Chelsea Women's attempt to retain the Women’s FA Cup ended in cruel circumstances on Sunday when central defender Magdalena Eriksson accidently looped the ball over Ann-Katrin Berger and into the goal during stoppage time. Emma Hayes reflects on her team’s performance…
Missing out on a thoroughly deserved place at Wembley due to a semi-final defeat against our rivals Manchester City will never be easy for us to take, let alone it being through an uncharacteristic and unfortunate defensive mishap in the closing moments of the tie. But as Emma Hayes said, ‘That’s the way it goes sometimes in football. We have to stick together as a team.’
When going up against Manchester City, there is never much in the score line and Hayes feels her side were the better team overall yesterday.
‘We dominated and to be losers in these circumstances is crueler than most times, because I thought we were significantly better than them today.
‘We controlled the game. We looked confident throughout and I don't think we got out of second gear most of the time. To lose that way, for a player who has been outstanding this year, I'm just gutted for her.
‘The last two times we've played against Man City, they've scored off our errors. There's another one today. Manchester City beating us in open play with chances created, that's not on error on our part hasn’t happened yet.’
Due to the nature of the game, it was perhaps expected that Eriksson was to be the hot topic for discussion. However, Hayes had nothing but positive words for her player.
‘Magda Eriksson has been outstanding this season. She should be in the team of the year. She's defended and kept us in games time and time again.
‘She's improved and demonstrated she's becoming one of the best defenders in Europe, and it's important we remind her of that. It’s a cruel way for any game to end. I thought we were dominant throughout.’
Prior to the goal, the Blues had the better chances to go ahead with Fran Kirby’s effort early on being denied by Karen Bardsley, which arguably should have been a game-changing moment. Both Kirby and Erin Cuthbert also went painfully close in quick succession when they hit the woodwork in the latter stages of the second half. That seems to be a theme this season.
‘The game after the international break is always played at a slower tempo, because players are human and they still take time to recover,’ said Hayes. ‘When Erin Cuthbert's shot hit the post and dribbled across the line, much in the same way Reading had a hundred chances today and didn't win their game, if you're name is on the cup, your name is on the cup.
‘The hard part is the players are walking off the pitch saying, “How the hell have we lost that game?” But you have to score. There's no point being dominant and not finishing. We didn't finish a chance to go ahead. There was a great one in the first half, probably an even better one in the second half, and we're left feeling unsatisfied by that outcome. But I'm very happy with the performance.’
Although this loss will hurt, the Blues have little time to dwell as our quest for silverware continues on Sunday when we travel to France to take on Lyon in the first leg of the Champions League semi-final.
‘It's a different competition. We've been beaten by a cruel own-goal, but I thought we looked Champions League level. Perhaps that lack of goals has been the story of our season.
‘If you can't get up for a game like next weekend's then none of us should be doing what we're doing. This team has prepared for this game the entire season, it's not about the preparation this week. We've got to get it right.
‘Nobody's delusional, Lyon are the best team in Europe, where they should be with a budget four times bigger than anyone else's. They've got enough trophies under their belt to warrant the position they're in - they're overwhelming favourites, so we are going to have a glorious time next week.’