LESSONS TO BE LEARNED AS CHELSEA EXIT EUROPE
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