Blues boss Emma Hayes wants English women’s teams who compete in the Champions League to play those matches at the men’s grounds. She believes that making it mandatory to stage European football nights at big stadiums will help boost the women’s game. She has also flagged up serious concerns about the state of some pitches
Blues boss Emma Hayes wants English women’s teams who compete in the Champions League to play those matches at the men’s grounds.
She believes that making it mandatory to stage European football nights at big stadiums will help boost the women’s game.
She has also flagged up serious concerns about the state of some pitches in the Women’s Super League after her girls fought Tottenham last weekend on a surface that resembled the first day of the Somme.
Clouds of sand rose from the penalty areas at Barnet FC’s ground, shared with Spurs Women and – apparently – the Household Cavalry, and the ball bobbled across the field like a cavorting spring rabbit.
By contrast, Tottenham will play on a lush Axminster carpet tonight (Thursday) when they bowl up to Kingsmeadow for the return WSL fixture – the games concertinaed by Covid cancellations.
The Blues will again be without Fran Kirby, now undergoing alternative therapies at home with a ‘cryo-chamber’ as she battles an unexplained lethargy.
Hayes didn’t mince her words about the state of the Spurs pitch on what turned out to be the most memorable match of Chelsea’s season after the first-half sending-off of Ann-Katrin Berger, whose rash blocking of Rachel Williams led ref Lisa Benn to, quite properly, show her the red card.
The fact that the Blues battled back with 10 players to win 3-1 was little short of miraculous.
“There have been a lot of great performances by my team, but this ranks right up there because [it was with] 10 players for that length of time.
“We did it once against Atletico Madrid and I thought this was even better. The whole spirit, the effort, the determination – the whole thing from everyone involved showed the adaptability of the group.”
With second-placed Arsenal keeping up the pressure by defeating Everton, tonight’s derby is yet another must-win.
A wonder goal from sub Jessie Fleming, a nod-down header from Sam Kerr (from a magnificent cross by Jonna Andersson, who’ll be much missed when she heads back to Scandinavia in the summer) and a tight-angle lob from Guro Reiten (something Blues fans have seen several times before) finally wiped out a perverse own goal off a helpless Sophie Ingle after Molly Bartrip’s corner bounced back off the post.
“We need to keep grafting,” said Hayes, looking ahead to tonight’s match. “We have the tougher run-in; we just happen to be ahead. The team need to remain humble. Getting over the line requires detail and diligence, and I have to enforce that as much as possible.”
She said that while she was happy with her side’s response to losing a player to a red card, she’d expected a better start when the Blues still had 11 on the pitch.
It was Chelsea’s first red of the season. “We put ourselves in an unnecessary position. To react the way we did… well! The whole environment was amazing.”
On the Tottenham home pitch, Hayes called it the worst she’d seen in the Women’s Super League. “They told me that that was the best their pitch had been all year! I was absolutely floored! It’s not good enough for WSL level.”
I wondered whether it would be a pitch considered acceptable in the men’s top flight. “Every team has spoken about the [Spurs] pitch, but every team has had to play there. The game deserves better, and I’m sure Tottenham know that. There are clearly too many teams playing too many games there,” she said, adding that Kingsmeadow’s green sward was the best in the league and that the match tonight would – as a consequence – be a much better watch.
Musing on the Women’s Champions League, and on making such good-quality football available to a larger number of spectators (especially as the Italian women’s game is about to go pro), Hayes said that she believed big European clashes merited more imposing stages.
“Maybe make it mandatory for Champions League games to be played in men’s stadiums,” she said. “I think that would be a step in the right direction. Champions League level requires it.”