BY PAUL LAGAN
Emma Hayes put down her side’s 3-2 home defeat to Birmingham City yesterday in the WSL1 that ends their defence of their crown to the combination of the unknown physical response on their bodies to long distance flying as her players returned from all around the globe following the international break and the need to win all their remaining league games to chase down Manchester City and Arsenal.
A brace of goals from Scotland international Erin Cuthbert was not enough to secure the three points needed to keep the pressure on the top two, and Champions league qualification for next season is also all over bar a miracle.
Hayes said: “The game after an international break is always really hard. I thought we looked a little leggy as a result of that.
“That was the team that beat Arsenal convincingly, bar Millie (Bright) who picked up a knock in that game. When you have players that are flying back from China, Dubai, from South Africa, all over the place, you don’t know what you are going to get in terms of physical output. As a result,
The game got too stretched which is what you usually get when you haven’t had a big block of training.
“But credit to the opposition, they played well, took their chances, didn’t get a lot of them, but took them. They are the most clinical team in the league in terms of chances created.”
Hayes rues the lack of killer instinct and composure needed to take advantage of the dominance they had, especially in the first half.
She said: “We started the game well, we went 1-0 up, but we lacked a bit of composure at the right moments.
“I’m proud of our team. We should have won it. We dominated the last stages – but we made a poor decision in the final third, got turned over and they came down and won the game.
“They scored two goals in the second half that I don’t think they will repeat if they tried a million times.”
Hayes’ team face their opening defence of the FA Cup next Saturday with a tough trip to Everton before facing Manchester City the following Wednesday in the semi-final of the Continental Tyres Cup – these competitions are now Hayes’ domestic priorities.
“The league is gone,” she said: “There are too few games left (to catch leaders Man City). This is the problem. We made the mistakes in the early part of the season. Now we are chasing, so it had to be a 100 per cent record for us to have any chance. And I felt the team felt the pressure in this game. We lacked composure. We were on a good run, playing well. It wasn’t our game, but not through a lack of trying.