Chelsea boss Emma Hayes says that her side have closed the gap on two-time UEFA Women’s Champions League winners VfL Wolfsburg after beating them 2-1 in the first leg of their quarter-final in Budapest this afternoon.
The Blues fought hard to fight off the She-Wolves’ dominance, riding their luck to carry a 2-1 advantage into the second leg.
Even though Chelsea recorded their first-ever victory over VfL Wolfsburg in the UEFA Women’s Champions League, Hayes was prepared to be realistic about the threat that the German side possessed. In the post-match press conference, in which FAWSL Full-Time were present, The Blues boss stated how much her side have progressed in recent years, whilst not getting too far head of herself.
“We’ve closed the gap,” said Hayes. “They’re still a top team, unbelievable in the air and good down the side.
“I learnt that you have to suffer, the first leg is all about staying in the tie, there’s no home advantage for either side.
“I feel like the advantage is with them because they have the away goal but I thought it was spirited, with a lot of good performances from us, the reality is that’s a team that has been developed over a number of years.
“We gave them a game and I’m happy about that.”
Chelsea’s Ann-Katrin Berger was sensational in goal, keeping her side well and truly in the tie and providing the backbone to their victory. Her efforts during the first leg did not go a miss with Hayes saying “She’s the best in the world, she’s amazing and she did great job.
“I think in games like this, you’ve got to recognise they’ve been so dominant in Europe for so many years alongside Lyon.
“They’re always going to have the upper hand against the English side because of those years of experience.
“I’m grateful we only conceded one away goal.”
After surviving waves of VfL Wolfsburg attacks, against the run of play, Chelsea forward Sam Kerr was able to net the all-important opening goal of the tie. Hayes recognised how crucial the Australian international forward was to Chelsea taking an advantage into the second leg.
“Best game in a Chelsea shirt tonight,” said Hayes when commenting on Kerr’s performance. “I thought she looked relaxed and calm, enjoyed the occasion, held the ball up for her team and had a swagger about her game.
“She took the game to Wolfsburg, did what the team needed and showed why she’s such an important part of our squad.”
Before facing the Germans, Hayes pointed out that she was using the tie as a measurement of progression. The Blues boss wanted to see how much her team had matured during her tenure and whether they were ready to go further in the UEFA Women’s Champions League.
“This is such a step up from the WSL, they’ve dominated English teams for years,” Hayes said. “I was curious tonight, to see how much closer we’ve got and we’ve got closer.
“They’re still a top team in Europe and we rattled them.”
Towards the end of the press conference, The Blues boss was able to concentrate on the fondness that she has got for her Chelsea team, saying “I really loved watching them tonight. I loved the fact we’ve been in this arena against the side on eight occasions and been absolutely pummelled.
“To be in the game was a really proud moment for us, I just watched their maturity tonight and I really enjoyed it.”
Chelsea will now look ahead to Sunday’s Barclays FA Women’s Super League fixture against Aston Villa at Kingsmeadow before returning to Budapest for the second leg of their quarter-final tie next Wednesday.