She’s back! Thirty seconds before Chelsea Women’s game against Aston Villa kicked off at the weekend, Emma Hayes appeared quietly and took a seat at the back of the west stand at Kingsmeadow. It is three weeks since the Blues manager underwent an emergency hysterectomy, with doctors advising rest for up to six weeks… but
She’s back! Thirty seconds before Chelsea Women’s game against Aston Villa kicked off at the weekend, Emma Hayes appeared quietly and took a seat at the back of the west stand at Kingsmeadow.
It is three weeks since the Blues manager underwent an emergency hysterectomy, with doctors advising rest for up to six weeks… but Hayes is now on course to return to the dugout for the big spectacular – the match against Spurs on Sunday November 20 at Stamford Bridge.
Accompanied by her dad, the recuperating gaffer was in radio contact with Denise Reddy and Paul Green in the technical area of the long, low east stand on the opposite side at the ground as Villa surprised Chelsea with the intensity of their press and the whole-hearted, pacey approach to the Women’s Super League fixture on Sunday lunchtime.
That the Blues eventually finished 3-1 winners was down to two stunning strikes from Lauren James (with proud dad Nigel watching with the fans) and a goal from Sam Kerr, plus another terrific string of assists from Guro Reiten and a concerted, focused team performance.
It was 1-1 at half-time, with little to separate the sides, as Chelsea – in front of a bumper home crowd of 4,373 – took the lead on 22 minutes as Reiten centred and James volleyed past the in-form Anna Leat in the Villa goal, only for the Villains to level a quarter of an hour later when right-back Sarah Mayling dashed forward, exchanged passes with Alisha Lehmann and crossed for Rachel Daly to fire home.
The Blues began the second half at the gallop, and were ahead again two minutes after ref Martin Woods had whistled for the restart. This time Pernille Harder crossed for James to score. James could have had a hat-trick, but for Leat’s agility in palming over another strike that seemed certain to hit the back of the net.
James provided the crucial lob for Kerr to score the clinching goal after 63 minutes, seconds after the pair had been denied by Leat with a near-identical attack.
James was replaced by Johanna Kaneryd moments later, so will have to wait a little longer for a Chelsea hat-trick that is surely coming.
This proved one of the sternest tests of Chelsea’s season so far. The fact that the Blues had won all four of their previous encounters with Villa, without conceding, says everything about the Midlands side’s recent improvement under manager Carla Ward.
Chelsea have now won 14 of their last 15 WSL matches, with the only blip being the opening weekend defeat to Liverpool. Next up for the Blues, a visit to Manchester United on Sunday evening.