Chelsea manager Emma Hayes describes her team’s ‘exhaustion and relief’ after their epic victory in the Champions League semi-finals.What an evening.
Yet, following Chelsea’s dramatic Women’s Champions League victory over Lyon, manager Emma Hayes felt only one emotion: exhaustion.
That feeling. 💙🔵pic.twitter.com/MI2I9gl1Wc— Chelsea Dodgers 🧢 (@TheBlueDodger) March 30, 2023
Chelsea advanced to the semi-finals in dramatic fashion, triumphing in a penalty shootout after Maren Mjelde also scored from the spot in the eighth minute of extra time.
“I’m just relieved it’s over and we’re done with it,” Hayes said. “It was drama, drama, drama, and I am exhausted, both relieved and exhausted.”
Those in attendance at Stamford Bridge were treated to a spectacular showdown between two of Europe’s heavyweights, with Chelsea eventually pulling off a giant-killing.
Lyon, last year’s champions and the competition’s record eight-time winner, came to London needing to overcome a 1-0 deficit and nearly did so when they led 2-1 on aggregate with seconds remaining.
But Mjelde remained composed to keep her team in the game, and goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger made two stunning saves in a shootout that Hayes couldn’t bear watching.
“We’ve never won a penalty shootout as a team, so you can imagine what was going through my mind during the extra-time period,” she said.
“I had to be aware that the penalty takers were still on the field because, to be honest, I didn’t see us scoring.”
“When I saw Lyon’s substitutes come off the bench one after the other, all world-class talents, I thought we handled it well.” Even if it was the ugliest, it was the most character-building performance.”
After Chelsea’s defeat in the first leg in France, Hayes predicted that “momentum would turn” as a penalty shootout became more likely.
The Blues, who were already missing England defender Millie Bright due to injury, also suffered injuries to Eve Perisset and Melanie Leupolz during the game, and fatigue began to show among those who remained on the field.
EMMA HAYES. WHAT A MANAGER. 👑#UWCL pic.twitter.com/nYbqwD2ZiV— DAZN Football (@DAZNFootball) March 30, 2023
“Our depth wasn’t great, and players had to step in and play multiple roles,” Hayes explained. “For Maren [Mjelde] to do what she did with the game’s final kick… She’s a Chelsea icon.”
“I can’t believe what we just witnessed,” former Leeds striker Lucy Ward told DAZN. It was tense the entire time.
“It was an incredible effort from everyone involved; Chelsea had injuries, but the players were up and running by the end of extra time.”
“Throughout the two-legged tie, momentum ebbed and flowed. Chelsea put in an outstanding performance.”
Berger’s “moment” as created history at Stamford Bridge
Mjelde delivered the heroics from the penalty spot, scoring twice in extra time and once in the shootout, but Berger was the victor.
Her two spectacular saves, which denied Wendie Renard and Lindsey Horan, sparked wild celebrations at Stamford Bridge, with Berger sliding towards the corner flag in front of a standing ovation.
The 32-year-old revealed in August that her cancer had returned after four years of remission, forcing her to undergo additional treatment, making her achievements on Europe’s biggest stage even more remarkable.
“She’s someone who thrives in big moments and has done so her entire career,” Hayes explained.
“She’s probably the best penalty-saving goalkeeper I’ve ever worked with, so I went into the shootout feeling very confident.”
“Given everything she’s been through, I felt like this was her moment.”
“The girls know I love penalty shootouts; I feel no pressure; they have to score, not me!” Berger added.
Mjelde, who came on in the 73rd minute, said she “had no feelings” when she stepped up to take the crucial penalty in the final seconds of extra time.
“We fought to the end. It was a crazy game to come back like we did,” she added.
“There was a delay, so I had to focus, I had no feelings, just get rid of everything in my body, take my time, just focus,” she says.
“It’s a memory we’ll never forget.” We made history at home, at Stamford Bridge, in front of our supporters. It’s exactly what we wanted.”
Chelsea, who are still in contention for the Women’s Super League title and have an FA Cup semi-final to come, know they will need to recreate these special moments in order to reach the Champions League final.
Barcelona, the Spanish giants who defeated Chelsea in the final in 2021, stand in their way in the last four as Hayes seeks the one trophy that has eluded her in her managerial career.