Chelsea march into Women’s Champions League semis, Lyon power past Benfica

Chelsea reached the semi-finals of the Women’s Champions League on Wednesday despite a 1-1 draw at home to Ajax, while Lyon also progressed after brushing aside Benfica in France.

Mayra Ramirez put Chelsea into a first-half lead on her European club debut before Chasity Grant equalised for Ajax in the second half.

Chelsea prevailed 4-1 on aggregate following a 3-0 win in the first leg in Amsterdam.

“Ajax did really well, they came out as we expected them to,” said Chelsea midfielder Erin Cuthbert.

“Small margins in football, we could have put a little bit more away, give ourselves a bit more breathing room, but the job was really done in the first leg.”

Ajax nearly took the lead in the opening 20 minutes when goalkeeper Zecira Musovic had her clearance charged down by Tiny Hoekstra, but the ball rolled against the post and went agonisingly wide.

Just after the half-hour mark, Ramirez opened her Champions League account with a composed finish after being set free by Guro Reiten.

Now four goals to the good, Emma Hayes’ side looked set to cruise into the final four.

Grant put a dampener on the night for Chelsea when she ran on to Hoekstra’s through ball and her slightly scuffed finish squirmed its way through Musovic.

With the score level on the night, Chelsea’s aggregate lead was insurmountable for Ajax although Musovic did redeem herself in the last 10 minutes when she made excellent fingertip saves to deny Romee Leuchter and then Danique Tolhoek.

– Four up for Lyon –

Earlier, braces from Delphine Cascarino and Kadidiatou Diani gave eight-times titleholders Lyon a 4-1 victory at the Groupama Stadium to claim the tie 6-2 on aggregate.

Marie-Yasmine Alidou equalised minutes after Cascarino’s opener at the end of the first half, but the 27-year-old hit a second shortly after half-time before two injury-time Diani goals gave Lyon a comfortable victory.

“There was a lot to be pleased about,” Lyon coach Sonia Bompastor toldo the club’s channel, OLPLAY.

“The comeback at half-time was beautiful and hurt the Portuguese mentally, but we had to be more clinical in the first half.”

Lyon created several good early chances but failed to find a way past Lena Pauels in the Benfica goal until the 43rd minute.

Cascarino gave Lyon a two-goal buffer on aggregate when Eugenie Le Sommer chased down an underhit backpass, won her challenge with Pauels and then had the presence of mind to lay the ball back to the French international, who duly finished with a delightful chip over the stranded ‘keeper and two retreating defenders.

But Benfica struck back instantly to reduce the deficit to one goal when Alidou bundled home Lucia Alves’ cross, following a sublime defence-splitting pass from deep by Kika Nazareth.

Lyon made two changes at half-time, and the move soon paid off when Cascarino doubled up with a fine individual effort six minutes into the second half.

Picking the ball up in midfield, she drove forward before unleashing a powerful shot from outside the area.

One minute into added-time, Diani tucked away Lindsey Horan’s knockdown in the box to cement Lyon’s spot in the semi-finals.

The margin of victory then became even greater five minutes later when Diani miscontrolled the ball and Catarina Amado’s clearance actually glanced off the French forward and into the net. BSS

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