EMMA HAYES was left “relieved and exhausted” by the dramatic penalty shootout that saw Chelsea reach the Women’s Champions League semi-finals.
The Blues boss hailed Maren Mjelde and Ann-Katrin Berger after her side defeated Lyon in an intense Stamford Bridge encounter.
Berger sent Chelsea fans into delirium after pulling off two shootout saves late on Thursday evening during an intense quarter-final decider.
Her side’s European run looked to be over with Lyon leading 2-1 on aggregate with the Blues having won the first leg 1-0 in France.
But they were awarded a penalty in the 28th minute of extra time following a VAR check for a foul on James in the box much to Lyon’s dismay.
And Mjelde coolly converted to take the clash to a shootout with the Norway ace later netting the first spot-kick.
Chelsea went on to win 4-3 on pens to enter semi-finals alongside Wolfsburg, Barcelona and WSL rivals Arsenal.
Hayes, whose team will play Barcelona in the semis, said: “We’ve never won a penalty shootout as a team so can you imagine what was going through my mind.
“I had to be conscious that the penalty takers were [still] on the pitch as I didn’t see a goal in us to be honest.
“When I saw Lyon’s substitutes coming off the bench – one after another, all world-class talents – I felt we dealt with it well.
“It was the most character-building performance, even if it was the ugliest.”
Of Berger and Mjelde’s efforts, Hayes added: “Ann-Katrin is probably the best penalty saving goalkeeper I’ve ever worked with.
“I felt really confident going into the penalty shootout, even if I didn’t look it.
“Every day [in training] everyone always hates going up against her.
“For Maren to do what she did when it was the last kick of the game, when she had to place the ball three times, she’s a Chelsea legend.
“She deserves her night as much as Ann-Katrin does, because we know what she’s like from penalties.
“I knew that if we got to that situation momentum would turn and it was drama. I’m relieved and exhausted.
The hosts, watched by Graham Potter, Reece James and Marc Cucurella came close to sharing a goalless normal time draw that would have seen them through.
After an early wobble with Ann-Katrin Berger spilling the ball after Delphine Cascarino’s rifled third-minute shot they held their own
And Lauren James forced a flying save from goalkeeper Christiane Endler in the 24th minute.
The second spell saw the visitors ring the changes with Ada Hegerberg and Dabritz coming on Signe Bruun and Damaris Egurrola.
And Chelsea made some switches of their own including Sophie Ingle coming on for Melanie Leupolz.
The Blues midfielder suffered a bloodied nose after being elbowed in the face during an aerial duel.
Vanessa Gilles gave Lyon a 1-0 lead after netting from a tight angle in the 76th minute.
And Sarah Dabritz made it 2-0 (and 2-1 on aggregate) with her extra time bottom corner strike,
A VAR check by ref Ivana Martinic saw the hosts win a pen in the 127th minute with Lauren James adjudged to have been brought down in the box by Vicky Becho.
Mjelde coolly slammed her spot-kick home to take the clash to a nerve-wracking shootout with Hayes geeing up the home crowd.
Mjelde, Sam Kerr and Jessie Fleming netted the Blues’ opening three pens with Dzsenifer Marozan and Ada Hegerberg scoring for Lyon.
But Wendi Renard saw Berger save her effort while Endler kept out James’ shot.
Jess Carter stepped up to make it 4-3 to Chelsea before Berger saved Lindsey Horan’s shot to seal a famous win.
Lyon boss Sonia Bompastor was left frustrated by the result and the ref opting to award Chelsea a late pen
The head coach said: “I still feel it wasn’t a penalty and the wrong decision has been made overall.
“My girls played with their hearts.
“To be a side capable of being 2-0 up with very little time left at a place like Stamford Bridge shows what a good performance it was.”