West Ham United manager Olli Harder conceded his side were ultimately outclassed in Wednesday evening’s FA Women’s Continental League Cup semi-final defeat at Chelsea.
The defending champions were simply too strong for the Hammers at Kingsmeadow, racing into a 4-0 lead before 25 minutes had been struck up on the clock.
With the benchmark well and truly set by the Blues, Harder’s players rallied in the second half and came close to pulling back a consolation goal on numerous occasions, only for Chelsea to add to their tally twice and close out a 6-0 win.
Chelsea’s rampant display only served as further evidence, in Harder’s eyes, of the benchmark West Ham must aspire to reach.
“We have to bare in mind the quality of the opposition we were playing against, and give them credit,” Harder explained.
“I talked about it at Man City – we’re assessing the gap, the chasm, that there is in terms of quality within this league.
“For us, it was about going out there with no fear, and unfortunately we put ourselves in a bit of a hole in the first 20 minutes with some individual errors.
“I’m appreciative of the fact that we addressed that in the second half, and for me, despite actually conceding two, we had the better of it and created a couple of big chances.
“If we’d have started the first half like we started the second, it may have been a different story. That’s football and that’s why they are where they are, and why we’re aspiring to be there. We’ve got work to do.
“Chelsea are a quality opposition, full respect, and I wish them well in the final.”
Having seen his side fall to heavy successive defeats away at powerhouses Manchester City and Chelsea in recent days, Harder challenged his players to reflect on the performances in the correct manner to progress themselves.
It’s very easy to look at these results with a negative lens, but I look at it with a lot of positivity in the sense that there are a lot of things we can move forward with
He said: “We try to frame everything in the right way. Our girls are professional athletes, as are Chelsea’s, and as a professional athlete you should have the pride to want to improve and get to a certain level.
“The semi-finals of the League Cup this year, the FA Cup final in 2019… it’s nice to see West Ham up there.
“Chelsea are an established programme when it comes to the women’s game. They’ve been in the game much, much longer than us. We’re two years – and myself four weeks – into this programme.
“It’s very easy to look at these results with a negative lens, but I look at it with a lot of positivity in the sense that there are a lot of things we can move forward with.
“For us as a football Club and as individual players, they are the benchmark – so full credit to Emma Hayes and Chelsea for setting that, and it’s up to us as a Club and the rest of the league to get ourselves up to that level.”
As for forthcoming fixtures, Harder is now hopeful his players take the positives from an evening at a rain-trodden Kingsmeadow and apply them to the Women’s Super League game at home to Bristol City on Sunday.
“For us, we’re not trying to make it more than it is: for us, it’s another game of football.
“If we play like we did in the second half, we’ll have a good chance of winning that match. If we play like we did in the first half, we might struggle.
“I’m hoping that we’ll represent ourselves in the right way and then I’m confident that we can get a result.”