Late Harder strike denies Wolfsburg and snatches point for Chelsea

A stoppage-time goal from forward Pernille Harder earned Chelsea a point against her former team Wolfsburg after a period of calamitous defending looked to have handed the German team victory in the Champions League.

“They aren’t tactical problems, they are just errors, all three goals,” said the Chelsea manager Emma Hayes. “We shouldn’t have to score three goals every game. But it’s a point gained.”

Firm favourites going into the Group A clash, last season’s runners up took the lead through Sam Kerr but three mix-ups between goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger, so often the hero last season, and the players in front of her allowed the two-time Champions League winners to take a 3-1 lead before Beth England got one back and Harder poked in late on to send the frustrated Kingsmeadow crowd wild.

Hayes had urged against complacency against the team they beat for the first time at the seventh, and then eighth, time of asking last season in the Champions League. Her team responded by bursting out of the blocks against their old foes.

Within five minutes the Blues had won two corners, and Kerr completely missed from close range but was flagged offside and Harder had danced around midfielder Lena Lattwein before lashing wide of the near post. The pressure was relentless and Wolfsburg, who sit second in the Frauen Bundesliga having dropped two points in a 2-2 draw with Freiburg at the weekend, struggled to contain them.

“We were dynamite,” said Hayes. “We’ve had 10 corners to their zero, 33 entries to their penalty box to their 17, 62% possession, we were dominant in all the attacking stats. Every time we’ve played Wolfsburg I don’t think we’ve dominated those areas as much.”

In the first half, though, the Chelsea players seemed to be playing against themselves as much as they were playing to win. Ji So Yun’s searching ball from deep bounced through to Kerr who raced clear and dinked neatly over Almuth Schult to give the home team a deserved lead. However, two awful defensive errors highlighted a weakness at the back that the Blues have managed to paper over in recent weeks against weaker opposition.

A skied clearance from deep in the Wolfsburg box was left by Chelsea captain Magda Eriksson for goalkeeper Berger but Tabea Wassmuth nipped in and steered into the empty net.

Just past the half-hour mark and Wolfsburg, who are without key players Alex Popp and Ewa Pajor as both are sidelined with knee injuries, were again able to capitalise on confusion at the back. This time Berger’s lackadaisical pass to Melanie Leupolz was intercepted by 19-year-old Lena Oberdorf who passed to former Arsenal forward Jill Roord who slotted low into the corner from 20 yards.

Not long into the second half and another error extended Wolfsburg’s lead. A ball from deep was collected by Chelsea’s Jess Carter but the defender under-hit her pass in the direction of Berger and Wassmuth popped in and slid the ball into the net from a tight angle with the goalkeeper at sea.

Three minutes later and Chelsea brought the margin back down. A Guro Reiten corner was eventually poked clear by Felicitas Rauch but straight at England who fired in.

With four minutes of added time the crowd roared their team forward and in the 92nd minute Leupolz nicked the ball from the feet of Dominique Janssen and fed Harder who poked in.

“Mistakes happen,” lamented Eriksson. “Unfortunately today it was three silly mistakes. We know usually that’s not our standard.”