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Chelsea 0-2 Barcelona: Champions League pain for Emma Hayes

Written by on April 28, 2024

This was, of course, not all about Hayes.

Her ambition has been matched by the club and the players as they embarked on a journey throughout her 12 years, all with the intention of winning this most prized trophy.

Captain Millie Bright, who has played in all of Hayes’ seasons at the club, joined her manager in tears as they huddled together on the pitch for a post-match debrief.

Bright had come on as a substitute, appearing for the first time in five months having recovered from injury, but she could do nothing to change their fortunes with Chelsea already a player down and a goal down on aggregate.

Other warriors of Hayes’ tenure endured the pain too – Scotland international Erin Cuthbert, who has worn the armband in Bright’s absence a lot this season, was on her knees at full-time and needed consoling by goalkeeper Zecira Musovic.

They had done all they could, but it was still not enough to beat the best team in the world.

While Hayes’ farewell to Stamford Bridge ended in utter disappointment, there is still a big game to come at their usual home, Kingsmeadow.

Among the four Women’s Super League matches they still have to play is a home game with relegation-bound Bristol City on 5 May.

That, along with the three away matches, will carry great significance as Chelsea look to defend their WSL title against a strong challenge from rivals Manchester City.

It is the only trophy Chelsea can win this season, having already been knocked out of both domestic cup competitions.

Talk of a fairytale ending for Hayes at the club has quickly vanished. A quadruple was on the cards until recently, and being spoken about among the players, but Chelsea could yet finish empty-handed.

As Cuthbert rightly said last week, Hayes’ “legacy will not be defined” by their Champions League journey – but the idea she could leave without any trophy in 2024, having lifted so many throughout her years in charge, would have seemed almost absurd just weeks ago.

This is not how the story is supposed to end. When the tears dry up and the emotions cool down, Chelsea must respond.

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