One of the hardest things for a manager of Chelsea or any other club is going again. Not just going again in the sense of defending titles, but also in the sense of losing those titles, getting up, dusting off, and going again.
Emma Hayes has been Chelsea manager for nearly nine years. In that time, she has nearly perfected the art of going again. Her record speaks for itself. But Champions League has proven elusive. Chelsea would often go into the competition as one of the favorites, but there always proved one hurdle too many for the Blues.
There is only one hurdle remaining now. Chelsea Women has blasted their way past Bayern Munich to reach their first ever Champions League final. They are on the verge of history. It’s not just Champions League either. Chelsea Women are pursuing a quadruple the likes of which is rarely if ever seen. This is the culmination of nearly a decade’s worth of going again. The Blues must not falter now.
Chelsea entered the second leg against Bayern Munich down 2-1 on aggregate but with the vital away goal. Fran Kirby scored early on. Perhaps too early. Sarah Zadrazil would score a wonder goal to level it not long after. So-Yun Ji would fight at a free kick to bring the tie level on aggregate by halftime.
The second half was one part holding on, one part striking when they could. Bayern had several chances to gain the away goal advantage but they just couldn’t get the ball in the back of the net. Chelsea didn’t have the same issue. The Blues would storm up the pitch as a collective. In the 84′ minute, Pernille Harder inched the Blues closer by bringing the score to 3-1, 4-3 on aggregate. Fran Kirby, because who else, would put the tie beyond a doubt with the last kick of the game. The Blues weathered the storm, they got knocked down, and they got back up and went again.
It was a showcase of mentality that was built top to bottom and bottom up for years. No team develops this mentality in a season. It was a collective effort of building on successes and learning from failures. Emma Hayes brings herself within one month of being one of the greatest managers of all time.
The Blues will celebrate as they should, but they’ll know the job isn’t done by a long shot. They wouldn’t have gotten past Bayern had they made any assumptions. Hayes will allow celebrations while knowing that the league isn’t done, the FA Cup isn’t won, and the Champions League trophy sits blank waiting on a name to be etched into it forever.
Chelsea goes again, just like they keep doing, with an away match to Tottenham midweek. Reading follows next weekend. The Champions League final is likely the next week with the quarterfinal of the FA Cup against Everton sure to be rescheduled.
The Blues go again. They celebrate today, but they will take nothing for granted in their pursuit of greatness.