held to a 2-2 draw by a resilient Real Madrid side in their Champions League opener. Olga Carmona’s early strike was cancelled out by Niamh Charles’s header in the first half. Sam Kerr appeared to have set a mature Chelsea on the path to victory only for Madrid to be awarded a debatable penalty that Carmona converted.
Refereeing decisions continued to overshadow an otherwise competitive encounter, leaving Emma Hayes feeling her side had “been robbed of what should have been a 3-1 game”. With the last kick of the match, Charles wheeled away in celebration thinking she had capped another superb performance by sending her side home with an important three points. The goal was, however, disallowed for a supposed infraction by Kerr leaving the visitors and their travelling fans confused.
“[The decisions were] painful,” a frustrated Hayes said after the match. “I could see from the bench that it was a tackle outside of the box so I’m absolutely shocked that those managing the game couldn’t see that.
“I thought we controlled the game after the first goal. We went 2-1 up. Then there is the free kick that was awarded as a penalty and then we score a legitimate goal with Niamh Charles three or four yards onside. It’s embarrassing. Of course, I had to check the reason the goal was disallowed … it was because Sam was interfering with the goalkeeper. I’ve watched it back and Sam’s about seven or eight yards away from [her].”
It was an exasperating end to a match that Chelsea had controlled, for the most part, as Hayes looks to make a final run at lifting the sole trophy missing from her collection as manager. The headlines on the eve of this encounter were dominated by the news that she had been appointed as the next head coach of the US women’s national team, and is set to make the move to the US at the end of the season.
Chelsea will have been well aware of the stern test posed by Madrid. The two teams met in the group stage last season when the Spanish side caused them problems, particularly on home soil. Here Alberto Toril’s team were without their standout midfielder, Caroline Weir, who was sidelined with an ACL injury, but possessed plenty of quality in the form of Linda Caicedo, Carmona and Athenea del Castillo.