Chelsea’s last season under Hayes risks ending a damp squib – Full Time with Jessy Parker Humphreys

Chelsea are facing the reality of Emma Hayes’ final season at the club ending trophyless after they exited the Champions League on Saturday night. Their 2-1 aggregate loss to Barcelona — the same outcome as last year’s semi-final — means they only have the WSL title left to play for. 

It was a frustrating defeat for Hayes’ team who carried a 1-0 lead from the away leg into the return at Stamford Bridge. The game changed significantly when Kadeisha Buchanan was controversially shown a second yellow card and sent off in the 59th minute with Barca 1-0 up on the night, leaving Chelsea with an uphill battle despite the aggregate score being level.

Within the past month, Chelsea have exited the Champions League, lost an FA Cup semi-final to Manchester United and been beaten by Arsenal in the Continental Cup final. In the league, they are six points behind Manchester City, who extended their goal-difference advantage by beating Bristol City 4-0, but they have two games in hand on the WSL leaders.

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Hayes encourages her players during Saturday’s 2-0 home defeat (Crystal Pix/MB Media/Getty Images)

If Chelsea are to take anything positive from the experience heading into their final four matches of the season, it will be their quality across both games against Barcelona.

Hayes’ side had begun to look rather lacklustre but they were re-energised, with the 1-0 away-leg win their most impressive performance of the season.

Beyond that, there was also the psychological boost of Millie Bright’s return. The Chelsea captain has struggled with knee injuries, ruling her out of last year’s Champions League semi-final and forcing her to be absent for 164 days this season. Thrown up front with six minutes to go at Stamford Bridge on Saturday, she could not reprise the goalscoring heroics that won her the Arnold Clark Cup Golden Boot two years ago (shared with Alexia Putellas), but she will prove a timely addition to Chelsea’s defence.

Bright’s appearance as a makeshift forward reflected the injury issues Chelsea have endured, with Colombia striker Mayra Ramirez joining Sam Kerr and Mia Fishel on the sidelines for the Barcelona game. Ramirez had caused Barcelona’s defence real issues in the first leg and, without her hold-up play, Chelsea’s game plan did not come together.

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Bright’s return was a boost (Harriet Lander – Chelsea FC/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

If Chelsea are to salvage their WSL title defence, they will need to be more ruthless in front of goal. January signing Ramirez had just begun to look settled in the side after a series of false starts and getting her back to full fitness will be essential.

Hayes and Chelsea know the league is still in their hands. It is a tough run-in, with three of their four matches coming away from home, but if they pick up maximum points and score enough goals, they will seal a record-extending fifth straight title.

Fail to do that and Hayes will leave her final season empty-handed.



Emma Hayes, Chelsea and the Champions League just weren’t meant to be

Chelsea’s remaining fixtures: Liverpool (A) May 1; Bristol City (H) May 5; Tottenham Hotspur (A) May 15; Manchester United (A) May 18

What you might have missed

Barcelona will be joined in the Champions League final by a familiar nemesis in the form of Lyon.

The eight-time winners beat Paris Saint-Germain 2-1 in Sunday’s second leg to win 5-3 on aggregate. In truth, this felt like a match that PSG had already thrown away having squandered a two-goal lead in the first leg to lose it 3-2. Goals from France full-back Selma Bacha and Haiti midfielder Melchie Dumornay ensured that Lyon will contest a record 11th Champions League final.

Across four meetings, including the 2019 and 2022 Champions League finals, Barcelona have never beaten Lyon.

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Lyon’s players celebrate alongside head coach Sonia Bompastor after securing progress into the final (Franck Fife/AFP via Getty Images)

Moment of the week

Crystal Palace secured promotion to the WSL following a 0-0 final-day draw to Sunderland as the Women’s Championship wrapped up another season.

It is a historic moment for the club who scored an incredible 55 goals in 22 matches. However, Palace only need look above them to see how daunting their task next year will be.

On the same day their promotion was confirmed, Bristol City’s relegation back down to the second tier was also rubber-stamped. Manchester United, Aston Villa and Liverpool are among the former Championship teams to have established themselves in the WSL in the past five years, but Bristol City have shown it is not easy.

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Crystal Palace Women claim the Championship (Crystal Pix/MB Media/Getty Images)


Relegation battlers to title winners: Laura Kaminski on Palace Women’s rise

Goal of the week

Ella Toone came off the bench to score a screamer for Manchester United as they beat Leicester City 1-0.

Marc Skinner’s side had struggled to make the breakthrough, with Leicester’s German goalkeeper Janina Leitzig making eight saves during the match. However, Toone’s long-range effort ensured they kept their noses ahead of fifth-placed Liverpool.

Player of the week

Issy Hobson became the youngest player to score a WSL goal as she headed in a 95th-minute equaliser for Everton against Arsenal.

At 16 years and 180 days old, the lifelong Evertonian was making only her second league appearance for the club. “It’s something I’ve been dreaming of since I started playing football and for it to contribute to getting a draw against Arsenal is the best feeling ever,” Hobson said after the match.

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A delighted Hobson after her equaliser (Emma Simpson – Everton FC/Everton FC via Getty Images)

Arsenal had gone 1-0 up in the 80th minute through Alessia Russo but failed to hold on to secure all three points.

What’s up next?

Chelsea play the first of their two games in hand on Manchester City with a trip to Liverpool on Wednesday (7pm UK, 2pm ET).

City, with Lauren Hemp signed up to a new three-year contract, host Arsenal in the penultimate weekend of the WSL season (2.15pm UK, 9.15am ET), a few hours before Chelsea take on relegated Bristol City (6.45pm UK, 1.45pm ET).

(Top photo: Kieran Cleeves/PA Images via Getty Images)

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