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Record-equalling Blues take control of title race

Former Parliament Hill School pupil Emma Hayes praises 'unbelievable achievement' as Chelsea equal Man City’s record of 31 unbeaten WSL matches

21 January, 2021 — By Catherine Etoe

Emma Hayes

CHELSEA boss Emma Hayes had no idea how her players marked Fran Kirby’s winner in their top-of-the-table clash with Manchester United.

“I remember the first goal and the social distance respect from the team,” she said of Pernille Harder’s opener. “But I don’t remember the second because I was celebrating myself.”

It seemed a fair reaction, given that Sunday’s 2-1 win propelled the reigning champions into pole position in a tight Women’s Super League title race.

Former Parliament Hill School pupil Hayes’ team have now equalled Man City’s record of 31 unbeaten WSL matches.

She said: “No team has retained the title in this country in the modern day WSL, so to go unbeaten for two years is an unbelievable achievement.”

Hayes, who this week revealed that she had caught Covid-19 when the virus ripped through the Blues’ camp before Christmas, edged closer to another piece of silverware on Wednesday night.

Three crucial substitutions paid off as Chelsea overcame Manchester City 4-2 in extra-time to book a place in the semi-finals of the Continental Cup.

It had looked a hopeless ask for the holders after City’s Chloe Kelly had cancelled out Melanie Leupolz’s opener and Lauren Hemp pounced with what looked like the winner as full-time loomed.

But a superb bit of skill from Niamh Charles pulled Chelsea back into it with seconds to go, and extra-time goals from fellow substitutes Sophie Ingle and Guro Reiten finished off the job.

Afterwards, Hayes was clearly delighted with her first-ever win at City’s Academy Stadium and praised her team’s ability to stay focused even in the face of setbacks.

She said: “I thought it just gave us much more confidence going into extra-time and that’s full credit to the players.

“They don’t get affected emotionally and it’s the hardest thing to teach players, to be able to stay completely present and keep thinking about the next goal.”

• Catch the WSL on Sunday when Arsenal face West Ham on the BBC Red Button at midday, Spurs take on Everton and Chelsea travel to Bristol City, both live on The FA Player.

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