We expect to be here – Emma Hayes says semi-finals are where Chelsea should be

The Blues progressed to the semi-finals for the fifth time in seven seasons.

Emma Hayes’ side reached the Champions League semi-finals for the fifth time
Emma Hayes’ side reached the Champions League semi-finals for the fifth time (Bradley Collyer/PA)

Chelsea boss Emma Hayes believes her side have simply lived up to expectations by securing passage to the Champions League semi-finals after a 1-1 draw with Ajax at Stamford Bridge.

Mayra Ramirez opened the scoring 33 minutes into in the first half of her Champions League debut for Chelsea and, while Chasity Grant netted a second-half consolation for the visitors, the Blues ultimately booked their place in the final four with a comfortable 4-1 aggregate victory.

The Blues, who progressed to the semi-finals for the fifth time in seven seasons, will face the winners of the last-eight clash between holders Barcelona and Norwegian side Brann, who play their second leg on Thursday.

Hayes said: “If you look at our record in the Champions League, even in the last five years, it was only once we didn’t qualify from the group. We’ve made the latter stages every year.

“We expect to be here, I should say that. I don’t make any excuses. We should be at this level, and we should be at the semi-finals. Of course we have a little bit more depth to be able to do things like make six changes tonight than we’ve ever had.

“But we haven’t won anything. We’re in the place we want to be. I don’t know who the opponent will be, but we’re ready.”

The Champions League trophy is the one that still eludes Hayes, who has secured 13 major titles in her 12-year run at the Blues’ helm that will conclude when she departs at the end of this season to take over the US women’s national team ahead of this summer’s Olympics.

The now five-time semi-finalists came closest when they reached a maiden final in 2021, ultimately finishing runners-up in a 4-0 loss to Barcelona, the same side who knocked them out with a 2-1 victory on aggregate in last season’s semi-finals.

This time around Hayes feels Chelsea have “more attacking options, more variety, a little more experience”.

“We’ve been in the latter stages so many times, we know where we have to be to play in those sorts of games,” Hayes added.

Ajax captain Sherida Spitse, whose side were just the second Dutch club to reach the last eight in Women’s Champions League history, insisted she and her team-mates will walk away from the competition with their heads held high.

She said: “I think we can be really proud of each other. Of course you always want to win, you always want to go through, but in the end we have shown who Ajax are and that we have developed in a good way, especially in the games in the Champions League.

“We have to be here every year because I think that is the best place to be.”