Emma Hayes lauded striker Sam Kerr after her last-gasp header ensured Chelsea remained top of the Women’s Super League with a 1-1 draw against Arsenal at the Emirates.
The Gunners, who sit three points behind the league-leading Blues, controlled much of the action and broke the deadlock through Kim Little’s 57th-minute penalty, but a brilliant ball from substitute Jelena Cankovic set up Kerr in the final minute to earn the visitors a share of the spoils.
That the Australia international persevered on what was a frustrating afternoon for her side was, believes her boss, a telling sign of Kerr’s unparalleled quality.
“What she has not many have,” said Hayes. “In fact, I don’t think anyone in the world can score the number of goals she has throughout her career because the standout attribute for me was that she doesn’t lose focus. Not at any point.
“She stays confident in the game, she knows that it will only take one chance and she stays switched on to that. The ball from Jelena was absolutely world class but so was the leap, so was the header. I really admire that, because so often the top players have a moment (where) they switch off. Not Sam.”
All looked to be going in favour of the hosts, who were in control throughout the first half but could not put the finishing touch on a number of chances despite a particularly aggressive effort from Frida Maanum.
The Gunners finally took the lead when Little sent Manuela Zinsberger the wrong way from the spot to the elation of the crowd – 46,811 tickets sold, according to a second-half announcement, though no official attendance figure was released.
Earlier this season Arsenal broke the WSL attendance record at the Emirates when 47,367 fans turned out for their North London derby against Tottenham.
While questions will be asked as to why the club elected not to reveal how many spectators attended this time around, Gunners boss Jonas Eidevall underlined the importance of his side learning how to adjust to bigger audiences.
He said: “It’s my hope going into this game that we can start playing better with a crowd. The more we experience it, the more we come here and do that, the more we can turn this into our fortress and create this great Arsenal atmosphere around it.
“You can also see the players, they’re getting more comfortable with it. It’s more engagement with the crowd and we will need to create that bond together in order to make the Emirates as difficult as possible for opposing teams to come and play.”