Chelsea Women’s manager hopes fans travel to Paris

A file photo shows Chelsea’s coach Emma Hayes reacting during the UEFA Women’s Champions League quarter-finals football match between Montpellier and Chelsea at the la mosson stadium in Montpellier, southern France, on March 21, 2018. Photo: AFP

LONDON: Chelsea manager Emma Hayes has said she believes fans should still feel confident to travel to France for the second leg of their Women’s Champions League quarter-final despite the concerning scenes that marred their 2-0 first-leg win at home to Paris Saint-Germain on Thursday.

Police discovered a cache of weapons in a coach carrying PSG fans to Chelsea’s home ground, which they believed had been damaged by travelling supporters earlier on Thursday, and also arrested one supporter for possession of illegal drugs.

Such incidents, while familiar in men’s football, are highly unusual in the women’s game.

But Hayes tried to put them in context by telling BBC Sport after Thursday’s match: “We have to remember that the women’s game is progressing, that fans are following, and with that comes the same level of scrutiny, and ultimately they have to behave, whether it’s our fans or their fans. 

“The police dealt with it in the right way,” she added.

As to whether Chelsea supporters should make the trip to
Paris’ Stade Jean Bouin for Wednesday’s second leg, Hayes said: “The police took care of what they had to, and I expect that the organisation and preparation for that will make sure that our fans are safe. 

“I don’t think we should discourage anyone from going.”

In a statement issued after Thursday’s tie, London’s Metropolitan Police said that at approximately 8:00am local time (0800 GMT), officers were called to reports of a group of PSG supporters causing criminal damage at Kingsmeadow Stadium in Kingston, southwest of London — the home ground of the Chelsea women’s team.

Officers attended but all those involved had left the scene, the police added.

Later in the day police were, according to the statement, made aware of “sporadic instances of disorder” involving PSG supporters at London’s Waterloo and Wimbledon railway stations. 

– ‘Knives, knuckle dusters and drugs’ –

Police added those involved were identified and when they attended Kingsmeadow later Thursday for the evening kick-off they were stopped, with officers discovering weapons when they boarded a coach that had taken PSG fans to the game.  

“A coach they travelled in was searched and weapons, including knives and knuckle dusters, were recovered along with class A (illegal) drugs,” police said.  

“One man from the coach was arrested for possession of class A drugs and the remaining passengers were escorted from the area by police. Enquiries continue.”

On the field, Hannah Blundell and Erin Cuthbert scored late goals as Chelsea won 2-0.

Blundell curled Chelsea ahead with a brilliant left-foot shot with 17 minutes left before Cuthbert slotted home a second just before full-time.

Scotland midfielder Cuthbert will miss next week’s return leg in France though after she was booked in stoppage time.

“We were controlled, composed and experienced,” said Hayes. “I wouldn’t say we’re comfortable. That (the second leg) is going to be a 10-15,000-strong, packed crowd, and I expect it will be quite hostile, and we’re going to go through difficult moments.”

Chelsea reached the semi-finals last season before losing to Wolfsburg, while PSG finished as runners-up in 2015 and 2017.

The two clubs do have a history of violence when it comes to men’s matches.

In 2004, before a Champions League match in Paris, some 150 members of Chelsea’s notorious ‘Headhunters’ group fought with PSG hooligans, with a pre-season match in London in 2006 and another Champions League tie in Paris in 2014 leading to further violent exchanges.- AFP