Chelsea boss Emma Hayes believes Saturday’s Continental Cup final victory over Arsenal is testament to her side’s newfound resilience this season.
Beth England’s double secured Chelsea's first-ever Continental Cup trophy, with the England striker netting in injury time to cap off a dramatic match at the City Ground just five minutes after Leah Williamson had brought the Gunners level.
England opened the scoring after just eight minutes in Nottingham and although Arsenal dominated the rest the equaliser was hard to come by, with Ann-Katrin Berger in inspired form in the Chelsea net.
The German thwarted a number of Arsenal opportunities throughout the 90 minutes, leaving Hayes gleaming from the sidelines at performance of her side’s resilient backline.
“Would we have conceded last year? Absolutely. I don’t think we would’ve had it in us,” she said.
“The better team didn’t win the game, the most resilient team won the game, I value great defending, and today was a great victory for a gritty, determined performance from the whole collective.
“To win the game knowing that they dominated, they out-possessed us, they out-footballed us, for me shows what a great team we really are.
“We’re in good form, and I think if you are going to win things you need to have all types of performances to do that. You can’t always be on top and dominant throughout.”
England continued her fantastic season in front of goal with two opportunistic finishes at either end of the game to give her side a first-ever Continental Cup victory in front of a record-breaking crowd of 6,743 in Nottingham.
The Gunners had chance after chance to level the scores, with Vivianne Miedema and Berger seemingly having their own personal duel, the German coming out on top for the most part.
The pinnacle of the 29-year-old’s match was a superb sprawling save at the far post as the Dutch striker looked destined to volley home, putting her body on the line to protect her side’s lead.
And even when she was beaten by Leah Williamson five minutes from time, England was on hand at the other end to score from point-blank range and send the blue part of the Nottingham crowd into delirium.
And after a tricky start to her Chelsea career, Hayes believes the Lionesses striker, who has now scored 21 goals in all competitions, has blossomed this campaign and has no doubt she will continue to deliver.
“I love the story, because she had to earn it, there was no way I was going to give it to her easily,” Hayes added.
“There’s nothing more joyful than when a player who you don’t know if they are going to be able to cut it at the top level gets their head down and puts everything into their career.
“The talent was always there but now you’re starting to see the fruit of hard work and perseverance.
“She’s a credit to herself and her family and I really think England have got a player that can add something to them going to the next stage.”