“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.
“I love the group stage. Such a great idea. It was so needed, and it’s really helped. I think it will help every team and develop the pool of quality teams across Europe.”
As the Champions League returned for its final two match days in the Group stage, Chelsea manager, Emma Hayes, made a ringing endorsement for the competition’s new format. Drama, high quality football, big stadia, increased visibility and much more – the Champions League Group Stage has had it all. As the final games of this new addition come to an end, it seems as good a time as any to reflect on what a brilliant adaptation it has been.
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.”
“Credit to the players. They decided they wanted to go up a level and my job’s just to put the challenge there to them. I thought we were outstanding”.
Back to their best, Chelsea entertained everyone, including their manager Emma Hayes, as they breezed past Servette in Geneva, inspired by the partnership of Fran Kirby and Sam Kerr.