Chelsea manager Emma Hayes finally sees the funny side of the criticism leveled at star striker Sam Kerr after the Aussie scored two sensational second-half volleys to seal the Blues’ third straight Barclays FA title Women’s Super League.
Kerr, who joined Chelsea from the Chicago Red Stars in 2020, scored her 19th and 20th BFA WSL goals of the season in Sunday’s 4-2 win over Manchester United at Kingsmeadow, drawing it six past the star of ‘Arsenal Vivianne Miedema.
While fans and opponents alike now adore the Golden Boot winner, Hayes recalled the days when the 2022 FWA Footballer of the Year wasn’t greeted with such fondness.
“It’s hilarious when you think about it,” Hayes said. “But more importantly, Sam often says you have to belong to play well.
“I felt personally that once she stopped trying to impress everyone, because she’s a great teammate and she wanted to belong, the minute that stopped, everything changed, and I think it’s not easy to do, you have a lot of tension on you, and you want to fit in.
“The best ones have both sides of the ball – defensively from the front she can make it a nightmare for the opposition and once the spaces open up she can score all types of goals, including the third today’ today.
“Her second was world class; it was outrageous and daring. She’s the best for a reason, and she’s showing up again for this football club.
“I said come and play for Chelsea, you will win trophies here, and I can sit here confident that we have both made the right decision, we are both made for Chelsea and we both love days like today.”
Chelsea got scared when he trailed twice in the first half, as Manchester United were by far the better of the two teams in the opening exchanges.
Martha Thomas and Ella Toone scored for the Reds on 25 minutes and although Erin Cuthbert scored well between those two, it was the away fans who cheered at half-time as United led 2-1.
Hayes made two changes after the restart, with Bethany England and Ji So-Yun for the Blues. They had an almost immediate effect as Chelsea came out of the blocks and went from trailing to leading in the blink of an eye.
The first of Kerr’s exceptional strikes came barely a minute into the second half, and four minutes later the comeback was complete when Guro Reiten carefully concealed his chance as United had no answer to the intensity of Chelsea.
Kerr then finished the match with an even better volley than the first, and the game and the title were sealed in style for audible relief around the floor.
Hayes, when asked about second-half substitutions, said: “I think it doesn’t matter what we do in terms of the team we put in place or the tactics we put in place, this team has the ability when something It’s not going well to overcome it, we didn’t fulfill the game plan at all in the first half.
“We couldn’t pass the ball let alone win the first and second ball, the distance between her (Sam Kerr) and the rest of the team was too huge.
“I almost changed it after 30 minutes, but I was convinced that we needed Beth (England) and JI (So-Yun) to come into the game and Erin (Cuthbert) to sit a little deeper .”
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