After Chelsea Women advanced to the Champions League semi-finals in dramatic circumstances, Emma Hayes praised her team for digging deep in adversity after they were severely tested by a strong PSG side on the pitch and the vociferous home support off it.
It looked like the quarter-final tie would require extra-time to settle it after PSG struck twice early in the second half to cancel out our first-leg advantage.
But Maren Mjelde netted an all-important away goal in injury-time that secured a second straight spot in the Champions League semi-finals for Hayes and her players.
The boss reflected on the lively atmosphere at the Stade Jean Bouin as thousands of PSG supporters chanted relentlessly
‘I loved that,’ Hayes said. ‘I found myself humming the songs the longer the game went on!
‘It adds to the sport that we are playing in front of crowds like that. I can only encourage and congratulate PSG for that. It certainly gave them home advantage which is what it’s all about in this competition.
‘Conceding the goal so early in the second half made it difficult for the team to cope with that, but we had prepared for it. We did block it out in the right moments.
‘Ultimately we conceded one goal with a mistake from our goalkeeper, and defensively we got caught on the right-hand side in the wrong moment for the first goal.
‘Overall I thought the team understood the conditions, and clearly even though we were exhausted with five minutes to go, we showed no fear to get the important away goal.’
Hayes was proud of how her team stayed strong when things started going wrong
‘I was a little bit disappointed with my team and how we managed the game, and I had to work hard as a coach to keep us in it at times. But I say this without sounding clichéd: if you have a group that is together and a spirited group that fight their way through adversity, which the team did on several occasions tonight, you can stay in the game.
‘I always knew we had to score here. I felt in the last five minutes of the game the team wanted the winner. I could sense it in them, so when [Karen] Carney picked up the ball and dropped it in that space I knew there would only be one outcome.’
Hayes changed the team’s shape on a couple of occasions and a double-sub at 2-0 proved pivotal
‘I made a decision to bring Millie Bright in and push Maren Mjelde to right-back. I felt we needed to keep experience on the pitch. Fran Kirby had been struggling all week with a knee problem. Gratefully she was able to make the bench and I could get her in to some part of the game. Bringing her quality on absolutely helped the team, as did Jess Carter who came on and brought a bit of physicality and aggression which we lacked. You need depth, because you have to prepare for the unexpected in Europe. As we saw, the game changed very quickly after half-time.’
Hayes also had words on Ann-Katrin Berger, who made a bad mistake for PSG’s second goal but a couple of crucial stops after that to keep us on level terms
‘Ann has shown in the time she’s been here there has been a consistency to what she has been doing. As Hedvig Lindahl said to her at the end of the game, this is part of the experience: to make mistakes and you have to recover.
‘She apologised and there was no need for that because she contributed to the outcome in a positive way too. Having the quality we have in goal, there has been no set number one this year. Ann has demonstrated she has the experience and she will certainly grow after this knowing she is part of a team. Ultimately individuals make errors. That is just part of the territory.’