Chelsea boss hails “magnificent” midfield performance after huge win

Chelsea boss Emma Hayes praised the performance of one midfield star as her side took a massive three points in the race for the WSL title on Sunday.

The reigning champions narrowly edged out Manchester United at Kingsmeadow on Sunday to go two points clear at the top of the Women’s Super League (WSL) and edge closer to a fourth successive title.

Australian striker Sam Kerr netted in the 22nd minute to secure a 1-0 win despite the Blues being without several first team players and Hayes heaped praise on the character of her team, with Canadian midfielder Jessie Flemming given special praise for her display in the engine room on Sunday afternoon.

“Jessie had a magnificent game and I think she needed that. She really needed that. I think that will do her confidence the world of good” said the Chelsea boss.

“She prides herself on her defending and she’s been working so hard to master the physicality of our league and I think that is a performance for all the hours you put in on the training ground with the coaches. It was her birthday yesterday and I said to her at the end of the game ‘you really needed that game’ and what I know about this group is that it is about different players stepping up at different times.

“Melanie Leupolz, her first 90 minutes after being out for more than a year...absolutely tremendous from everyone”.

The 46-year-old boss revealed the Chelsea squad were suffering from a sickness bug, with several players on their sick bed in the days prior to the game, including Hayes herself who was also visibly under the weather.

“That is our third game in the week. We’ve had injury, we’ve had illness in the squad and to perform like that is exactly why I’ve been saying every week the squad matters. Players have come into the team and delivered.

“Erin (Cuthbert) had a tight hamstring, she wasn’t ready for today. Guro (Reitan) has been chucking her guts up at home, Jelena (Čanković) is not fit to start. You can see some of the staff and players in the dressing room are hanging on - there might be a little bit of a bug.

“I feel sometimes other teams get a hall pass for injured players. We’ve been without Fran Kirby and Pernille Harder for almost the entirety of the season. This team deserves huge credit as a whole, it’s not just Sam. We’ve kept a clean sheet today after a difficult and underwhelming performance last week against Arsenal. We don’t have a full week’s prep every week, we have to play games every three days so it is tremendous from the team. That is what I meant last week, we have certain things we pride ourselves on and they were in our performance today in abundance.

“The difference for me is the squad game because even if we had three, maybe four subs available that the players on the pitch did the job. It’s really tough physically (playing three games in a week) but I thought we were comfortable.