Emma Hayes praises Sam Kerr’s post-international duty mentality

Emma Hayes has praised the mentality of Sam Kerr, after the Chelsea striker played 90 minutes and got on the scoresheet during her side’s FA Cup victory over Arsenal on Sunday, less than 72 hours after returning from international duty in Australia.

Kerr started all three of Australia’s fixtures at the Cup of Nations during February’s international break, featuring against Jamaica on Wednesday before returning to Chelsea on Thursday evening.

The striker netted her side’s second during Sunday’s 2-0 victory over Arsenal as the Blues booked their quarter final place – taking her goal tally in a Chelsea shirt to 82 in just 100 appearances – with Chelsea fans breaking into a chorus of “even with jet lag, she’s better than you”.

“Some players get off of a plane on Thursday night, they come in on Friday and they moan: ‘I’m tired.’ Not her,” said Hayes. “Some say: ‘oh I need this,’ Not her.

“She comes in, she does everything necessarily possible and lifts the spirit in the building and goes again. She does that when no one’s looking. She does it when she’s our only out and out number 9 available.

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“Listen, I think she’s the best in the business. But the best in the business isn’t about 81 goals or 82 goals in 100 games. It’s about mentality. That’s today why we are winners, because the mentality displayed by the team in challenging circumstances for both teams – we dealt with that better today.”

Arsenal fielded Kerr’s international teammates Caitlin Foord and Steph Catley, who also featured at the Nations Cup. Chelsea’s Canadian duo Jessie Fleming and Kadeisha Buchanan were on the bench, having returned from the SheBelieves Cup in the United States on Friday.

“I think it’s challenging for both teams,” Hayes added. “Both have the exact same challenges to play a game so close after an international break where both sets of players returned later than they normally do.

“Because sometimes they come home on a Tuesday or a Wednesday; this time it’s Thursday and Friday. So well done to the players, because that is a bit of a slog. That then dictates the type of game that it will be. The first half it was a game of transitions. As I said to the team at half time: this game can be won and lost on the transition. It was won in the second half on the transition from us.”

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