After watching her side battle hard to beat Aston Villa in the Women’s FA Cup semi-final, Emma Hayes acknowledged the difficulty of a testing tie and praised Sam Kerr for the role she played in helping the Blues reach yet another Wembley showpiece.
The Australian netted the only goal on the hour, skillfully heading in Guro Reiten’s cross, a combination we have seen so many times this season.
Chelsea defended for our lives thereafter against an enterprising Villa outfit desperate to cause an upset. We survived a couple of scares, not least when our hosts struck the woodwork late on, but the Blues will contest the FA Cup final against Manchester United on Sunday 14 May aiming to win the trophy for the third season running.
‘It was what I expected,’ said Hayes. ‘Difficult pitch, ugly game. Took the goal when we were on top and then I thought we dropped off.
‘Villa made it a brilliant cup tie. It was their cup final, they had everything to play for. Packed crowd, record attendance, nothing to lose, everything on the line, and they gave as best as they possibly could, but of course delighted to be in the final.
‘The defence did a great job, kept a clean sheet. You have to expect an onslaught when you’re away from home. As I said, the pitch made it really, really challenging. It was hard for the players to get a grip. That penalty box didn’t have a lot of grass in there. For that reason, it made it tricky. Nonetheless, we took the goal at the right moment.’
It was a typically deadline finish from Kerr that separated the sides. Her 24th goal of the season was one of her most important yet, and Hayes did not hold back in her appraisal of the striker.
‘We can talk all day about the millions of things we can improve, but I would rather have the most efficient player in the world than someone who has a million chances. It’s unbelievable.
‘I have never seen a centre-forward move as much as her. It’s not a single movement, it’s a double movement. Next time you watch her play, watch us in transition and see who makes the first movement. It’s always Sam.
‘Even if she goes in an offside position, she doesn’t stay still. She is a nightmare to defend. She can do it running across you, on your back shoulder. Her energy levels are like a 12-year-old. She is infectious. I don’t know a striker in world football who can do what she does. She’s the best.’
We are next in action against Barcelona at Stamford Bridge next Saturday. Secure your seat now!