Chelsea has advanced into the semi-final of the UEFA women’s champions league for the third time in their history.
Wolfsburg is one of the best Women’s teams for some years. Something Chelsea themselves can confirm after facing them thrice in the past. It was in 2015, they faced each other for the first time. In the end, Wolfsburg comfortably dispatched blues by winning both rounds. That’s when Chelsea manager Emma Hayes said, it is the level she wants her team to be.
It took six long years and two further defeats in the round of 32 and semi-finals respectively for Chelsea to finally get better of their nemesis in Europe. It was just not any win, rather it was an emphatic statement victory. They destroyed Wolfsburg 5-1 in aggregate after winning both ties.
Distracters might say, they took the best in Europe Pernille Harder from the German team, and have one of the world’s best squad. The reality cannot be further from the truth. This victory took years of training and hard work that started from the year Hayes was appointed in 2012.
The tie against Wolfsburg on Wednesday was their 10th match since that shocking loss against Brighton at Kingsmeadow. They have won every match since then except one which was the second leg tie against Atletico Madrid in the round of 16 of the champions league. A goal that was conceded at the end of the match when Chelsea had already comfortably won the tie.
There are a lot of factors that make this team so special. It’s not just their manager Hayes or their star players like Harder, Sam Kerr, or Fran Kirby. Of course, that superstar trio grabs a lot of headlines for their goals and assists. From top to bottom every one of them knows what’s their job is. Even the players who have not received minutes due to the impressive form of others, can come and make their impact.
As a result of injuries and the impressive form of experienced players ahead of her, players like Jess Carter had to settle for the bench many times. But when she was called into action, Carter was able to slot into the team and perform at the highest level like she was doing it every week. A lot of hard work and preparations are behind it.
Emma Hayes’s player management is one of the best in football. The way blues have been able to get the best out of Harder and Kerr while maintaining their impressive run deserves some credit. The evolution of Fran Kirby into one of the world’s best players after the setbacks she had to face in the previous years is nothing short of inspiration. To be fair, the whole squad has contributed to the current impressive form.
The effort Hayes and her staff has put in after the first leg against Wolfsburg were so evident in the second leg. In the first leg, luck was really with the blues. There were many nervous moments at the back. But the team was able to come away with the win. But in the second tie, there was no competition. Apart from one chance that Ewa Pajor failed to make most of it, Chelsea was always one step ahead of their opponent.
Kirby’s goal was the cherry on the cake. As Hayes said,
"I’m proud, buts it not enough, I want more.’"
There is still a long way to go before achieving the top prize. Next, they face Frauen-Bundesliga leader Bayern Munich who has won all of their 17 games. Meanwhile, Lyon is still the benchmark in women’s football. Even if the journey ends before touching the gold, the Wolfsburg tie alone shows the team is progressing very much on the right path.