Chelsea Women manager sums up big quarter-final win…
Emma Hayes admitted the victory over serial Champions League winners Lyon had not been pretty and she confessed it had left her exhausted, but despite penalty shoot-outs often being described as a lottery, the Chelsea Women manager had inner confidence the outcome on Thursday night at Stamford Bridge would be in her team’s favour.
That was due to the individuals involved, not least key spot-kick taker Maren Mjelde who had only just pulled the Blues back into the contest with an open-play penalty that had cancelled out Lyon’s aggregate lead, and goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger. Hayes had words about both after the final whistle.
‘For Maren to do what she did, it was the last kick of the game and she had to place the ball three times and she is a Chelsea legend,’ Hayes said, adding, ‘she deserves her night, much as Ann-Katrin does because we know what she is like from penalties and I knew if we got to that situation, momentum would turn.
‘Everybody knew that Maren was going to take that penalty and everybody knew Maren was going to score. What is more impressive is that she took the first penalty of the shoot-out within a couple of minutes, which is even more impressive to do it twice.
‘Ann-Katrin is probably the best penalty-saving goalkeeper I have ever worked with so I felt really confident going into the shoot-out, even if I didn’t look it, because I know everyone always hates going up against her and it felt like this was her moment for everything she has been through.’
Hayes could not bring herself to watch the first penalty by Mjelde that rescued Chelsea in the tie and said she only witnessed the shoot-out because Guro Reiten made her.
‘We have never won a penalty shoot-out as a team so can you imagine what was going on in my mind?’ she asked.
‘I was forced into every substitution tonight, they were injuries in each and every case, so I had to be so conscious even in extra time that there were penalty takers on the pitch because I did not see a goal in us to be honest.
‘When I see Lyon’s subs coming off the bench, world-class talent, I think we managed the best we could considering the circumstances. It was the most character-building performance even if it was the ugliest.’
The manager also explained why she changed formation from the one that had taken a 1-0 win from the trip to France for the first leg.
‘I knew Lyon would come and play a 4-3-3 so if you play a 4-2-3-1 against that they are going to kill you down the sides. So we went to a 4-4-2 with Lauren James down the middle with Sam Kerr, because we knew we could get them in the transition spaces and I don’t think my team has been full of confidence building out from the back, so I decided not to do it and I think it was the right decision.
‘We went away from home and performed well last week but I knew Lyon would come for us today, and I am just relieved it is over because our [squad] depth wasn’t big tonight and players have had to come into the game and play multiple roles.’
Finally, Hayes gave a thought on the decision to award the crucial late penalty for a foul on James.
‘Lauren said to me that it was a penalty and LJ is really honest like that.’
Chelsea Women now face Barcelona in the semi-finals.