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Emma Hayes hails ‘best in the world’ Ann-Katrin Berger for Women’s Champions League heroics

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World class

Chelsea Women v Manchester United Women - Barclays FA Women’s Super League Photo by Catherine Ivill - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

Chelsea FCW arrived to the Women’s Champions League quarterfinal confrontation last week on the back of five defeats, one draw, and three (3!) European exits at the hands of our opponents, VfL Wolfsburg. Last year’s finalists had eliminated the Blues in three consecutive seasons, from 2016 to 2018, and although Chelsea had improved markedly since then — including with the addition of Wolfsburg star Pernille Harder — the German giants would prove a staunch test yet again.

And, in fact, Chelsea were quite lucky to come away with a 2-1 win from Wednesday’s first leg, with Wolfsburg often dominating play, missing several guilt-edged chances, and hitting the woodwork three times. And when they did get shots on target, they had to try to get it past Ann-Katrin Berger, which isn’t exactly easy.

Berger was already the hero of the previous round, saving three penalties against Atlético Madrid. This time she was not able to do so, as Wolfsburg scored their only goal from the spot, but she did pull off several excellent saves, including one from point-blank range.

These are precisely the kinds of world class performances needed to achieve the ultimate goal of winning the Women’s Champions League, and manager Emma Hayes was certainly pleased.

“First of all, it’s a goalkeeper’s job to make saves. However, she is the best in the world, she’s amazing and she did a great job of that.

“I think in games like this you have to recognise that they have been so dominant in Europe for so many years, along with Lyon, that they’re always going to have the upper hand on the English side because of those years of experience, so I think it played out the way I expected it to.

“I expected them to dominate chances, like they did, so I’m grateful that we only conceded one away goal.”

The second leg will also be held at the Ferenc Szusza Stadium in Budapest. Holding on to this slim lead, with Wolfsburg technically having an away goal already, will not be easy. We might need a few more heroics, especially if Berger’s groin strain, which she appeared to pick up in the dying moments of the game, proves to be troublesome.

“There’s no home advantage for either team and I’m left feeling like the advantage is with them because they got the away goal, but I thought we were spirited with a lot of good performances from us.

“The realities are that’s a team that has been well-developed over a number of years, so I think for anybody to think this was going to be an easy tie for them, it’s not, we gave them a game and I’m happy about that.”

-Emma Hayes; source: Chelsea FC

This may be the best Chelsea FCW team ever, though of course there are never any guarantees in knockout competitions. But combined with the confidence and never-say-die attitude shown by Hayes’ Blues, we just might achieve great things in Europe as well this season!