EMMA HAYES heaped praised on Sam Kerr after Chelsea fired a Conti Cup final warning to Arsenal, knocking them out of the FA Cup.
The hotshot’s 82nd goal in 100 Blues appearances was the icing on the cake of a 2-0 dispatching of the Gunners.
It saw the striker – back from Cup of Nations action in Australia – score her fifth goal in 11 appearances against Arsenal.
But the Gunners will feel unlucky to have left the game scoreless despite 11 shots on target to Chelsea’s three.
Their performance was watched by Beth Mead and Vivianne Miedema with both Arsenal aces in the stands.
Reflecting on Kerr’s performance days after her return from Australia, Hayes said: “Some players get off a plane on Thursday night, come in on Friday and moan and say ‘I’m tired’, but not Sam.
“Some say, ‘I need this, I need that’, but not her.
“She comes in and does everything necessary and possible and lifts the spirit of the building.
“She does that when nobody is looking. She does it when she is our only real out-and out number nine available.
“She is the best in the business.”
Most read in Football
Kerr’s finish was followed by Blues fans serenading her whilst mocking Gunners.
They chanted, ‘even when jetlagged she’s better than you’, in reference to the striker playing just days after returning to England from Australia.
Hayes added: “It’s challenging for both teams.
“They had the exact same challenges where both sets of players returned later than they normally do (from an international break)
“Sometimes they come home on a Tuesday or Wednesday (after an international break).
“This time it was Thursday or Friday.
“Well done to the players because to do that is a bit of a slog.”
On the Blues’ overall performance, Hayes added: “We have an unbelievable mentality, we are elite performers and we do it all the time.”
The visitors had some quality chances to get on the scoresheet at Kingsmeadow including two clear cut first-half opportunities for Stina Blackstenius.
Lauren James saw a sixth minute cross cleared by the hosts as Chelsea began testing the visitors in the final third.
But the Gunners ramped up the pressure on the cup holders early on with Ann-Katrin appearing to drop the ball following a 12th-minute Caitlin Foord cross.
Arsenal had a superb chance to go 1-0 up around the 18th minute with Blackstenius latching on to a flicked pass from Frida Maanum.
But the striker blazed her effort well over the bar after holding off Magda Eriksson following her powerful drive into the box.
The deadlock was broken when Sophie Ingle buried a bottom corner shot in the 21st minute after a good build up involving Eve Perisset, Jelena Cankovic and James.
Two superb saves at either end from Manuela Zinsberger and Berger saw the score line remain 1-0 going into the break.
Berger managed to stop Katie McCabe’s rifled effort before swiftly reacting to Foord’s shot from the rebound.
Despite Arsenal’s efforts, the second spell saw Chelsea double their lead through Kerr.
The striker chipped over Zinsberger in the 56th minute after a run into the box and a well-placed pass from Cankovic.
Victoria Pelova fired an effort wide of the post toward’s the games closing stages a few more chances were saved by Berger.
These included Maanum’s shot from distance with 11 minutes of normal time left.
The hosts held out to seal a 2-0 win and book their FA Cup quarters spot before their Conti Cup final clash with Arsenal this Sunday.
Gunners chief Jonas Eidevall said: “It is not normal or ordinary to have so many more goal scoring opportunities than Chelsea at Kingsmeadow.
“We created enough in order to win the game. But they are brutally efficient- hats off to them and we were not.”