Emma Hayes praised Chelsea Women’s resilient performance which helped see off a tough Manchester United side yesterday to ensure we came away with three points in the Barclays Women’s Super League.
Sunday was a success both on and off the pitch with the team triumphant 1-0 against United courtesy of a Maren Mjelde penalty, witnessed by the 4,790 supporters in attendance at Kingsmeadow, a record crowd for a WSL game held at a non-Premier League stadium. It followed on from a previous best for Chelsea Women at that ground the game before.
The Man United match was a very close contest with our visitors having spells of dominance and Hayes was impressed with the level of effort her team produced.
‘It played out exactly how I thought it would,' she said. 'Tight, difficult to break down, they’re aggressive and make the pitch small.
‘When you play these games after internationals they are always tough. I thought they looked fresher than us today, but they had two or three on international camp and we had 12.
‘So to win that game, you have to really appreciate how hard that is to win that game. People expect the top teams to win because we’ve got top players – these players have to perform under an unbelievable schedule. I thought we were gritty, resilient and calm.
‘I don’t think anybody panicked even when we weren’t dominant. You have to appreciate with the levels now that games are going to be like this more often than not, so can we use our wisdom and experience? I thought we did just at the right moment.’
Fran Kirby, who is quickly finding her form after coming back from injury, came off the bench on the hour and made an instant impact on the game. The match was decided after the forward was brought down in the penalty area minutes after her introduction. The referee pointed to the spot and Mjelde stepped up to convert calmly.
Hayes was delighted with the No.14’s performance and said: ‘It was certainly part of the plan for Fran [Kirby] to come into the game like that.
‘And I’ll say it again, her plan is to keep building and building. You can see she is getting sharper and sharper, so I’m really happy for Fran for the performance she put in.
‘The game was screaming out for her and both of us are committed to getting her to her best levels and I ask everybody to remain patient with that because Fran is a special player.’
Another player who impressed the Chelsea boss was holding midfielder Sophie Ingle, who played a pivotal role in yesterday’s game plan, particularly with her composed defending and intelligent play on the attack.
‘Such an unsung hero,’ Hayes stated. ‘If I was Phil Neville she would be one of the first names on my sheet [for Team GB] going to the Olympics. She doesn’t get half the credit that she deserves.
‘Talking about the Olympics next summer, there is no one better to take than a player who can play centre-back, in midfield and perhaps she could play full-back she’s that good tactically.
‘I thought she drove the team all day today and I hope that we can keep matching those performances so she does go to the Olympics next summer. We prepared for what United would bring to the game and Sophie had to play a key part in that. She still had to execute it and she executed to a fantastic level.’
On Wednesday, the Blues host Tottenham Hotspur for the second time this term having met them at Stamford Bridge on the first game of the season. We welcome them to Kingsmeadow for a Continental Cup game and Hayes expressed her thoughts on the competition, the newly-promoted WSL side and our momentum.
‘I’m impressed with Spurs, they have gone on to show solid consistent performances throughout. They have got players that are gaining experience at the top level and they are producing performances that will see them progress up the league.‘The Conti Cup in the midweek gives us the opportunity to keep building on this momentum. I’ve always offered other opportunities to players who wait patiently, but we’ve got three games in a week so the squad is absolutely crucial in these weeks and we are going to need every single player if we’re going to get maximum results.‘Our performance levels are higher than they were at the start of the season but that’s understandable as we didn’t have a long time together. I’m just so happy to be playing at home in front of our fans again.’