Ladies reaction: Competing with the best
news Thu 9 Nov 2017
Emma Hayes believes Chelsea Ladies' performance in the 3-0 win over Rosengard on Wednesday night was a sign of just how far the Blues have progressed in European football.
Goals from Fran Kirby, Ramona Bachmann and Gilly Flaherty have given us a healthy lead at the halfway stage of our last-16 tie against one of Sweden's top sides in the Women's Champions League.
This is our third season competing on the biggest stage in European club football, and only our fifth tie in the competition, and the manager felt the game offered a good indication of how much we have improved in that time.
'Two years ago this result was unthinkable,' she said. 'We've tried to emulate clubs like Rosengard in terms of them being stalwarts in European competition, and that they were calling themselves the underdogs coming into the game shows you how the sport is growing in England.
'It's a real credit to the investment clubs are putting into what we're doing, but also the league as a whole as now we're in a winter season it's preparing us better to compete against the best teams.
'I've waited a long time to get to the point where European teams don't want to draw us, but we haven't received an easy draw in this competition, unlike our English counterpart, and I think we'll be better prepared as a result of that.
'We've had a lot of setbacks, a lot of failures, and I think those experiences are putting us in the position we're in right now.'
In truth, a three-goal margin of victory was the least our display at Kingsmeadow merited, with Rosengard keeper Zecira Musovic making several wonderful saves.
However, Hayes was most pleased with the clean sheet, our seventh from nine matches this season, which means one away goal in Malmo next week leaves the home side needing to score five.
'It's the minimum standard. For us, goals are the bonus and clean sheets are what we pride ourselves on. You can see that.
'The opening 15 minutes of the second half we had a period when we had to deal with a lot of set-pieces, but we coped with that.
'There was some wonderful play from us and we had 20 shots in the first half, so I was disappointed we came in at half-time only 1-0 up, but credit Musovic because she kept them in the game. We remained patient, though, and showed real composure for all three goals.
'I expect that level of intensity in every-day training, so we are prepared for European opponents.
'I've made it very clear that to progress in this competition we've needed a big squad because I need to be able to train at that intensity, and we're proving that with the squad we have. Yes I have to keep my dressing room happy, but we can now progress to the latter stages as a result of it.'
Looking ahead to next Wednesday's second leg, which kicks off at 5.30pm UK time and will be shown live on Chelsea TV, Hayes accepts her side can no longer adopt the underdog mentality with such a healthy lead.
However, they have plenty of experience of being labelled as favourites in domestic matches and the manager is confident they can cope with the added expectation.
'I expect, at 3-0 up, we'll be the favourites in the second leg, but it's something the dressing room can live with, I know that.
'It is a good scoreline, but it's half-time and we know football; if they score an early goal, with their fans there and an artificial turf pitch, the tie can go any which way. They are capable.
'But I look at our team and I wonder how you're going to stop us scoring. It's so dynamic and creative across the pitch, and you've seen the wealth of goalscorers we have. I can't call who will score – they can come from anyone on the pitch. I think teams fear us for that reason.
'I feel confident we're going to score in every game and if we do it again away from home I think it will be really difficult for them to get back in the game.'