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It was a boring game – Emma Hayes felt Chelsea were flat against Real Madrid

Emma Hayes thought Chelsea were efficient but boring in beating Real Madrid 2-1 (Zac Goodwin/PA)
Emma Hayes thought Chelsea were efficient but boring in beating Real Madrid 2-1 (Zac Goodwin/PA)

Emma Hayes admitted Chelsea played a boring game against Real Madrid as a 2-1 win at Stamford Bridge ensured progression to the Champions League quarter-finals with a game to spare.

In the first half, Chelsea struggled to find a way through against Real, already eliminated after collecting a single point from their four games.

Chances fell to Guro Reiten and Erin Cuthbert, both denied by goalkeeper Mylene Chavas, while Mia Fishel put an effort wide of the near post from close range.

It took a clumsy challenge from Real full-back Kenti Robles, bringing down the lively Niamh Charles as she darted into the box, to earn Chelsea the penalty from which Reiten finally broke the deadlock just past the hour.

Substitute Athenea tapped in to level as Real made Chelsea sweat on qualification, leaving them facing two dropped points and an awkward trip to play Paris FC next week needing a result to seal a last-eight berth.

But Cuthbert, wearing the armband with Millie Bright unlikely to be back this side of the international break, took charge and within a minute had forced the winning goal, her cross bouncing in off Chavas as the goalkeeper’s concentration deserted her.

“We expect to go through, that’s a bare minimum,” said Hayes. “We should expect to go through as group winners. That’s already a sign of progress, that we expect those things.

“I didn’t think it was a scintillating performance, I thought it was a boring game. Not every game is swashbuckling and dynamic. I thought it was flat.

“I think it was understandable. We had an amazing performance at the weekend against Manchester United. Our league is really tough and I think it showed in some of the flat play for us. But we controlled the game without maybe doing enough in the final third.

“I brought Lauren (James) on at half-time, I thought that helped. Got the penalty, concede a sloppy goal from back to front, a poor goal.

“Then a really good response to go 2-1 up, then managed the game somewhat to the end in what was an efficient performance, but it was boring.”

Hayes said she looked forward to rotating her side in what will now be a dead rubber in Paris next week.

“Managing a squad of players is tricky when you’re making multiple changes,” she said. “I didn’t want to change much from the weekend, I think you need to build rhythm.

“For us the priority has got to be experimenting, giving opportunities in one of these two games coming up; Brighton (in the Women’s Super League) and Paris.

“It’s making sure we get Millie Bright back, we get Nat Bjorn registered. Maybe there’s a new player coming at some point (reports say a club record deal has been agreed for Colombia international Mayra Ramirez).

“But we’ve got to get ourselves ready. If we want to progress, we’ve got to get better. I think it was comfortable and measured from us.”

Real boss Alberto Toril reflected on a game that got away from his side despite a spirited performance.

“We played with our strengths, we contained them,” he said. “We restricted them. They’re a great team and we’re happy with the performance, even though we’ve lost. Sometimes you learn from the defeats.”