Chelsea manager Emma Hayes sung the praises of goalscorer Fran Kirby in her post-match press conference following her side’s 3-0 defeat of Arsenal in last night’s London derby at Kingsmeadow.
Kirby had provided two assists before she sprinted away from Arsenal’s backline to score the third goal in second half injury time. After netting her goal, Kirby immediately pulled up and dropped to the floor in pain. When asked by FAWSL Full-Time about Kirby’s condition, Hayes wasn’t too concerned.
The Blues boss said “She got cramp at the halfway line, as she was in on goal and she ran all the way through with cramp in her calf.
“It’s unbelievable, really. She just willed herself on into a great position, took the ball across the goalkeeper and slotted it in.
“What a performance from Fran tonight. Yeah, she’s fine, just cramped up a bit, should do after that shift.”
Hayes then highlighted the English forward’s importance to the team. She said “I don’t think there are any words that attribute to how influential she is on the pitch for our play but importantly, off of it.
“I mean this sincerely, she is a driver in this environment. If all of the players could demonstrate her training habits every day, we’d be even further ahead.
“She is 100% every day at making sure she’s the best on the training pitch. I’ve several players that do that but Fran this year in a training capacity has been unplayable.”
It was an even first half with both sides forcing the opposition goalkeepers into action and the Chelsea manager acknowledged that it had been a bit of a struggle.
“I thought we started the game well with our press, and then we got a little overrun” said Hayes. “We under-hit the pass to each other. I thought we didn’t hold the ball up well enough but it was a calm dressing room at half-time and there’s a lot of quality in there.”
Chelsea took control with two quick-fire goals from Pernille Harder early in the second half and Hayes said “I think once we got the goal in the second half, there was only going to be one outcome, to be honest.
“[It was] a brilliant defensive performance from the team. You can talk about Pernille Harder and her goals, I think she certainly showed the dressing room quality as did Fran, but for me, the real performance was in the team defending.”
Hayes also reflected on last weekend’s loss to Brighton & Hove Albion – which brought an end to the team’s 33-match unbeaten run in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League.
“I think sometimes you need that defeat” admitted The Blues boss. “It just wakes you up. It reminds you very much that you can’t be complacent in a single moment.
“We have to remember that the challenge of doing something we love; it’s not that difficult.
“If I’m Pip Hare, circumnavigating the globe in 94 days, four hours and 25 minutes. Alone, without much sleep, now that’s extremely difficult.
“Getting them to perform against Arsenal, [in a] game we love playing, after a defeat. That should be relatively easy.
“Derby wins are great, they really are.”
The Chelsea manager, who said ‘the expectations and pressure is relentless’ within the squad, looked shocked when informed that this win put her team 12 points above their London rivals, but paid tribute to her opposite number Joe Montemurro.
“Joe is a great guy, he really is” she said. “You can see he cares for his players, he cares for the way that his team plays. He gets them playing a brand of football that has always been inbred in the Arsenal system.
“I am not one who talks about brands of football, or brands of style. I believe in winning football and I’ll do whatever it takes to win football matches.
“There are moments to play football, and there are moments to do the right things at the right time. That’s what I am a prophet of. I don’t get too philosophical about it, because I think the game is too fluid.
“I think it requires different things at different times. I want to be known as a winning coach, and we want to be known as a winning team.”
With their latest victory, Chelsea moved three points clear of Manchester United in second place, and took a huge stride towards being known as a back-to-back title winning team.