The incredible story behind Chelsea's Women's Champions League heroes

The incredible story behind Chelsea’s Women’s Champions League heroes: Goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger beat thyroid cancer earlier this season – with partner Jess Carter by her side – and they saved and scored the decisive quarter-final penalties!

  • Chelsea beat Lyon in the Champions League quarter-final on penalties last night
  • The Blues went through after keeper Ann-Katrin Berger saved two spot kicks
  • Her partner, Jess Carter scored Chelsea’s fifth penalty in the shootout just before

Chelsea’s Champions League victory over Lyon on penalties was made even more special given the stories behind their match-winners.

In an enthralling clash, the Blues – who held a 1-0 lead from the first leg in France last week – looked like they were going out after extra time as they were 2-1 down on aggregate before Maren Mjelde netted a penalty in the eighth minute of added time.

This forced penalties and in a dramatic shootout Chelsea won 4-3 after Jess Carter slammed home their fifth penalty, before German keeper Ann-Katrin Berger made a sensational save to deny Lindsey Horan and sparked wild celebrations.

It would have been an emotional night for Berger who beat thyroid cancer for the second time after it returned earlier this season, with Carter – who is her partner – by her side throughout.

It was fitting the pair helped Chelsea to reach the semi-finals while knocking out the competition’s holders in the process.

Chelsea keeper Ann-Katrin Berger pulled off two penalty saves to help the Blues beat Lyon

Jess Carter scored their fifth penalty as Chelsea reached the Champions League semi-final

Carter (right) and Berger (left) are partners and their heroics come months after Berger was diagnosed with Thyroid cancer for a second time, with the pair battling through it side-by-side

Berger’s penalty heroics came just months after she announced in August she had been re-diagnosed with thyroid cancer after spending four years in remission. 

Remarkably, the keeper – who has won three Women’s Super League titles, two FA Cups and two League Cups with Chelsea since joining in January 2019 – returned to action just over a month later as she played in the Blues’ WSL clash against Manchester City.

The 32-year-old has also played for PSG and Birmingham during her career and was part of Germany’s squad for Euro 2022 last summer. 

Following her stunning performance on Thursday night, Chelsea boss Emma Hayes was full of praise.

‘Berger thrives in big moments,’ she said. ‘She’s done that her entire career. She’s probably the best penalty-saving goalkeeper I’ve ever worked with, so 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. I felt this was her moment after everything she has gone through.’

The German reflected on her diagnosis and battle with cancer earlier this year with BBC Sport , but insisted the challenges she has faced has made her a stronger person.

To be at a Euros [when] nobody knew then, the emotion of the Euros took the negative part away from my brain,’ she recalled.

‘It was a good year. I didn’t let my illness come across and say “hey, you shouldn’t have a good year because I’m back again”.’

Berger also revealed she is keen to discuss her cancer diagnosis, despite it often being a taboo subject for many people.

It was an emotional night for Berger, who returned to playing just over a month after she announced her diagnosis in August, having previously been in remission for four years

Berger and Carter have been key to a dominant Chelsea under Emma Hayes in recent years

She added: ‘I actually quite like to talk about it. It’s a topic nobody likes to talk about but in my position I think I can help people.

‘I’m not sitting here saying everything was easy, because it’s not, but whatever your main focus is – and mine was football – you can achieve everything you want to.

‘That’s why I think it’s really important for me to be open. I did it, so why can’t everyone else?’

Chelsea have been drawn against Barcelona in the semi-finals of the competition – with the Blues out for revenge after losing 4-0 to the Catalan giants in the Champions League final back in 2021.

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