Barcelona 3-1 SK Brann (Mar 28, 2024) Game Analysis

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Champions League holders Barcelona beat Brann 3-1 on Thursday at the Estadi Johan Cruyff to set up a repeat of last year’s semifinal against Chelsea.

Ballon d’Or winner Aitana Bonmatí and Fridolina Rolfö netted either side of half-time to ease Barça into a two-goal lead, but Tomine Svendheim‘s strike brought the visitors back into the game.

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Any hopes of an unlikely Brann comeback were extinguished late on by a Patri Guijarro tap-in as the Spanish champions secured a 5-2 aggregate victory to book their place in the last four for the sixth consecutive season.

Chelsea, who knocked out Ajax on Tuesday, await in the next round in a tie which pits two United States-bound coaches against each other: Emma Hayes, manager of the English side, will take over the USWNT in the summer, while Barça’s Jonatan Giráldez will move to Washington Spirit.

Giráldez got the better of Hayes when the two met last year and the Blaugrana, who have been in four of the last five finals and won two of them, including one against Chelsea in 2021, will start the semifinal as favourites.

Barça were expected to blow Brann away and it was somewhat of a surprise that they only won 2-1 in Bergen last week against the Norwegian side, who have been one of the surprise packages of this year’s competition.

Barcelona players celebrate after clinching a spot in the Women's Champions League semifinals.
Barcelona players celebrate after clinching a spot in the Women’s Champions League semifinals.

They once again showed their defensive nous in Barcelona on Thursday as the home team dominated the first half but only had one goal to show for their efforts at the break.

Norway‘s Caroline Graham Hansen, booed by the 600 travelling supporters because of her past with rivals Stabaek, was lively early on, rousing the crowd at every given moment before drawing a good save from international teammate Aurora Mikalsen.

Mikalsen also saved well from a Irene Paredes header before Bonmatí brilliantly opened the scoring in the 24th minute, curling into the corner after good work from Esme Brugts and two-time Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas, recently back from surgery.

Putellas then created two chances for Mariona Caldentey, but they were wasted as Barça failed to build on their lead before half-time.

The second goal eventually arrived in the 56th minute. Roflo scored it — the Sweden left-back’s third in seven games since returning from injury — but it was all about Graham Hansen, even if the assist won’t officially be added to her remarkable 51 goal contributions already accrued this season.

Any hopes of winding down in the final 20 minutes disappeared, though, when Svendheim finished a Brann counter off the post in front of the noisy visiting fans just seconds after Caldentey had missed a one-on-one at the other end.

Rolfo then hit the post as both teams exchanged chances in an open ending before Guijarro sealed the win, finishing at the far post after more wizardry on the wing from Graham Hansen and a miscued finish from Bonmatí.

Chelsea now stand between Barça and a fourth successive Champions League final, while they remain on track to win the quadruple this season. They have already won the Spanish Supercopa, are 12 points clear in Liga F and into the Copa de la Reina final.

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