Chelsea Women kicked off the New Year in style by beating Reading 5-0 and manager Emma Hayes said it was one of the most pleasing performances from her team so far this season.
The Blues moved into second place in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League table after thumping five goals past the Royals at the Madejski Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Fran Kirby stole the show against her former club Reading after notching a perfect hat-trick by half-time. The forward extended our lead early on in the second half and substitute Ji So-Yun added the cherry on the cake with a clinical close-range finish with only minutes left on the clock.
While the Chelsea No.14 will no doubt take the headlines after her formidable display in front of goal, Hayes reserved her highest praise for the entire group.
‘All of us are only as good as the people around us and Fran will be first to say that,’ said Hayes post-match. ‘While Fran scored four goals and four brilliant goals, it was a total team performance.
‘The front four in particular did a really good job to create space, I thought we got our pressing right, we were very dynamic but it’s what I’ve seen in training the last week.
‘I think it’s even better that I’ve been able to bring five players off the bench and some of them have only been training two or three days, so it was nice to get everybody into the game and that’s probably one of the most pleasing performances for us this season.
‘You can see the quality we’ve got on show and I thought everybody performed very well,’ the Chelsea boss continued.
The manager was pleased with the whole squad's performance having been hit by Covid-19 prior to the Christmas break and she took the time to thank her backroom staff for the hard work they have put in to ensure the players have recovered safely.
‘I’m extremely fortunate to be able to go to work every day with such fantastic players,’ Hayes said. ‘We’ve returned since Christmas after a bad bout of Covid-19 in the camp and we’ve been making sure we take care of players in the right way so we can be in a position to perform today.
‘That’s a big thank you to my medical team and the performance staff behind the scenes and the coaches because we have a responsibility and a duty of care to the players.
‘We were decimated before Christmas, so to put in a performance knowing what we’ve experienced, I’m over the moon, I really am.
‘I can safely say that at the moment everybody is ok. There is a couple of players we’ve had to manage certain things in the week to help build them back to a level but so far so good.’
Attention now turns to a mouth-watering top of the table clash, when the Blues host Manchester United at Kingsmeadow on Sunday. Hayes claimed her team are improving as the season progresses and expressed her excitement ahead of the blockbuster clash.
‘Yeah I am excited, the way we’ve started the New Year, the way we’ve come back after Christmas, I think we’re now finding our feet,' noted Hayes.
‘It’s taken a little bit of time for us to create the right situation for ourselves but I think we’re in a really great place and I’m excited.
‘I do not underestimate Man United, they are top of the league for a reason, they have been unbelievable all year so we’re going to have to be at our very best if we’re going to beat them, but we’ve certainly got all the qualities in our squad to do that.’