Analysis

Emma Hayes: Happy to top Conti Cup group

Emma Hayes is calling on her Chelsea Women team to end 2019 on a high when we visit Liverpool in our final fixture of the calendar year.

The Blues travel to Merseyside on Sunday aiming for a seventh successive league win, a result which will ensure we remain in the top two heading in to the New Year.

It was a case of job done on Wednesday as Chelsea came from a goal down to draw with Reading in the final Continental Tyres Cup group game and ensure top spot, and with it a home quarter-final.

The game was ultimately settled on spot-kicks with Reading coming out on top and earning the bonus point to join us in the last eight, but despite not winning the game Hayes was pleased to be in the draw as group winners.

‘We’re going into the weekend’s game knowing that we want to finish this half of the season on the maximum number of points we can get so all our focus is really going to Liverpool,’ said the Chelsea boss.

‘It’s about winning things and [on Wednesday] we qualified as group winners. I think we have to have context, we’re going through as group winners, we’re going to be at home in the next round which is what you really want as group winners so I’m happy about that.

Read: Chelsea 1-1 Reading (2-4 on pens) report

‘The game has given me exactly what I want but we took far too long to get going, we played in their hands for much of the first half and when you make changes there is going to be some adaptation within in all that.

‘We haven’t lost a game, we recovered well and I still haven’t got my head around the last part of the format because you either win, you lose or you draw.’

Wednesday’s game came hot on the heels of Sunday’s dramatic 2-1 win over Manchester City, meaning Hayes made five changes to the starting XI. The changes coupled with Reading’s desire to cause an upset and qualify for the last eight themselves contributed to the away side leading at the break before Deanna Cooper levelled proceedings and the game went to penalties.

Hayes added: ‘It’s their cup final when they play us, it’s their big game so they always perform well and credit to them. They made it difficult, they got around us, they made it hard for us to settle in possession but I thought they tired late on.

‘We had enough chances to win the game though but we got a run out for some of the players and I’m happy about that.’

Hayes and the players will enjoy a break after Sunday’s game and the Chelsea manager is relieved the schedule allows them some down time after a gruelling year.

‘They play for 11 months of the year so they need time to recover. They played a World Cup, most of them had three weeks off, that’s it.

‘They get 10 days to breathe, if you want to perform at the Olympics next summer where they’ll get another two-to-three weeks off then you have to have a middle break for the players, you have to put them first, it’s important.’

The Blues’ next home game will be against last night’s opponent Reading in the Barclays Women’s Super League. Celebrate the New Year with us by coming down to Kingsmeadow on Sunday 5 January.

Kick-off is at 12.30pm and tickets can be bought here
 

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