Manager Emma Hayes could not speak more highly of her team’s performance after Chelsea FC Women convincingly beat fellow Barclays FA Women’s Super League title contenders Manchester City 3-1 at Kingsmeadow on Sunday.
Yesterday’s triumph capped off a perfect week for the Blues who won our third match in seven days, including a 4-1 Continental Tyres Cup win against Arsenal on Wednesday evening.
Hayes’ side earned a much-deserved three points thanks to goals from Maren Mjelde, Sam Kerr and Fran Kirby.
Mjelde coolly converted from the spot in the latter stages of the first half following a handball from City’s Demi Stokes, then 10 minutes after the interval, Kerr slotted home Kirby’s pin-point cross. It looked as though we were destined for a nail-biting conclusion when Chloe Kelly pulled one back for our visitors from the penalty spot, however Kirby put the game to bed with 10 minutes left to play. The No.14 latched onto a well-timed through ball from Erin Cuthbert and rounded keeper Ellie Roebuck.
‘Defensively, as a team, from the front, we carried out what I asked us to do,’ Hayes said post-match. ‘We did that with a lot of diligence in the first half. We won our one-v-one battles everywhere, which is one of the reasons why we dominated.
‘Going forward, I don’t know how many chances we had, but I think the scoreline may not have reflected the outcome, as we had quite a few open-play chances. We have to really look at that.’
Although the Chelsea boss was delighted with the whole team performance, she commented on the character of Australian forward Kerr, who netted her third goal in four league matches yesterday, while touching on Bethany England’s return to full fitness.
‘She Sam Kerr is a tough character, I felt today that it was the right decision to play her from the off. The pressures for her to score goals are there and I know the team are really happy for Sam.
‘As I’ve said before, Beth [England] is getting back to her best levels and her achilles injury, which kept her out for a few months, can be attributed to her taking time to get back to the level she was at last year. But she needs to keep pushing like she is in training to reach those standards again.’
‘I have no doubts about Beth England’s qualities; this team needs Beth England. I felt when she came in today, alongside Fran, that telepathy, that understanding shows we’ve got different dimensions to us, and it’s not all about one player, it’s about the whole group. As I said, it was an unbelievable team performance.'
Hayes also took the time to praise the impact that Kirby has made so far this season and highlighted the qualities of German midfielder Melanie Leupolz.
‘I’ve said before that Fran [Kirby] deserves all the credit. She’s put all the hard work in, she’s got a club that loves her and will do the best we can by her, but Fran is without question the most talented attacking player in the England squad in my opinion.
‘Everybody look after her – if England are going to win major things, it’s important everyone recognises what a special talent she is, but also what a special person she is.
‘I can’t believe the distance Melanie Leupolz did today. I’m pretty certain her physical stats will be off the charts. Her running, her ability in the air, that’s why I talk about team performance, not singling out players, because from Melanie Leupolz, to Erin Cuthbert, to Ji So-Yun – that midfield was unreal.
‘Melly brings, without sounding cliched, a winning, German mentality. Winning is what she does. She’s a competitor. Don’t be fooled by the nice smile – she will take your legs if you’re not looking. A brilliant player.’
The Blues will have to wait three weeks before we’re back in action after Saturday’s fixture against Aston Villa was postponed due to a member of their squad testing positive for COVID-19 and then the team will then take a break for internationals.
‘We don’t win the title in October so this doesn’t matter,’ Hayes said. ‘The important thing is that we’ve put the players in the safest possible environment and if the decision is to postpone it for that reason then I support that.
‘You have to manage so many different situations over the course of the season and I don’t think it’s ever a straight run. I’ve been doing this a long time, I would love to keep playing and I would love to keep the momentum building but I’m also over the moon that I’ve got them for a full training week so I can push them hard.’
With 22 players to choose from, competition for places is high in the Blues squad, and the Chelsea boss has admitted the difficulties that come with this.
‘When you’ve got three games in a week, like we’ve had, the squad has to trust the process. I’m in this position because I have experience and know-how of what it takes from game to game.
‘Rotation isn’t easy, because you still need to have enough solid numbers playing together, but I rotate in training on a daily basis so I prepare the players to play with anyone.
‘As long as you know what your role is, what your jobs are, you’ve got to be ready to perform and this is a team right now that whoever I put out there, the level doesn’t drop anywhere. That’s something for me to sustain, to make sure we do it in every moment and in every game.'