“There is a maturity to the team that’s coming through in each performance,” stated Emma Hayes after Chelsea secured their third victory of the 2022/23 Champions League campaign.
While it wasn’t a scintillating performance as the Blues saw their way through a potentially tricky Real Madrid encounter, it was one that was controlled and well managed. As Hayes pointed out, Chelsea’s experience showed as she labelled her group “the best team” she’s had. “When these teams are so evenly matched, I’m starting to see the benefit of our experience,” she said. “Look at my group and the leaders in my group. I thought two years ago, we had a decent amount of experience, but this team is another level.”
The second night of Champions League action saw Chelsea travel to Paris for a highly anticipated encounter against PSG. They edged to a 1-0 victory thanks to a first half goal from Millie Bright, completing a successful week for English teams in France.
If a lifetime of consuming football teaches you anything, it is to always expect the unexpected. But even with full awareness of that, some events just take you by surprise. Sitting in the Groupama Stadium watching Arsenal lead the European Champions 5-1 with 20 minutes to play was one such moment. Jonas Eidevall described it as “a special night” after his side inflicted Lyon’s heaviest defeat since April 2006.
It was an evening of controversy, fiery challenges and torrential rain as Arsenal squeaked past Ajax to reach the Group Stage of the Champions League. A sole goal from Vivianne Miedema saw the Gunners through in a scrappy affair in Amsterdam.
“It is a very special moment being a childhood fan, being at the Emirates and scoring an important goal like that. You work with a player every day and they get to live a moment like this. We’re all very happy for the goal as a team but also for Lotte as an individual and understand that it’s a special moment.”
As Arsenal manager Jonas Eidevall alluded to, football has a habit of tugging at those heart strings. Those special moments it creates were no better illustrated than when Lotte Wubben-Moy found herself in space in the box to hammer home a valuable equaliser for her side. Having come through the Academy and an Arsenal fan through and through, it was the perfect script for the young defender’s first start at the Emirates.
It’s the nature of football at this time of year that as soon as one game is done, the following one is no more than 72 hours round the corner.
And so it is for Chelsea this week. Sunday’s FA Cup winners move swiftly onto the next challenge with the arrival of Juventus and a chance to qualify for the latter stages of the Champions League. It is a situation this team and their manager, Emma Hayes, are very much used to and at this point comfortable with: “We’ve been here so many times and because of that, we just know how to do it. It’s not unusual for us anymore to be in a Cup Final at Wembley and play three days later. This is normal for us, so I think it’s just business as usual.”
Grant Scott cut a slightly frustrated figure after his Glasgow City earned a solid, if at times unremarkable, victory over Birkirkara in the Champions League. It wasn’t that the manager was particularly unhappy with his side, it was more that he expected them to kick on after a dominant first half display, which they struggled to do.
At 8pm tonight, Chelsea will step out at the Gamla Ullevi in Gothenburg on the brink of something very special. Barcelona are their opponents in a Champions League final like no other to end the most unique of seasons.