LONDON: Chelsea manager Emma Hayes lauded Ann-Katrin Berger as the “best pen-saving goalkeeper I’ve worked with” after the Germany international’s heroics helped the Blues knock holders Lyon out of the Women’s Champions League on Thursday.
The 32-year-old, diagnosed with thyroid cancer for a second time in August, made two saves in a penalty shootout Chelsea won 4-3 to set-up a semifinal with Barcelona.
An already dramatic two-legged tie finished level at 2-2, but only after Chelsea substitute Maren Mjelde scored a penalty in the eighth minute of added-on time at the end of extra-time to send the match to spot-kicks.
Mjelde then scored the first penalty of the shootout.
Berger later denied Wendie Renard before ending the match when she got a strong hand to US international Lindsey Horan’s strike low to the bottom left corner.
The Blues’ success sparked joyous scenes at Stamford Bridge, with Chelsea — yet to win the Women’s Champions League — now facing a Barcelona side that beat them 4-0 in the 2021 final.
“She’s someone who really thrives in big moments,” said Hayes, in charge of Chelsea for nearly 11 years, of Berger.
“She’s probably the best pen-saving goalkeeper I’ve worked with.”
Hayes added: “It was the most character-building performance, even if it was the ugliest...I’m relieved and exhausted.”
Earlier, two-time Champions League winners Wolfsburg secured a last-four place against Arsenal, one of Chelsea’s London rivals, with a 2-1 aggregate win over Paris Saint-Germain.
Eight-time champions Lyon appeared to have done enough when Sara Dabritz’s goal deep into extra-time put the French side 2-0 up on the night and 2-1 ahead on aggregate.
But in the third minute of added-on time at the end of extra time, Lyon’s Vicki Becho clipped Lauren James inside the box.
Contact appeared to be minimal but, following a lengthy VAR check and with Lyon players surrounding referee Ivana Martincic, a penalty was awarded.
Mjelde then made no mistake with the last kick of extra-time.
Lyon coach Sonia Bompastor was left with feelings of “frustration and injustice” at a penalty awarded after Martincic was instructed to consult the pitch-side VAR.
“The referee made the right decision live (for the penalty),” she said. “Then she was obliged by VAR to go and look.”
Lyon, who had won this competition in six of the last seven seasons, kicked off 1-0 behind after Guro Reiten’s curling shot had given Chelsea a first-leg lead in France last week.
The visitors brought Champions League record goalscorer Ada Hegerberg off the bench at the start of the second half.
But they had to wait until the 77th minute to draw level when Vanessa Gilles nudged the ball in from a tight angle.
In a bruising encounter, neither side could manage another goal until the 110th minute when Dabritz shot into the far corner.
Previously, a 1-1 draw at home was good enough for Wolfsburg to go through.
The German club took an early lead through star striker Alexandra Popp but that was soon canceled out by a Kadidiatou Diani equalizer.
Wolfsburg manager Tommy Stroot enjoyed his side’s “extremely special” victory, saying “we made it, we’re proud of it – and now Arsenal waits for us.”
Three-time Champions League winner Popp told DAZN: “We are mega happy and mega proud. It was a hard fight but we dug in.”
The hosts went ahead on the night when Popp curled in a shot from outside the box following Wolfsburg’s first foray deep into PSG territory.
PSG also scored against the run of play when Diani headed in a looped cross from Sakina Karchaoui.