‘Us at our very worst’: Emma Hayes tears into Chelsea after WSL thrashing

<span>Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian</span>
Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardian

Emma Hayes admitted Chelsea were “bullied” by Arsenal and that the Women’s Super League champions were “as bad as I’ve seen us for a long time” in their 4-1 defeat at the Emirates Stadium in front of a WSL record crowd of 59,042.

Arsenal moved level on points with Chelsea at the top of the table – second only on goal difference – after a brilliant display capped by goals from Beth Mead, Amanda Ilestedt and one in each half from Alessia Russo. Jonas Eidevall, their manager, described Arsenal’s display as their strongest of the season so far. Hayes, in contrast, was far from pleased with how her players had performed.

“That’s as bad as I’ve seen us for a long time,” the Chelsea manager said. “The better team won by a country mile. They bullied us. They dominated in the duels; all phases of our play were poor. That’s not us at our best today, that’s probably us at our very worst.”

Brighton recovered from 2-0 down with two late goals from Elisabeth Terland (pictured) to earn a point against Leicester. Lena Petermann opened the scoring just before half-time to put the visitors ahead with with a half-volley and moments into the second half Jutta Rantala doubled the Foxes’ lead to score her fourth goal of the season. The Seagulls’ Terland turned it around by scoring twice within six minutes in the final minutes.

Liverpool came from behind to earn a point in a 1-1 draw at home against Bristol City. The visitors led in the 50th minute after Amalie Thestrup reacted quickest to a scuffed shot to score against her former side but City were unable to keep their lead, with Sophie Román Haug's header drawing Liverpool level six minutes later.

West Ham remain bottom with four points after a 1-0 defeat against Everton. The substitute Karen Holmgaard scored the only goal eight minutes after coming on with a header at the far post from a corner. With the win, the Toffees climb up to seventh in the table.

Manchester United kept up the pace at the top of the table with a 4-0 win against Tottenham at Brisbane Road. Hannah Blundell put the visitors in front after 29 minutes, with Ella Toone doubling the lead early in the second half. Melvine Malard crashed in a third from United on the hour before Hayley Ladd clipped home a late fourth as United closed up to within a point of rivals City. Yara El-Shaboury

Hayes reflected on the impact of this defeat on the title race. “You have to get beaten, you can’t go a whole season unbeaten, there’s lots of top teams. What you cannot do is give away three goals before half‑time and then give a mindless fourth. You’re giving it up.

“Teams lose football matches. We’ve lost a football match, it’s not the end of the world. We haven’t lost the title today. We’ve lost three points.”

Related: Alessia Russo: ‘I had to get out of my comfort zone to make the next step’

Hayes said she had not seen an incident when the Chelsea forward Lauren James appeared to stamp on the Arsenal midfielder Lia Wälti out of frustration after play had stopped. Eidevall said also declined to say much on the matter. “I saw it but I don’t think I can really comment on it,” he said. “We had six yellow cards, they had one, in a game where it’s very even from a foul perspective. It is what it is.

“It’s our strongest performance so far this season. But, in football, if you want to win things you have to be consistent with the performance. It’s great that we have a high, that becomes our baseline, our standard. This is always the hard thing in football, now we have to recover and refresh mentally, physically. We need to be ready on Wednesday [for Tottenham in the League Cup].

“What is telling, for me, when you see the reaction – yes we’re happy – but at the end of the day it is our finishing position in the league that will matter. Nothing will be won or lost today. We need to stay focused, keep developing and be consistent in our performances. That can be very valuable. That’s only determined by future performances.”