Emma Hayes has praised Chelsea FC Women’s resilient second-half performance which helped break down a well-organised Tottenham Hotspur in the Continental League Cup at Kingsmeadow last night.
The Blues triumphed 2-0 against London neighbours Spurs thanks to a second-half strike from Erin Cuthbert and a penalty converted by Melanie Leupolz to make it two wins from two in the competition.
Tottenham certainly put up a good fight against the Blues and made it difficult for Hayes’ side to find that breakthrough which came in the latter stages of the encounter.
The Chelsea boss shared her thoughts on the game and said: ‘You don’t really know what you’re going to get, everyone’s been off on the international break and we had a cancelled game with Villa.
‘We really needed the game, that’s the first thing. Secondly, we played them in pre-season and thumped them 6-1, so there was no way that was going to be the same way.
‘As is often the case, teams learn quickly. Tottenham were aggressive, they defended well from the front, they made it difficult for us and it took us a while to find a rhythm.
‘Now teams are fully professional, it’s not always a straightforward case of just winning the game in the early parts. You have to grind teams down, and I thought we did that. The subs came off the bench and made a significant impact on the game.’
Hayes lauded midfielder Cuthbert’s influence on the match after she netted her fourth goal in all competitions so far, while also highlighting the positive impact the Blues bench had upon the game.
‘I said to the players at half-time, “You won’t score if you don’t shoot.” It was so intricate at times in the first half – it just needed somebody to pull the trigger,’ Hayes said.
‘Thank goodness Erin did that. I thought that’s what was lacking with us, but that comes sometimes with a lack of playing together. She pulled the trigger at the right moment.
‘Erin’s having a really impactful season for the team. She did what the game needed – taking a shot from an area, what we’d failed to do until that point.
‘You could see the freshness of players who hadn’t travelled versus those that had. I’ve got quality in depth.
‘In this competition we might have provided more opportunities for more players, but the three-and-a-half-week gap put me in a really tricky position. It’s a squad effort and the impact of players coming from the bench was significant.
‘I can see Beth [England] reaching her best levels again. Jessie Fleming the last few weeks is really finding the levels, she’s adapting physically to the game. Guro [Reiten] had a bit of trouble with her back and she’s finally back to full fitness, so really happy.
‘Maria [Thorisdottir], coming on at right-back, again brings the qualities and Sophie [ingle], 100 caps for Wales, is quality in every game she plays for Chelsea. Really happy with the subs.'
Next up for Chelsea is a tough test against Everton on Sunday in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League and Hayes will not be underestimating the qualities our opponents have. The Blues met Everton back in September at the quarter-final stage of the 2019/20 Women’s FA Cup and the Merseyside team ran out 2-1 victors.
‘Look at Everton’s season, they’ve been unbelievable,’ Hayes admitted. ‘Willie [Kirk] has done an incredible job and it just shows what you can achieve with investment.
‘They’ve bought quality players. They took Man City to 120 minutes in the FA Cup final, their goalkeeper was the standout performer in that game and against us earlier this season.
‘They’ve got so many top players, I don’t take them lightly at all. They’ve turned us over and beaten us – we have to be humble, respectful, about the quality they’ve got in the side. I’m very familiar with how good they are.’
Sunday’s match kicks off at midday and is being shown live on the BBC Red Button.