Emma Hayes praised the mentality of her squad after Chelsea FC Women came away with three points on the road at Birmingham City in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League yesterday.
The Blues got the job done at a damp Damson Park on Sunday afternoon with Fran Kirby’s first-half header proving to be the difference. The No.14 notched her second goal of the term when Erin Cuthbert delivered a delicious free-kick into the box for Kirby to direct beyond Hannah Hampton in goal.Chelsea once again produced a commanding performance with much of the possession in our opponents’ half and our lead could have been extended through numerous chances. A Guro Reiten effort struck the crossbar, Bethany England had a goal disallowed through an incorrect offside call and then a goal-line clearance denied the Blues forward from adding to our lead late on in the second half.
Nevertheless, the Chelsea boss was pleased with her team’s overall performance and after the match said: ‘Our team defending was what I had asked for. I asked for a clean sheet, I asked for a response and as a team collective I asked for them to make it difficult for the opponent.
‘Yes, they had a chance late on but I thought that was the standout for us. It’s about getting three points and we got that. It was an all-round good performance and a good result most importantly.’The matchwinner, Kirby, has had a positive influence in our team performances since returning from her illness that kept her out of the squad for much of last season. The 26-year-old has been a starter in all five matches played thus far and Hayes expressed her delight in Kirby’s significant contribution.‘I’m really delighted for Fran on getting the goal, especially in the air from a set-piece because that’s what we worked on,’ said Hayes.‘She looks happy, she’s enjoying her football, her contributions to the team are clear and she is a team player.‘She gives everything to the side no matter what I ask her to do and I think she’s played a key part not only today but in the season start so far for us and I’m just really happy for her.’
Around the hour-mark, Hayes made the decision to switch things up by making a triple substitution with Niamh Charles, Ji So-Yun and Sam Kerr, replacing Cuthbert, Sophie Ingle and Reiten and the manager explained her decision behind those changes.‘I felt we lacked width, I thought the longer the game went on that they were extremely narrow,’ Hayes concluded. ‘I wanted to open the pitch up a little bit to try and stretch them a bit.‘But full credit to Birmingham, I thought they defended really well with full bodies behind the ball, they made it difficult for us, they stayed in the game and gave themselves a final chance. They have got a top manager so I’m not surprised.‘Three points matter and I focus on winning and we’ve won again. Getting that momentum shift from a defeat is critical, it’s not an easy place to come, I’ve lost here in my career so to take three points I’m over the moon.'It’s a big week for the Blues who now turn our focus to defending the Continental League Cup when we take on Arsenal – our opponent from last year’s final – at Kingsmeadow on Wednesday evening. This swiftly follows with a visit from Manchester City in the league on Sunday.