Big players turn up for the big games.
Chelsea’s Sam Kerr and Fran Kirby certainly did in Sunday’s FA Cup final as their goals saw Emma Hayes’ side complete a first domestic treble with a resounding 3-0 win over Arsenal at Wembley.
It capped an impressive 2020-21 campaign with Kerr and Kirby finishing third and seventh respectively in this year’s Ballon d’Or award.
And in the third minute at Wembley Kirby was racing away, arms outstretched, celebrating with Chelsea fans in the corner after she put them 1-0 up in last season’s delayed final.
“That was Fran’s best game in a Chelsea shirt,” said Hayes.
“I thought she ran the show. She got on the ball in dangerous situations, she thread Sam in on numerous occasions but was also herself a real threat. She was a real handful throughout the game.”
Hayes showed her appreciation for England international Kirby, whom she described as a “national treasure”, with a huge hug on the touchline when she was substituted in the second half.
“She’s been telling me for weeks what I was to expect and she delivered above and beyond,” added Hayes.
Kirby’s impressive form also comes at the perfect time for England, who are preparing to host the European Championship next summer.
England boss Sarina Wiegman has largely played Kirby in midfield but Hayes said you have “got to put her in the right position”.
“She’s been playing a little bit lower in midfield for England and Serena [Wiegman] is helping her develop more,” said Hayes.
“Fran is at her best when she plays off a striker and is able to just float in those key areas, and I thought everything she did was just so dynamic. I felt like every time she went forward she was going to score a goal.”
‘The best striker in the world’
Kirby’s successful partnership with Kerr has continued this season, with the pair leading the scoring charts in the Women’s Super League.
Australia international Kerr has nine goals and three assists in eight games, adding to the two goals she scored at Wembley in the second half.
“As far as I’m concerned, she’s the best striker in the world and she displayed that when it mattered most,” said Hayes.
“She’s courageous, she’s full of confidence and she can do that after getting off a plane from Sydney on Thursday.
“Champions don’t make excuses or look for anybody else to manage them. Sam takes responsibility and every time I listen to her and every time I watch her perform, she’s in charge.
“She’s in control of making sure that she sets the standards for herself and that’s what I admire about her. There was no way she was going to be on the losing team today. She sets that tone in such a way that I’ve rarely seen.
“We are extremely lucky to have her at this football club.”