Hayes: Players I can count on

Chelsea Ladies manager Emma Hayes believes her side’s victory in the Women’s FA Cup semi-final was a result for every member of her squad.

The Blues will be playing at Wembley for the third time in four years after Fran Kirby’s brace secured a 2-0 victory over Manchester City in front of more than 3,000 supporters at Kingsmeadow.

With Ji So-Yun away on international duty and several players stricken with illness and injury, Hayes was only able to name four substitutes for the match – but those who did play produced a dogged performance to seal a place in the Women’s FA Cup final against Arsenal.

‘We’ve had a challenging week,’ said the manager. ‘Some players have had personal issues this week, family health issues; we’ve had injuries; there has been sickness.

‘It’s been a difficult week after the international break, but we made no excuses – we counted on every member.

‘Sometimes you work hard in your training week with little reward, but you have to prepare yourself for those big moments.

‘This is a win for those who came in, just as it is for those who were missing. I believe in the squad. We’re down to our bare bones, but it was so gutsy from the team.

‘Yes, the first goal was crucial – and it was another wonderful finish from Fran – and the timing of the second was perfect, but our defensive play was excellent and I don’t think Hedvig Lindahl had too much to do.’

Despite the excellent effort from her players in the defensive third, Hayes reserved the biggest praise for two of her forward players, both of whom have been nominated for PFA awards this week.

‘Ramona Bachmann was gutted to be missing, but Erin Cuthbert came in and you could hear the crowd chanting her name,’ she said.

‘She’s 19 years of age, she trains like that every day and at times she’s probably unlucky not to get into the starting line-up.

‘I’ve been very strong about making sure she develops all the right habits so that she’s built to last, and I thought she had a wonderful game until she came off.

Erin Cuthbert on the ball in Sunday's win

‘And then Fran Kirby – well, that’s what she does best. She’s great in the FA Cup, with big semi-final goals for this team. We’ve had to nurture her through the week, I didn’t think she was going to play, but that’s how tough she is and how much she wants to put it on the line.’

The manager was, however, still frustrated by the fixture list. Following the international break, her players went straight into this semi-final and will be in WSL1 action on Wednesday night.

Then it’s onto the small matter of our first-ever Women’s Champions League semi-final, which takes place at Kingsmeadow on Sunday night when we take on Wolfsburg.

‘While I’m incredibly pleased, you can see why I’ve complained about the gruelling schedule for both sides,’ she added. ‘You see injuries mounting and that’s what happens with back-to-back games.

‘We’re grateful to be back at Wembley, but now we’ve got to recover for Wednesday and then we’ve got an even bigger game next Sunday against Wolfsburg. You can probably see now why it’s such a tall order for an English side to go all the way in the Champions League.’