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Emma Hayes praises Chelsea’s ‘outstanding’ second-half performance in Reading win

Stability in adversity

Chelsea Women v Birmingham City Women: Vitality Women’s FA Cup Quarter Final Photo by Chloe Knott - The FA/The FA via Getty Images

Despite coming off of a 9-0 win over Leicester City the previous weekend, Chelsea were well aware of the danger that Reading could pose. After all, they were one of only two teams that have managed to beat the Blues in the Women’s Super League this season, with an early Deanna Rose goal stunning the current league leaders in a 1-0 loss at Adams Park back in December.

We wanted a rebuttal, but once again, Reading did all that they could to deny us. And for 40 minutes, they did just that. But after a barrage of blocked shots and defending deeper and deeper by the minute, one great touch from Jessie Fleming in the box followed by a great finish broke the deadlock just before half-time.

It was just what we needed to put Reading back in their place, while elevating our performance to a proper title-challenging level. Manager Emma Hayes praised not only Fleming’s great opener, but also the team’s performance in the second half as we extended our lead five-fold.

“[Jessie Fleming’s goal] was a wonderful finish, it really helped to come in at half-time 1-0 up.

“Second half I thought the execution of the last part was what was missing. I said that to Guro at half-time — her final ball needed to be better, needed to provided more service for the front two and we did that, with the ball into Beth, a superb finish!

“We were outstanding, especially in the second half.”

After a five-goal performance, it’s only right that the attackers collect most of the plaudits — both Sam Kerr and Beth England got a brace and Guro Reiten assisted twice — but we should not forget about our recent defensive excellence either, especially at home.

Chelsea have really improved since our early elimination from the Champions League, failing to make it to the knockout rounds after a shocking 4-0 loss to Wolfsburg in the last match of the group stage.

At the same time, just like the men’s squad, the players have been able to stay focused on doing their jobs despite all the drama surrounding the club’s ownership and sale.

“We have all done a good job of getting on. Our lives haven’t really been affected internally, nothing has changed so as I’ve said many times it’s about the club getting on, doing their due diligence. We just need to focus on the business of winning and improving.

“That for me is what you want to see as a manager, it’s not just about peaking at the right point, you have to keep finding little wins and little improvements and I feel like our whole squad is on the same page and that takes a lot of work to get to that point so credit to the whole environment for that.”

-Emma Hayes; source: Chelsea FC

Chelsea hold a one-point lead over Arsenal with four games to go, and we also play them in the Women’s FA Cup semifinals in a couple weeks. Two trophies well within reach: let’s keep the winning business going!