Chelsea had to settle for a point in their Champions League opener as Olga Carmona’s penalty saw Emma Hayes’ side held 2-2 at Real Madrid.
After Carmona put Real ahead in the 10th minute, the Blues turned things around via two headers either side of the break, Niamh Charles equalising and then setting up Sam Kerr.
But moments later Carmona – scorer of Spain’s winner against England in the summer’s World Cup final – converted from the spot after Jessie Fleming was judged to have fouled Athenea del Castillo in the box.
Chelsea substitute Lauren James rattled the crossbar before Charles controversially had an effort ruled out in stoppage time as the visitors were unable to secure a winning start to their final Champions League campaign before Hayes leaves at the end of the season and becomes United States head coach.
The west London outfit – who have not won this competition among the glut of trophies they have claimed under Hayes, going closest as runners-up in 2021 – return to Women’s Super League action against Liverpool at Stamford Bridge on Saturday before continuing their Group D games by taking on Paris FC at the same ground five days later.
Wednesday’s earlier game in the pool saw Paris FC beaten 2-1 at home by Swedish side BK Hacken.
Real grabbed the lead with the first real effort on goal as Ann-Katrin Berger’s attempted clearance came to Claudia Zornoza and she passed to Carmona, whose strike from 25 yards flew in via a deflection off Chelsea skipper Millie Bright.
While the hosts offered little more in the way of attacking threat for the rest of the first half, Chelsea looked increasingly likely to hit back.
And after Kerr had seen a rising shot well turned behind by Misa Rodriguez just prior to the half-hour mark and Erin Cuthbert fired off-target, the equaliser four minutes before the break when Charles headed in from Ashley Lawrence’s cross.
Further Chelsea pressure in stoppage time included a Cuthbert free-kick going wide off a white shirt and Sjoeke Nusken’s shot being caught by Rodriguez.
The opening stages of the second half saw Rodriguez deal with a Kerr header and do superbly to divert a shot from the same player wide moments later.
Hayes introduced James for Fran Kirby and after Charles blocked a Del Castillo strike, the substitute put a shot into the stand at the other end.
Chelsea got themselves in front with Charles once again involved as her 74th-minute cross was nodded in by Kerr.
But only five minutes later, the score was back level after Fleming made a challenge that started outside the box on Del Castillo, she went down in the area and – with no VAR in operation – referee Frida Klarlund pointed to the spot, with Carmona powerfully dispatching the penalty past Berger.
As Chelsea pushed to regain the lead, Rodriguez produced another good save to deny Johanna Rytting Kaneryd and James sent a wonderful shot crashing against the bar.
The visitors then had the ball in the net again deep in stoppage time through Charles’ finish, but the effort was chalked off – seemingly for offside, although replays showed she had not been – to leave Hayes looking frustrated and Real breathing a sigh of relief.