A record-breaking attendance at Kingsmeadow witnessed Chelsea Women narrowly beat Manchester United 1-0.
Maren Mjelde made no mistake from the spot to ensure the Blues took all three points in two sides' first-ever meeting.
A closely-fought battle between the two was heading towards a draw but Fran Kirby, who was recognised for achieving her 100th Chelsea appearance, jumped off the bench to make an immediate impact.
Emma Hayes was content with the way in which her team handled the game and the level of effort produced.
“It played out exactly how I thought it would," she said. “Tight, difficult to break down, they’re aggressive and make the pitch small.
"When you play these games after internationals they are always tough. I thought they looked fresher than us today, but they had two or three on international camp and we had 12.
“So to win that game, you have to really appreciate how hard that is to win that game. People expect the top teams to win because we’ve got top players – these players have to perform under an unbelievable schedule. I thought we were gritty, resilient and calm.
"I don’t think anybody panicked even when we weren’t dominant. You have to appreciate with the levels now that games are going to be like this more often than not, so can we use our wisdom and experience? I thought we did just at the right moment."
After being on the sidelines due to injury, the number 14 produced exactly what was expected of her.
“It was certainly part of the plan for Fran [Kirby] to come into the game like that," revealed the Chelsea boss.
“And I’ll say it again, her plan is to keep building and building. You can see she is getting sharper and sharper, so I’m really happy for Fran for the performance she put in.
“The game was screaming out for her and both of us are committed to getting her to her best levels and I ask everybody to remain patient with that because Fran is a special player.”
“An unsung hero”
The 42-year-old manager was also impressed by midfielder Sophie Ingle, who played a vital role in the team’s performance with composed defending and intelligent play.
“She’s an unsung hero,” said Hayes.
“If I was Phil Neville she would be one of the first names on my sheet [for Team GB] going to the Olympics. She doesn’t get half the credit that she deserves.
“Talking about the Olympics next summer, there is no one better to take than a player who can play centre-back, in midfield and perhaps she could play full-back she’s that good tactically.
“I thought she drove the team all day today and I hope that we can keep matching those performances so she does go to the Olympics next summer. We prepared for what United would bring to the game and Sophie had to play a key part in that. She still had to execute it and she executed to a fantastic level.”