It was like an ice rink – Emma Hayes frustrated as Chelsea-Liverpool abandoned

Chelsea manager Emma Hayes insisted “we’ve got to take our game seriously” after their Women’s Super League clash at home to Liverpool was abandoned after just six minutes due to a frozen pitch.

Hayes said the lunchtime match at Kingsmeadow “should never have started” as she called for undersoil heating to be installed at WSL stadiums.

There was a pitch inspection three hours before the scheduled 12.30 kick-off and heaters were deployed in an attempt to make the surface playable, but referee Neil Hair, having consulted with Hayes and Liverpool manager Matt Beard, took the two teams off shortly after the match began.

Chelsea v Liverpool – Barclays Women’s Super League – Kingsmeadow
Referee Neil Hair abandoned the match soon after kick-off (Zac Goodwin/PA)

After addressing the fans a clearly frustrated Hayes told the BBC: “You could see from the opening minutes that it was like an ice rink down the sides.

“It’s not for managers to decide if it’s on – it’s up to the FA and officials. We have to say to ourselves that it’s time for undersoil heating.

“We’ve got to take our game seriously. Yes, we can have our blowers and little pitch tents, but it’s not going to be enough.

“The game should never have started. Everyone wanted to get the game on but when you have got emotions of teams wanting or not wanting to play, that’s when you need a decision from above.

Chelsea v Liverpool – Barclays Women’s Super League – Kingsmeadow
There was a pitch inspection three hours before the game (Zac Goodwin/PA)

“The FA weren’t here – they need to be making the decision.”

Beard said allowing the game to go ahead had put the players’ safety at risk.

The pitch was not deemed playable at the 9.30am inspection but, with the pitch having improved due to the use of heaters and a cover, it was decided after another check before the teams warmed up that the match could go ahead as scheduled.

He told the BBC: “It should have been called off this morning at 9.30am when the pitch inspection wasn’t playable.

“They said about the players slipping on several occasions. Players from both sides have slipped. Like I said before, the game should have never gone ahead.

Chelsea v Liverpool – Barclays Women’s Super League – Kingsmeadow
Liverpool manager Matt Beard said the game should not have gone ahead (Zac Goodwin/PA)

“They were going to give it a chance, so that was the explanation. It wasn’t safe down there.

“There were patches in the centre and other areas. I guess where they had the heat (it thawed), but for the majority of the pitch that wasn’t the case.”

A WSL spokesperson said: “We worked hard with the clubs and the match officials to safely play the Barclay’s Women’s Super League fixture between Chelsea and Liverpool as scheduled. Following inspections before the match, the pitch was deemed to be playable by the matchday referee.

“However, shortly after kick-off, the referee made the decision to abandon the match in order to protect the safety of the players, which is paramount. We sincerely apologise to all fans who travelled to the match. The fixture will be rescheduled in due course.”

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Frustrated players said that more should be done to stop matches from being called off due to the weather at the top level of women’s football.

Chelsea defender Kadeisha Buchanan said on Instagram: “It’s mind boggling that there’s games being cancelled because of frozen pitches throughout the league.

“Like bruv, we play in a cold country. We should have heated pitches too. Where’s our ratings as women footballers.”

Her team-mate Erin Cuthbert added on Twitter: “So so sorry to all our fans who turned up today and braved the cold weather.

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“This shouldn’t be happening and we will demand more for our game. Angry and frustrated but we will be ready for Wednesday.”

Arsenal and England forward Beth Mead branded the situations “not good enough”.

She tweeted: “One of the top leagues in Europe and we are cancelling games cause of frozen pitches. Not good enough, the women’s game is heading in the right direction but still a long way to go.”

Sunday’s WSL fixtures between Tottenham and Leicester, and Brighton against Arsenal, were also called off due to frozen pitches, leaving only two of the scheduled five games to be completed.

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In one of them, Rachel Williams scored a fine late winner as Manchester United moved to the top of table with a 1-0 win at Reading.

Katie Zelem missed the chance to put United ahead when her 40th-minute penalty was saved by Jacqueline Burns and moments later Nikita Parris saw an effort rattle the crossbar, but United finally got the breakthrough in the 87th minute when Williams found the top corner from near the penalty spot, sending her side top ahead of Chelsea on goal difference.

Also on Sunday, Everton recorded a third consecutive win after beating West Ham 3-0 at Walton Hall Park thanks to goals from Karen Holmgaard, Megan Finnigan and Agnes Beever-Jones.