Emma Hayes said the perception of English teams in Europe would change and hailed a “big day for women’s football in England”, following her Chelsea side’s 3-0 defeat of Wolfsburg to reach the Champions League semi-finals.
“I don’t think Europe has taken English football too seriously up until now. That changes,” Hayes said. “I think this probably ranks as my most favourite win in charge … I’ve faced that opponent so many times and have felt humiliated and lost and I always thought they were the benchmark for women’s football alongside Lyon. So it is a really, really proud day for English football.”
Chelsea were beaten by Wolfsburg in the last 16 of the club’s first Champions League campaign, in 2015-16. They were knocked out by the German champions the following year in the last 32 and in the semi-finals the year after.
Hayes, who took charge of Chelsea in 2012, said: “I’ve waited nine years for today. That’s a long time for this moment. So to think the players played with that level of control, discipline, an assured nature as they carried out what I wanted them to do, in its entirety, I cannot tell you how crucial we think those things matter and everybody does their job.
“I feel like this is not just a win to get through to the semi-finals. It’s a really big day for women’s football in England. But you know, I’m going to say it’s not enough. I want more.”
Chelsea will likely meet another German side, Bayern Munich, in the semi-finals, with the Bundesliga leaders 3-0 up going into the second leg on Thursday against the Swedish club Rosengård.
Hayes praised the stand-in right back Jess Carter and her other fringe players. With Maren Mjelde requiring surgery after injuring a knee in the second leg of their last-16 tie against Atlético Madrid and Niamh Charles suspended, Carter slotted in seamlessly.
“Put yourself in their shoes,” Hayes said. “They have to train every day knowing there is not a game always coming up at the weekend. It’s extremely difficult to manage that, to keep telling a player: ‘You have to be ready for today.’ And Jess heard everything we said, and she deserves to have her moment.”