Emma Hayes felt her Chelsea Women side operated at only 70 per cent of their potential in the 1-1 draw against West Ham United yesterday, following the exhausting midweek trip to Paris.
Our final home WSL fixture of the campaign ended in disappointment, as former Blues defender Gilly Flaherty cancelled out Bethany England’s opener, with the result also mathematically ruling us out of both the title race and Champions League qualification via the league.
While Hayes was understandably frustrated that her side’s dominance was not reflected in the scoreline, she also acknowledged that even making five changes wasn’t enough to freshen up a line-up which had been on a physical and emotional rollercoaster in midweek to secure a spot in the Champions League semi-finals.
‘We created enough chances,’ said Hayes in the post-match mixed zone. ‘After 10 minutes we should have been two or three up and I'm thinking, “Is this going to be one of those afternoons?”
‘I think you could also see the fatigue – physically, mentally, emotionally – from Wednesday night. Today it was us at about 70 per cent. Equally, that's not good enough.
‘The reality is that this is the story of our domestic campaign: dominate, create enough chances, don't convert enough of them. We got suckered in one moment, conceded from a set-piece again, switched off. We're disappointed at the end of what has been an unbelievable week.
‘But the team is in the semi-final of the FA Cup and the Champions League, and our league campaign has not been a priority for quite a while. We need to concentrate all of our efforts on things we can achieve this season.’
Following a two-week international break, the Blues will face a run of three semi-final matches in as many weekends, as we face Manchester City for a place in the FA Cup final followed by two legs against Lyon in the Champions League.
With such an intense run on the horizon, losing a big portion of her squad for the best part of a fortnight is far from ideal.
‘I think we all need a break, which is why I feel for the players going away,’ she added. ‘They're always expected to perform, but the last thing the majority of players around the world need is two international games. They need recovery to regain freshness, so hopefully the national teams are sensible.
‘[England Women boss] Phil Neville will take care of our players, he wants them to play in the biggest games [such as Champions League and FA Cup semi-finals] and I think that's been reflected in decisions taken throughout the campaign.’
Lastly, Hayes had a few words for Drew Spence, whose 10 years in the Chelsea Women first team were celebrated on the day as she took on the captain’s armband and was presented with flowers, champagne and a special recognition award ahead of the game.
‘Drew brings everything to the side – the personality, experience, great character, huge heart,’ said Hayes. ‘I can't think of another player who is as well liked by everyone. I'm so, so proud of her.
‘Every time I've brought a new player into the club she has raised her level, embracing competition and pushing herself when the expectations were higher. She's got five trophies to show for it.’