Chelsea manager Emma Hayes says her team ‘have to be better’ if they are to win this season’s UEFA Champions League, despite her team qualifying for the quarter-finals with a 3-1 aggregate win over Atletico Madrid.
The Blues went into the game with a 2-0 lead from the first leg. The second leg finished 1-1 with Atletico Madrid’s Toni Duggan missing a penalty minutes before Chelsea took the lead through a spot kick themselves, converted by Maren Mjelde. Atletico Madrid did find themselves a late consolation goal through Emelyne Laurent but it was too late as Chelsea advanced into the last eight.
In the post-match press conference in which FAWSL Full-Time were in attendance, Hayes said that her squad need to perform better if they are to win this season’s UEFA Women’s Champions League.
“I think we’re going to have to be better than we were today if we’re going to progress, but our dressing room already knows that,” said Hayes.
“I think one reflection at a time. We know that we have to treat every opponent differently and make sure we cope with the really big domestic calendar that we have and keep ourselves as fresh as we can.”
Hayes felt that some of her team were struggling with fitness but overall she was happy to progress.
“I think my team were a bit leggy today,” she added. “I think the FA Women’s Super League in England is so tough, so when you play West Ham away it takes something out of the players, plus we played with 10 players last Wednesday and completed some physical stats, which for some players were season highs.
“It was going to take it’s toll on the team today. I thought we were a yard off it today, in and out of possession. We just had to keep blocking spaces because we didn’t have the legs to get into certain situations.
“It was a strange game, it went from potentially being 2-1 on aggregate to 3-0 and game over but that’s football. I’ve been in this competition enough to tell you that PSG away, Bayern Munich away and Lyon away in my time as manager here have all been tough games.
“Atletico played a good game today, even though Ann (Berger) didn’t have much to do but I’m really pleased to come through this knowing we weren’t at our best.”
Hayes was extremely happy with the defensive partnership of Millie Bright and Maren Mjelde in the absence of Sophie Ingle, who missed the game through suspension.
“I thought they were both the best players in today’s match for us at least,” said The Blues boss. “I thought they were both exceptional in leading the team.
“I know it was mentally tough for the players today but you need two leaders to really keep the players together in the stressful moments.
“You can’t win a football match the same way every time but this game was a completely different one to last Wednesday.
“To qualify knowing we’ve had to play without the ball for large chunks of two games, we’ve shown that we can sit in and we can make it difficult for them and limit and restrict them to very few chances.”
The draw for the remainder of this season’s UEFA Women’s Champions League takes place at UEFA headquarters in Nyon, Switzerland at 11am on Friday.