League heartache spurred Chelsea on to FA Cup glory

Chelsea players celebrate.
Chelsea players celebrate.
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Chelsea Ladies boss Emma Hayes believes last season’s final-day league heartbreak sowed the seeds for her side’s momentous Women’s FA Cup success on Saturday.

The Blues lost 2-1 to Manchester City in the final fixture of the Women’s Super League when a victory would have guaranteed them title glory.

Instead they finished second to Liverpool, but came back this year to win their first piece of major silverware as PFA Women’s Player of the Year Ji So-yun scored the only goal to beat Notts County in the first final held at Wembley.

And Hayes reckons the bitter blow of last year played its part as her players wanted to bounce back and show what they are made of.

“Sometimes you have to go through the pain of losing and losing in such extreme circumstances to get to this point,” she said.

“I don’t know if we would have gone on if we had won the league last season and been in the same position. But what there has been with my players all season is a drive and a hunger, most importantly they won’t let it go.

“We may have had a blip in our league campaign in recent games but I think that was because the FA Cup was on their mind, and understandably so. It is not every day you play at Wembley. It is about winning trophies.”

Ji’s goal came six minutes before half-time in front of 30,710 fans inside Wembley, an experience Hayes believes no one at the club will forget.

“There was no way we were going to lose,” she said.

“The team have been preparing for some time and when I watched them work out there was an intensity, a focus to them. They were very strong.

“Playing in front of 30,000 is something everyone is going to enjoy and I can honestly say I enjoyed every single moment of it. It just all came together.”

Chelsea sit third in the current Women’s Super League standings having lost to both Sunderland and Manchester City in the run-in to Saturday’s final.

But Hayes feels the fresh belief instilled in her squad after the 
FA Cup success can help them push on to take their maiden league crown.

“After this we can kick on,” she said.

“We have Fran Kirby coming back into the team and we go into the next game as FA Cup winners and you need that confidence. You need that trophy, it helps you kick on for other honours.

“What success does is breed success and all of my girls will be determined to get another one. It is addictive, you want more of it.

“If we are going to chase more honours we are going to have to put the same level of work in, maybe even more.

“But why not? We will be determined to kick on and go for the league.”

Chelsea have seven games to achieve their ambitions, with their next game coming against struggling Birmingham next Sunday.

They have not yet been able to emulate the success of their male counterparts in recent times, but England international Eniola Aluko is hopeful the Women’s FA Cup triumph can provide a springboard for more glory.

“The overwhelming emotion right now is just relief. I feel relieved,” Aluko said. “It’s been a long time coming.”

Chelsea painfully finished runners-up on goal difference at the end of last season with Liverpool going on to lift the Super League trophy.

Aluko added: “Everyone knows the journey Chelsea have been on, coming so close last season. And everyone’s talked about it - are Chelsea going to do it?

“‘How will they play under pressure?’,” she said. “Well we certainly played under pressure (on Saturday).

“This is history in the making and hopefully we’re going to push on from here and win many more trophies.

“I couldn’t be more proud of this group of players. (Manager) Emma Hayes and her staff deserve everything. They work so hard and inspire us each and every day.

“I’m just grateful to God that we’ve done it.

“We’ve finally, finally done it. I can’t believe it.”