Pernille Harder earns Chelsea Women’s Champions League win over Juventus

The Guardian - Wed Oct 13 21:06

Goals from terrier-like forward Erin Cuthbert and a rampant Pernille Harder earned Chelsea their first three points in the Champions League group stage following a tight 2-1 defeat of Juventus in Turin.

Harder scored her 27th goal in 30 UWCL games to give last season’s runners-up a valuable win after Barbara Bonansea had brought the hosts level in their fourth European campaign.

Chelsea’s hard-fought 3-3 draw with Wolfsburg in their opener, a game the team dominated, left the team’s hopes of progression to the knockout stage much more in the balance than they would have liked. Living up to its group of death moniker, Group A currently has Wolfsburg top, following their 5-0 defeat of Swiss side Servette FCCF, Chelsea second, level with the Germans on four points, Juventus third on three points and Servette bottom and pointless. Yes, only two games of six have been played, but last season’s runners-up have little room for error in their remaining fixtures which also puts pressure on the domestic campaign.

It took half an hour before the Blues took the lead at the noisy Juventus stadium in Turin, where 17,000 tickets had been distributed of the 20,000 available prior to kick-off. Cuthbert made a blistering and dogged run before cutting inside and firing low into the bottom corner.

Twice the Juventus forward Lina Hurtig found herself in a one-on-one race with Jess Carter. On both occasions the defender did well to disrupt the flow of the Swedish forward. But the threat was a warning sign and the crowd was buoyed by the performance of the underdogs.

Eight minutes after Cuthbert’s opener Juventus punished the profligacy that had gifted Wolfsburg three goals in the preceding round. A sharp cross from the left to the far post was met by Bonansea and the Italian did well to hold off Guro Reiten and weaved in front of her marker to smash the ball home. It was too easy – once again Chelsea’s back three was found wanting.

Juventus currently sit top of Serie A with six wins from six and although Chelsea had played the Italian champions only once, in a pre-season friendly in 2018, the team has come a long way since then and the manager in the dugout was far more familiar.

Having announced he would be leaving Arsenal at the end of last season, Joe Montemurro joined Juventus in the summer. In 12 meetings between Emma Hayes and Montemurro while he was in north London, the Blues won nine times and Arsenal once.

“I’m an Arsenal fan, so for me it’s important that Chelsea are always behind,” he had joked before his reunion with Hayes.

In the second half Montemurro was denied the chance to take the lead over his old foe when forward Cristiana Girelli fell in the box after a nudge in the back from Chelsea captain Magda Eriksson, but with no VAR until the knockout stages the appeals of the Italian side were waved away.

Instead Hayes’s team restored their lead after an hour. Sam Kerr and Fran Kirby linked up and attempted to weave into the box but were crowded out by black and white shirts and the stray ball fell kindly for the ever-alert Harder, who powered in.

Almost instantly Juventus went in search of a reply but Hurtig’s effort rippled the side netting. Chelsea went close to extending their lead but a drilled Kerr shot was tipped acrobatically on to the post by former Arsenal goalkeeper Pauline Peyraud-Magnin before being cleared.

Eight substitutions in 23 minutes killed the momentum of both teams. In a scrappy end to the game Chelsea clung on to take all three points that has kept them well in the mix.