LESSONS TO BE LEARNED AS CHELSEA EXIT EUROPE

The Football League Paper - - WOMEN'S FOOTBALL WEEKLY - By Paddy von Behr

CHELSEA have learned some harsh lessons about cop­ing with a sum­mer sea­son, ac­cord­ing to de­fender Gilly Fla­herty, af­ter they headed for the Cham­pi­ons League exit.

The FA Women’s Su­per League cham­pi­ons and FA Cup hold­ers were the last English team left in the com­pe­ti­tion, un­til twice-Euro­pean cham­pi­ons Wolfs­burg knocked them out in the round of 16 on Wed­nes­day, 4-1 on ag­gre­gate.

The first leg – the pre­vi­ous Wed­nes­day – ended a 28-day wait for com­pet­i­tive ac­tion, since they had knocked Glas­gow City out in the pre­vi­ous round.

That was a fur­ther ten days since they beat Sun­der­land 4-0 on the fi­nal day of the FA WSL sea­son to be crowned cham­pi­ons.

Yet Wolfs­burg – sit­ting one point off the Bun­desliga sum­mit – are in the thick of their do­mes­tic cam­paign.

Fla­herty be­lieves the dif­fer­ence in re­cent match prac­tice made all the dif­fer­ence.

“It kills us be­cause they are play­ing week­end, mid­week, week­end, mid­week but we have played only one game in four or five weeks,” she said.

“If we had maybe played them straight af­ter the Sun­der­land game, it could have been a dif­fer­ent story, but un­for­tu­nately that’s the way our league struc­ture is.

“You can’t change it – you just have to try and deal with it in some way and adapt.

“Next year, it is go­ing to be the same sit­u­a­tion and, hope­fully, now we have learned from it as a club.We will make sure there are some friendlies or what­ever and we can try to get in­volved.

“You have to go through th­ese ex­pe­ri­ences to learn for next year.”

Chelsea car­ried a 2-1 deficit to Ger­many and they were soon fur­ther be­hind when Vanessa Ber­nauer let fly with an un­stop­pable 30yard strike into the top cor­ner.

A Claire Raf­ferty own goal af­ter the break was the fi­nal nail in the Blues’ Cham­pi­ons League cof­fin – and the last sig­nif­i­cant mo­ment of a long sea­son for Emma Hayes’ side.

Fla­herty added:“Com­ing here, we were 1-0 down again so quickly and it just killed us – it killed the mo­men­tum.

“When you’re com­ing in at half-time 1-0 down and you know you need to score two goals just to go to ex­tra-time, it’s a tough ask.

“It’s hard when you’re com­ing away from home and you’ve got to try and claw back a couple of goals.

“We know the im­por­tance of clean sheets and, if we’d had a clean sheet com­ing into this game, it would have been a dif­fer­ent story.

“You can’t fault us and the fact that we kept go­ing right un­til the very end.

“You can clearly see that Wolfs­burg are at a dif­fer­ent level.

“They have ex­pe­ri­ence of play­ing in this com­pe­ti­tion and we just have to learn from it and go again, ready for next year.

“It has been a long sea­son. I’m look­ing for­ward to spend­ing some nor­mal time with the fam­ily be­cause you don’t really get to see them at all. “Then, I’ll come back in Jan­uary ready for next sea­son.”

BLUE DAY: Gilly Fla­herty says Chelsea needed games

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