Emma Hayes insists her team are worthy of all the plaudits after Chelsea Women produced a 4-2 extra-time victory at Manchester City to book our place in the Continental League Cup semi-finals.
Goals from Chloe Kelly and Lauren Hemp gave the hosts a 2-1 lead with five minutes to go following Melanie Leupolz's first-half opener and it looked as though our hopes of retaining our Continental League Cup title were diminishing.
A goal of the highest quality from substitute Niamh Charles, however, sent the game into extra-time at the Academy Stadium in Manchester and, five minutes into the first period of additional play, the comeback was completed when Guro Reiten slotted home to give the Blues a 3-2 lead.
Sophie Ingle all but sealed the victory with minutes of extra-time remaining with a thunderous strike into the top corner and Blues boss Hayes was delighted with the character and perseverance shown by her players.
Speaking at full time, Hayes said: ‘I said it at the weekend, and I’ll say it now, this is a team that does extremely well with adversity. 2-1 down with a minute to go and they never gave up. To go into extra-time and score two fantastic goals, they deserve real credit.
‘This has always been a contest in this stadium where we’ve never won and I don’t put the pressure on my team to do that, but by staying in the game, I thought it gave us so much more confidence going into extra-time.
‘That’s full credit to the players that they didn’t get affected emotionally and that’s one of the hardest things to teach players - to be able to stay completely present and keep thinking about the next action or the next goal. They are a brilliant team.’
Chelsea have picked up draws in three of our last four visits to Manchester City and Hayes believes the players who arrived at the club in the summer played a major role in getting the victory on Wednesday evening.
Hayes added: ‘We haven't won here before. There was a little bit of a hurdle we had to overcome and that's why when I reflect on this win, I think about all the new players that came to this football club in the summer.
‘They come with not having that hang-up about winning here and I think that's the reason we won. Whether it's Niamh Charles, Pernille Harder, Melanie Leupolz or Jessie Fleming, I think all of those players said "we will win here" and that mentality was the difference between the draws of the past and the win now.’
Hayes will reflect on Wednesday’s victory as another moment when her side have risen once again to the challenge of adversity but it may well be the world-class goals from Charles and Ingle that will stand out for the neutrals. The strikes were certainly of the highest quality and Hayes reserved praise for the Blues duo.
She said: ‘Someone like Niamh, she has been unbelievable in the training environment. She has been patient, she’s been quiet, she hasn’t said anything when she hasn’t been in the team, she’s just kept at it. That dressing room is over the moon for her just like it will be for Sophie Ingle because sometimes the quiet ones don’t get all the credit.
‘Sophie has always given this football club a more defensive midfielder but I’m challenging her. For the next level, she has to do more and that includes more marauding runs forward in the right moments. If you wanted to show your manager what they’ve asked of you, that’s a great way to respond. She showed her class and quality.’