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  • Writer's pictureBy Dan Evans

Hayes happy with a point as she calls for focus on Chelsea character

Emma Hayes had little interest in discussing the decision to award a penalty in Arsenal’s favour after her Chelsea side rescued a late 1-1 draw at the Emirates Stadium on Sunday.

Kim Little opened the scoring from the spot after Niamh Charles was adjudged to have brought down Caitlin Foord just inside the 18-yard box despite Chelsea protests that the foul took place outside of the penalty area.

A 90th-minute Sam Kerr header earned a point for the league leaders and prevented Jonas Eidevall’s side making ground on them in the Women’s Super League title race, and Blues boss Hayes was keen to not let the penalty decision overshadow a valuable point gained.

“We weren’t at our best, especially going forward,” she said. “Arsenal started the second half the better (team) and caused us trouble. I thought my team showed tremendous character (following the penalty).

“We’ll just get on with it, there’s no point talking about (the penalty decision). VAR needs to be in the game, whether to confirm or deny it. It’s nothing I haven’t said before.

“I don’t want to talk about things I can’t control. I want to focus on the qualities and attributes of the players.”

Whilst Hayes credited the whole team for finding a way back into a game in which they were second best for long spells, she reserved special praise for goalkeeper Zecira Musovic and goal-scorer Kerr.

Musovic made crucial saves from Foord and Steph Catley in the aftermath of Little opening the scoring, and her manager felt they were a product of the shot-stopper’s dedication to her craft.

“She was brilliant in everything that she did,” said Hayes of Musovic. “In terms of the work she is doing on the training pitch, her diligence, her attention to detail, her application, it is deserving of the accolades she will get from today’s game.

“I expect she will come in tomorrow and ask what the next level (she can reach) is, she’s a product of hard work on the training field.”

Australian forward Kerr popped up with her sixth goal of the season from an expert Jelena Cankovic cross to earn a share of the spoils, and even though the goal came from nowhere it was no surprise for Hayes to see her star striker save the day.

“Her standout attribute is that she doesn’t lose focus, not at any point,” she said in regard to Kerr. “It will only take once chance (to score) and she stays switched on.

“The leap and the header were world-class. I haven’t seen it back yet, but I’ve seen it enough in training.”

The draw means that defending WSL champions Chelsea remain three points clear of last season’s runners-up Arsenal.

Manchester United’s thumping 6-0 win against Liverpool later in the day means they are now level on points with the Gunners and a tantalising end to the season is in store.

However, Hayes was simply happy to enjoy Kerr’s last-gasp equaliser and focus on the battles to come further down the line.

“The good news is you can sell some more papers,” she told the Emirates press room. “It will keep the conversation going until the end, the title will go to the last day like it always does. It’s a win-win for all of us.

“We all know it is a tight race, so to come here today and not be at our best means it is a great point.”


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