• By Paul Lagan

Hayes: Under normal circumstances I would have left Kirby on the pitch to get her hat-trick

By Paul Lagan

Chelsea thrashed Benfica 5-0 in the knockout stage first leg of the Champions League on Wednesday afternoon in Portugal.

A brace from Fran Kirby, and strikes from Millie Bright, Pernille Harder and Beth England saw off the Portuguese opposition with ease.

Manager Emma Hayes said afterwards: “I love this competition. I’ve worked hard to build a team that will progress to the later stages of it. But we need to push it to break into that top group.

“We’ve worked a whole year to get back into the tournament, so we haven’t taken this game lightly, a good start was essential."

The ease of the win allowed Hayes to blood some young talent in the shape of Jessie Fleming and Niamh Charles.

Hayes said: “It was a good chance to give exposure to the young players, so I can see things like their positional play – doing that will help them develop.”

Of Kirby, pictured below, who notched up her 70th goal for the west Londoners - a club record - Hayes has nothing but positive things to say.

She said: “In normal circumstances I would have left her on the pitch to get her hat-trick, but I’ve got a lots of games coming up, starting at Brighton on Sunday.

“But she is such a good team player, she will do whatever it takes to get a result.”

The return leg of the Champions League is next Wednesday and Hayes is expected to make a host of changes to the starting side.

She said: “We did not have many games at the start of this season, and I had a lot of frustrated players who weren’t getting game time.

“But I’ve built a squad to cope with the demands of the season. I don’t know how many top teams will make five subs like I was able to do. It shows my value to them and the impact they make.

“I think everybody will be involved in the next two weeks.”