Hayes hails ‘favourite’ display as Chelsea cruise

Chelsea manager Emma Hayes said her players produced their finest display of the campaign by cruising to top spot in Women’s Champions League Group A.

Sam Kerr’s scintillating 20-yard drive and a double by the outstanding Lauren James ensured the Blues beat PSG before 10,129 fans at Stamford Bridge.

“I thoroughly enjoyed the performance – it was my favourite of the season,” said Hayes, calling her team “superb”.

“I’m so thrilled with the entire squad. The levels of commitment remain high.”

Hayes added: “Most importantly, they’re learning and understanding our way of playing.”

Chelsea ended the calendar year unbeaten in 18 home games and will discover their quarter-final opponents when the draw is made on 10 February.

The visitors, who had also already qualified, started brightly as they chased the two-goal win they needed to finish top and provide an upset for the second-highest home attendance at an English club ever recorded in the Women’s Champions League.

Kadidiatou Diani’s spectacular early effort almost put the Division 1 Feminine leaders ahead, forcing the backpedalling Zecira Musovic to tip her arrowed 40-yard drive on to the crossbar.

PSG’s belief was punctured two minutes before the break when Kerr opened the scoring with a rocket of a strike that looked as composed as it was sublime.

Chelsea swiftly doubled their lead in the second half, James starting and finishing the move by pouncing on a misplaced pass inside the penalty area and providing the final touch following a slick interchange linking Fran Kirby and Kerr.

Kirby set up James’ second seven minutes later, locating her in front of goal after seizing on a perceptive Guro Reiten pass.

English leaders light up Champions League
A year and six days ago, Chelsea crashed out of the Champions League with a 4-0 mauling at Wolfsburg in the group stage that left manager Emma Hayes rueing “really, really difficult moments” for her Covid-stricken squad.

They are in rude health entering the Christmas interlude this year, reflected by their first European victory at Stamford Bridge – exorcising the memory of a 3-0 defeat by Wolfsburg in their only previous game at the men’s stadium in the competition.

They persisted in punishing PSG despite their opponents’ attempt to turn the tide with a string of substitutions, refusing to let up and almost adding a fourth at the end when a classy Kirby volley hit a post.

Chelsea’s collective focus on their warm winter training camp will turn to the potentially pivotal game facing them on their return, when the WSL leaders face their closest challengers.

Arsenal signalled their own intent in Europe by winning their Champions League group with a 9-1 rout of Zurich on Wednesday, and their next incentive is to draw level on points with Chelsea by ending their opponents’ nine-game winning run in the league with victory at Emirates Stadium on 15 January.

If either side can continue with the serene confidence they have shown on the continent this week, there could be more than a domestic title in sight for the WSL’s top two.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *