Hayes’ Chelsea side aim for top spot finish in Champions League group and defeat of Paris Saint-Germain
EMMA HAYES warns Chelsea will not be ‘downing tools’ in their final Champions League group game despite reaching the quarter-finals.
The Blues boss was reflecting on her players’ performance after they comfortably trounced Albanian side Vllaznia 4-0.
Fran Kirby’s first goal of the season in Europe and two assists for summer signing Jelena Cankovic were among the efforts that helped the WSL leaders stay top of group A.
The result saw the Blues, who made a surprise exit at this stage of the tournament last season, pick up their fourth win from their first five Champions League group games.
It saw them move three points clear of Paris Saint-Germain before the French side’s 2-1 defeat of Real Madrid.
And that result saw the Spanish club knocked out of the competition
Chelsea boss Hayes said: “The questions in and around the group stage last year we don’t have to answer anymore.
“This team does so well to learn in its hardest moments.
“We understand what the group stage is in this competition and I think we’ve navigated them really well this season.
“We didn’t get out of second gear but we should credit Vllaznia too as they made it difficult.
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“They stuck a lot of numbers behind the ball in the corridors and you have to be patient.
“It’s not always the best thing to watch because you’re playing against so many numbers behind the ball but we kept our patience.
“We probed and the finishers came into the game to add a couple of goals so we’re really happy.Our objective now is to finish top of the group.”
When asked if Chelsea’s quarter-final qualification gives them the freedom to take things easier against PSG, Hayes added: “I don’t think you can switch it on and off.
“The minute we down tools in something, I don’t like us when that happens.
“There’s two conversations on the table for the team – the first is how hard we’re going to train next week and the second is how are we going to finish top of the group.
“Everything else is nothing. I don’t want to hear about Christmas or the quarter-finals.
“I’m not interested in any of that, just what we need to do to win the game next week.”
Hayes made six changes to the line-up that beat Reading 3-2 in the WSL on Sunday.
Captain Magda Eriksson and Millie Bright were rested with Sophie Ingle wearing the skipper’s armband.
Vllaznia – who have conceded more goals than any other team in this stage tournament – were pinned back in their own half for large spells.
And they found themselves a goal behind in the 12th minute as Ingle side-footed the ball home after deflected Guro Reiten pass.
The hosts, who had no shots on target attempted a lobbed effort shortly after with Megi Dolci spotting Blues shot stopper Zecira Musovic off her line.
But they found themselves 2-0 down in the 20th minute with Kirby sweeping the ball home after being teed up by Cankovic following a quickly taken free-kick
The Albanian side reacted angrily being caught off guard and yet to get into position, but their protests were waved away by the referee
The Blues came close to a third at the half hour mark with Aniek Nouwen heading Ingle’s corner kick directly at Vllaznia keeper Kaylin Williams-Moisier.
The second spell saw Hayes shuffle her deck with Lauren James, Maren Mjelde and Katerina Svitkova entering the fray
The visitors saw Sam Kerr’s tapped-in finish flagged offside in the 68th minute before Svitkova struck late to make it 3-0 win with an assist from Cankovic.
And a late handball led to Mjelde netting from the penalty spot to wrap up a comfortable win on the road.