Emma Hayes: "Whoever our opponent is, we are ready"
Chelsea's English manager Emma Hayes reacts during the UEFA Women's Champions League quarter-final second-leg football match between Chelsea and Ajax at Stamford Bridge in London, on March 27, 2024. (Photo by Glyn KIRK / AFP) (Photo by GLYN KIRK/AFP via Getty Images)

Chelsea boss Emma Hayes addressed the media following The Blues' 1-1 draw with Ajax at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday evening. 

Mayra Ramirez opened her Champions League account for the club just before the half, but Chasity Grant gave Ajax a deserved goal on the night, with Chelsea's first leg performance a week ago in Amsterdam, good enough to see them through to the semi finals. 

The Blues' boss spoke on Mayra Ramirez, Zecira Musovic, the upcoming semi final, the retiring Steph Houghton and more. 

When Colombian hot shot Mayra Ramirez made the move to West London in January, she probably would've envisaged it going a fair bit more smoothly than it has done for her so far. 

Forced to withdraw through injury in the League Cup victory over Manchester City just as she was finding form, coupled with long term injuries to Mia Fishel and Sam Kerr, it looked as if Chelsea's striker curse was set to continue. 

Thankfully for the Blues, Ramirez wasn't sidelined for that long and made her mark back tonight, with a cool finish past Ajax keeper, Regina van Eijk to all but secure Chelsea's progress.

"I am really happy for Mayra, she was so excited to play today with it being her debut in the competition. I'm happy for the goal and it will bring us selection problems for the weekend."

(Photo via Glyn Kirk/Getty Images)
(Photo via Glyn Kirk/Getty Images)

Hayes rang the changes for tonight's encounter, with starts being handed to Zecira Musovic, Ashley Lawerence, Guro Reiten, Sophie Ingle, Mayra Ramirez, Eve Perriset and Fran Kirby, meaning the sides usual rhythm wasn't always apparent. 

"I feel we were a bit sloppy at times but when you make so many changes, you expect the disruption, we could've scored more in the first half but when we went in at 4-0 up, we knew they had to go for it. 

"In the second half we relaxed a little as we knew they had to go for it, but we are through and that's what I am focusing on." 

  • Zecira Musovic's mad ninety:

It was her first start in four games since Chelsea beat Everton in the FA Cup, in a showing that shone the light on just what it means to be a goalkeeper, shaky passes, brilliant saves, near calamaties, Musovic certainly had a mad ninety,. 

Notably in the first half, she smashed a loose backpass straight back off of Ajax striker, Tiny Hoekstra, with the ball rolling and rolling towards the vacant net left by the Swede, for it to hit the outside of the post. 

Arguably also, she should've done better with the Ajax equaliser, letting a weak effort from Chasity Grant squirm through her grasp. She did however redeem herself and in some style, with two brilliant saves to deny stunning curlers from Danique Tolhoek and Romee Leuchter. 

"Look, when you haven't been playing, it's hard to get a feel for things because you gain confidence the more you play, which she (Musovic) hasn't been. 

"Fair play to her for the saves in the second half. SHe knows the errors in the first but she's an incredible character who will keep working on her errors. I want to focus on the good thing's she did to stop them from scoring. 

"I wanted Zecira to be the best version of herself and she certainly showcased that in the second half."

(Photo via Jacques Feeney/Offside - Offside via Getty Images)
(Photo via Jacques Feeney/Offside - Offside via Getty Images)
  • "We expect to be here in the latter stages"

Chelsea have always just missed out on that golden jewel, the one string missing from their bow, the UEFA Women's Champions League trophy. 

Last year, The Blues reached the semi final via a thrilling penalty shootout win over Lyon, where they were beaten by Barcelona over two legs, with Hayes chosing to reflect on her sides progress in the competition over a prolonged period. 

"Even if you look at the last five years, only once have we not qualified from the group and every other time we have made it to the latter stages. We expect to be here. We should be at this level and in the semi finals. 

"We haven't won anything yet, we are in the place we want to be. I don't know who our opponent will be, but whoever it is, we are ready.

"We have a bit more variety about us, that we didn't have last year, more attacking options, Sjoeke Nusken, Lauren James, Guro Reiten, Johanna Kaneryd, Aggie Beever-Jones, Mayra Ramirez, for me, we deserve those attacking options."

About an hour and a half before kick off, current Manchester City defender and former Lionesses captain, Steph Houghton announced that she is retiring at the end of the season, bringing an end to the career of one of the greats of the Women's game. As expected, Hayes heaped praise on the defender. 

"What a incredible career, someone who has been a leader for club and country for a long time, from Sunderland to Arsenal to Manchester City

"I hope someone like her stays in the game, I don't wish coaching on anyone but she can do it. I am sure she has lots of life challenges ahead of her but she is someone I really respect and admire in the way she carries herself."

(Photo via Visionhaus/Getty Images)
(Photo via Visionhaus/Getty Images)
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