Emma Hayes praised the character of her team after Chelsea FC Women secured a late 1-1 draw against Arsenal in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League on Sunday.
The Blues managed to salvage a point in the dying moments to extend our unbeaten streak of 27 games in the Women’s Super League at Arsenal’s Meadow Park yesterday afternoon.It was a cagey affair for long periods of this London derby with clear-cut chances few and far between, but there was a frantic end to a match that sparked into life in the final 10 minutes.
Arsenal’s Beth Mead netted from close-range with four minutes remaining and just as our unbeaten run looked as though it was going to come to an end, we responded almost instantly when Pernille Harder’s cross flicked off Lotte Wubben-Moy and into the back of the net beyond Gunners goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger.
‘Well the game played out how I thought it would,’ Hayes admitted post-match. ‘I’ve been around the block long enough to say when you play a team that are defeated against Man United and have lost six out of the six times against us then at some point their manager was going to get the response he was looking for.‘They played exactly how I thought they would play and we prepared for it but as we know you can do all the studying in the world but when it comes to exam day it doesn’t mean you’re going to produce your top performance.‘For us we didn’t execute what we set out to do and credit the opponent for that, Arsenal played as well as I’ve seen them play against us in recent years.‘I thought Arsenal dominated the second ball, I thought they played their game plan better than we played ours.‘Knowing all of those factors that I’ve already described, plus it being a derby game, I think it was an average performance but an unbelievable point for us – I’m pleased because these are the games I fear.‘Full credit to Joe Montemurro's team, they did really well and although we weren’t at our best, we didn’t lose the game. And I’m super proud of that because I know it never goes according to plan.‘I’m happy to pick the point up in the end.'
Chelsea had the opportunity to steal all three points in added time when Sam Kerr raced through on goal and chipped the keeper but her effort bounced narrowly wide of the far post. Hayes spoke about fine margins and fortune from the game, while highlighting how the clash was a fantastic advert of women’s football.‘In the end she [Kerr] said that the wind just took it away so the weather was a factor.
'My bench did a great job, I stuck with the same team as last weekend but I felt we needed a bit more depth, a bit more pace in the game, so Sam offered that.‘I thought Kim Little was outstanding and it was difficult once we didn’t get hold of the second balls in the game. But Pernille Harder, although she missed a really good opportunity, her run created a little bit of luck and sometimes you need a little bit of that because I didn’t actually think we got a lot of that in the game.‘It’s a point for both sides. Of course I wanted to win the game and of course he [Joe Montemurro] wanted to win the game but I’m happy that we’ve put on a good advert for the women’s game again.’
The result leaves the Blues in third place behind table-toppers Manchester United and Arsenal, with one game in hand. Although we are in a good position in the league standings having won four and drawn two – including victories over other title contenders Manchester City and Everton – Hayes is under no illusion of how difficult it will be to retain the WSL trophy.‘I think everybody knows it’s going to be a battle for five of us in that top end but for me it’s not a title race until March and April.‘Right now it’s jostling for positions, some have played extra games, some have not. It’s early days.’Chelsea return to action on Wednesday evening (7.30pm kick-off) when we travel to Championship side London City Lionesses for our final Continental League Cup fixture.