Chelsea manager Emma Hayes says Man City “underestimated” her side during the Women’s FA Cup final, and that the current squad will “go down in history” after picking up another trophy.
Chelsea twice took the lead during the showpiece event at Wembley, but Gareth Taylor’s side pegged them back late in each half.
But a Sam Kerr winner in extra-time secured Chelsea’s second trophy in a week, having also clinched the Women’s Super League title last Sunday.
An ecstatic Hayes could not hide her joy after the game, and did point to the Women’s League Cup final in March – which City won 3-1 – as giving her side a little extra motivation this time around.
“I’m so happy, I really am,” she said. “That was so amazing for the women’s game today. Two teams who respected each other going toe-to-toe.
“I loved the game plan, I thought it was really aggressive, but we had to grind and work. We stopped Man City’s momentum in the way we press, but it meant we had to suffer and there was a lot of cramping and groin strains.
“To dig it out doesn’t surprise me, I said that to them at extra time. I knew which team was going to be the winning team.
“I think Man City are a top team, but they underestimated us today. Our team, from the loss in the Continental Cup final, had a point to prove and I thought we did really well with that.
“Those women will go down in history. I’ll look back in 10 years’ time and I’ll say ‘that group was immense, the best team I’ve ever coached’. I totally understand the want to talk about perfection in football but having been on the winning side more often than not, let me tell you it’s about human endeavour. We have a group of people that don’t like to be on a losing team and they’ll find a way [to win].
“I’ve been involved with lots of football matches, nothing was as enjoyable as that today… I understand that I’m a leader and I’ve got an amazing staff, but these players are extraordinary, they really are.”
Hayes dedicates win to Granovskaia, Buck and departing players
Hayes conducted her press conference with Ji So-Yun’s shirt on the table in front of her, with the long-serving midfielder having played her last game for the club on Sunday.
Drew Spence and Jonna Andersson are also set to leave Chelsea this summer, and Hayes dedicated the victory to all three players.
She explained: “This also needs to be about the three players departing… It’s about Ji, Jonna and Drew. That’s why I bought Ji’s shirt in here today, which she’s kindly given to me.
FA Cup final attendance record beaten
There was an official attendance of 49,094 – a record for a Women’s FA Cup final. It beat the previous record of 45,423, which was set when Chelsea beat Arsenal at Wembley in 2018.
“I can’t get her a statue, but I want her to know that I am honouring her in the best way I possibly can by putting her front and centre. If I could put Drew and Joanna there, I would. Today is about these three human beings.
“I realised today that they’re going. I’m so gutted to lose three brilliant people. I’ve coached Drew since she was 19 or 20 years of age, I’ve watched her grow up. I’m so proud of her. I said the same thing to all of them at the end of the game ‘this is your legacy’.”
When asked if she would frame Ji’s shirt, Hayes emphatically replied: “Ji is unbelievable, of course it is getting framed in my house!”
During uncertain times for Chelsea as a club, with the completion of its sale yet to be confirmed, Hayes also credited the victory to current director of football Marina Granovskaia and chairman Bruce Buck.
She added: “This is a huge win for Marina and Bruce. What they’ve done for this team over a period of time, they’ve epitomised everything Chelsea is about. At full-time, when I hit my badge, that was for those two people in particular.”
Hayes: Losing fuels me
There has often been speculation about Hayes’ future at Chelsea, which was once again a topic for discussion after Sunday’s win, as was how she continues to improve an already trophy-laden side.
She said: “Everyone knows I’ve got a contract at Chelsea, so what’s the speculation about? Maybe there’s a job that you guys are telling me I’m going for that I don’t know about. But as far as I’m concerned, I don’t have to kill any speculation. I’m under contract at Chelsea and there’s nothing to talk about.
“I can’t bear losing – I can’t bear the thought of it. I don’t want to think about it, losing fuels me. The minute I feel any of them coming close, I just want to get better.
“I don’t do well in comfort and I lead the team to live like that. Even today, I couldn’t have wished to have been in a better game, even when they scored… It was two top teams and today was our day. Like the Continental Cup, it could easily have swung in either direction.”
Taylor: We were the dominant team
In a game of fine margins, there was little for City boss Gareth Taylor to be disappointed about, barring the eventual outcome. City commanded control of much of the occasion at Wembley, but failed to make their presence felt where it counted – Chelsea’s box.
His overwhelming emotion was one of pride when asked about his assessment of City’s defeat to Chelsea, commending his team’s character as they twice came from behind to momentarily threaten a comeback victory.
Ultimately, the day belonged to the Londoners, but that didn’t deter Taylor’s praise of his side’s display, summarising City’s future as “very bright”.
“Of course I’m going to be biased, but I felt like we were the dominant team in large periods of the game,” he reflected. “I thought we started well, had good chances.
“We had to show good character to bounce back after giving away a disappointing goal. We controlled large parts of the game and then the last 20 minutes, I thought we were excellent.
“We were the only team in extra time that I felt like were going to go on and do it. We make a slight error, which ends up costing us. It’s difficult then, because Chelsea can see the finish line.
“Supremely proud of the team – it was just unfortunate we couldn’t quite get our noses in front when we had the ascendancy.
“My feeling is not one of disappointment – of course we wanted to lift the trophy – but at the moment I just feel pride.
“The only area of disappointment is if you give Chelsea three goals, you’re going to have to do a lot to win the game. But outside of the three goals, I never felt like they had opportunities. I felt like we nullified their threat well, and created our own chances but we just needed to be a bit tidier in the final bit.
“This is football. It can happen. You can dominate large periods and come away with nothing. You have to take your hat off to Chelsea; what they do, they do really well.
“Outside of us, no other team has taken a trophy. We’re proud of that. We know we’re there, we know we can do it. The future is very bright.”