Pernille Harder struck Chelsea's winner in front of a bumper crowd in Turin
Juventus Femminile 1 Chelsea Women 2
Pernille Harder’s “outstanding” contribution for Chelsea was lauded by manager Emma Hayes after the Denmark forward scored her third goal in as many games to earn them a priceless away victory over Juventus in the Women’s Champions League.
Harder’s sixth goal in eight matches in all competitions for Chelsea so far this season gave last season’s runners-up in Europe a 2-1 win in Turin that lifts the English league champions above their Italian counterparts in Group A and enhances their chances of reaching the knockout stages.
“This is already an amazing team and she has taken us to an even higher level because her standards day in and day out are what every young person should look up to," Hayes said of Harder, who was in the right place at the right time to fire home on the rebound after Sam Kerr’s initial shot was blocked, as Chelsea grew stronger when the game had been finely balanced at 1-1.
“She takes responsibility, she’s accountable, she’s there when it really matters, she’s there for this team and I’m so delighted – she had an outstanding performance.”
Harder, who has been a Women’s Champions League runner-up three times and has always desperately wanted to go one further, said: “I feel good, I feel like I’m in a flow. I just keep building and keep developing both me and the team and I love that.”
PERNILLE HARDER PUTS CHELSEA BACK IN FRONT 👊🔵
🎙🏴👉 https://t.co/CIo0aLYC8a pic.twitter.com/SJOJ38yWDY
— DAZN Football (@DAZNFootball) October 13, 2021
If Harder can continue her relentless ability to find goals at crucial moments, Chelsea may well find themselves back at the Allianz Stadium in May, when this impressive, modern stadium will host the final.
Juventus’ women usually play their home league games at the club’s training ground complex, but they staged this game at the home of their male side and offered free tickets with 16,781 fans taking up the offer and creating a crackling atmosphere that followed a pre-match lights show that was befitting of the high tension that was to follow.
On the atmosphere, Harder continued: “This is what a Champions League evening should feel like. It felt full. It’s an unbelievable stadium, a great pitch, it was amazing.”
Juventus, now managed by former Arsenal manager Joe Montemurro, are bidding for their fifth straight Serie A title and had won 11 successive games in all competitions before Chelsea’s arrival in northern Italy. Yet the visitors controlled most of the ball early on and Scotland’s Erin Cuthbert collected Harder’s diagonal pass and drove past three defenders, bursting into the area from the right at pace, and she placed a low shot into the bottom corner to open the scoring.
Six minutes later, the ‘Old Lady’ sprung to life as Barbara Bonansea volleyed Lisa Boattin’s floating ball into the bottom corner, with Chelsea keeper Ann-Katrin Berger helpless. It was a well-taken finish that typified the Italy forward’s class.
After half-time, a slightly more purposeful-looking Chelsea carved open the better chances as Harder side-footed narrowly wide, not long after swerving another effort into the side netting. Valentina Cernoia curled a free-kick wide for the hosts, before Harder – who produced Chelsea’s stoppage-time equaliser against Wolfsburg seven days previously – was the heroine again.
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Chelsea were inches away from a third goal as Kerr’s hanging effort from the edge of the area was magnificently clawed onto the woodwork by Juventus’ former Arsenal goalkeeper Pauline Peyraud-Magnin, and they held out at the other end to seal it.
“What a great place to come and play, this is an iconic stadium, a team that’s improving in Europe, a brilliant crowd, a tough atmosphere, but we showed our ability to adapt to the demands of the game," Hayes added. "And the performance from the team was mixed but we were resilient enough and took our chances when they mattered and that’s why we are on the winning team."
Montemurro said the defeat would serve as a "massive learning curve" for his improving side against a “team of the highest level”, but he was proudest of the turnout in Turin, adding: “To have everyone here tonight in this magnificent stadium, it’s one of the most beautiful nights of my career and I’ll never forget it.”
Juventus Femminile (4-3-3): Peyraud-Magnin 8; Lundorf 6, Salvai 7 (Lenzini, 73), Gama 8, Boattin 7; Rosucci 5 (Caruso 6, 81), Pedersen 6 (Zamanian 5, 89), Cernoia 6; Bonansea 8 (Bonfantini 6, 72), Girelli 7 (Staskova 6, 81), Hurtig 8.
Subs not used: Aprile (gk), Hyyrynen, Nilden, Giai, Beccari, Pfattner.
Goal: Bonansea (37).
Chelsea Women (3-4-3): Berger 6; Bright 6, Carter 5, Eriksson 7; Cuthbert 8 (Fleming 6, 66), Leupolz 6, Ji 7 (Ingle 6, 74) Reiten 7; Kirby 7 (Andersson 6, 83), Kerr 7, Harder 8.
Subs not used: Mosovic (gk), Telford (gk), Nouwen, England, Mjelde, Charles, Spence, Fox.
Goals: Cuthbert (31), Harder (69).
Referee: Ivana Martincic (Croatia).