BY PAUL LAGAN
There is only one Super League that Chelsea are going to be involved in, and that’s the Women’s Super League – those players did not let the fans down with a pulsating 2-2 draw against Manchester City on Wednesday night, that leaves the west Londoners with one hand on retaining the WSL trophy.
The greatest humiliation under Roman Abramovich’s 18-year tenure as owner of the Stamford Bridge outfit was fought not on the pitch but on the Fulham Road streets outside the ground on Tuesday, as fans rebelled in the most vociferous way to denounce the club’s admission into the closed shop European Super League [ESL].
The ramifications of the decision, whereby the club was forced by public pressure to make an embarrassing U-turn, could cost senior board members their positions as Abramovich assesses the damaging impact on his personal reputation and on the club as a business concern.
On the pitch, tomorrow’s men’s game against West Ham United at the London Stadium takes on greater significance as qualification for next year’s Champions League hangs in the balance.
Had the club not climbed down over ESL participation, then finishing in the top four of the Premier League would have been an irrelevance as they would have effectively destroyed the competition along with the other 11 rebels in the unsporting alliance.
The Blues drew 0-0 draw at home on Tuesday to lowly Brighton to stay fourth but must win against the fifth-placed Hammers to give themselves breathing space as the league hurtles into its final few weeks.
As for the women, manager Emma Hayes admitted she was completely exhausted after her charges took a vital point at the Academy Stadium on Wednesday evening.
With two games remaining, the Blues remain two points ahead of City.
Hayes, pictured, said: “It was tough, exhausting. I’m relieved that game is over. It was painful.
“It wasn’t comfortable, but we stayed composed and the only fun I had all night was when the final whistle went.”
Hayes has to take her team to Germany on Sunday where they face Bayern Munich in the first leg semi-final of their Champions League.
When asked if the game was the most important in the club’s history, Hayes responded: “I don’t think I have the energy to answer that question. I need to recover. I’ll think about Bayern Munich on Friday.
“The players will have a little break, I need time and space to reflect.”
A Sam Kerr header and a Pernille Harder penalty secured the point on Wednesday, and Hayes was full of praise for her Australian striker and German goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger. She said: “It was ludicrous that people were criticising Sam early in the season. She was creating chances for fun, perhaps not finishing them. She has the whole package now, her hold-up and link play, her role in set-pieces, her transition play, she is playing the best football of her career.
“She was the difference against Man City. She is relentless, a wonderful athlete. She delivers the biggest moments when it matters and she does it time and time again.
“As for Berger, I’ve said it time and time again, she is an unbelievable asset to the team, the best goalkeeper in the country. She is getting better, the more pressure, the more she responds.”
Hayes has a major injury doubt for Sunday – skipper Magda Eriksson sat out the City game. The Blues boss was tight-lipped as to the nature of the injury, said: “She had a setback [in training] on Tuesday.”
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