Emma Hayes admitted that it wasn’t a perfect performance against Manchester City but she felt the victory was a merited one in the end as Chelsea Women got off the mark in the Women’s Super League.
Fran Kirby and Maren Mjelde were the goalscorers at a sold-out Kingsmeadow as the Blues claimed their first points of the new campaign following last weekend’s shock defeat to newly-promoted Liverpool.
The scoreline against City failed to truly reflect the nature of the game, with the visitors registering both more efforts on goal and shots on target, with Hayes reflecting afterwards on an afternoon where her side took their time to get going and work things out.
‘I thought we over-played in the first half and just kept playing ourselves into trouble,’ she said. ‘We went from kicking long against Liverpool last week to now playing out in every situation and giving Man City their best chances.
‘To say we didn’t carry out the game plan is unfair to the team but we over-carried out the game plan and played ourselves into trouble. In the second half, we adapted something to draw them underneath and play in the right moments, which really worked, but they also stopped pressing.
‘We were lucky in the first half and a little bit tentative. It felt like today was the season opener rather than last week and it was two teams without momentum, but I thought it was comfortable in the end after a poor first half.’
Hayes had words of praise for her back-line, which shifted in shape to a four this weekend, as well as Lauren James. The 20-year-old started on the right wing and put in a lively performance, going close to scoring on a couple of occasions after the half-time break.
‘We relied on quite a trusted group that have been with us for a while, especially at the back and in goal,’ continued Hayes. ‘There will be some games where I have to play my strongest defenders because I believe in clean sheets.
‘I want to give credit to the full-backs because Magda Eriksson and Maren’s performances today were exceptional.
‘Lauren’s role was the same last week but she executed it better today,’ she added on James. ‘Maybe being at home we’re more comfortable but you must remember her age. It’s important that we just take it one step at a time with her but in the second half I thought she was exceptional.’
Hayes also commented on the running battle between her new central defender Kadesisha Buchanan and City’s centre-forward Bunny Shaw, which proved one particularly absorbing individual battle throughout the contest.
‘It was a tough challenge and it was fun to watch,’ she said.
‘Shaw is in strong form for her team and when you go toe-to-toe with that type of player trying to win the first ball, you’re never going to win it. That was the information I gave her at half-time.’
Finally, Hayes revealed how she has been discussing with her players the changing nature of the WSL and why it has become so important to keep standards high every week.
‘We all want life to be easy but it doesn’t happen like that,’ she said. ‘Easy games don’t exist anymore so what I’m challenging my group to do is manage hard better.
‘It’s going to be hard but accept it and manage it better, which is what we did today in key moments of the game.’