Mel Reay relishing Chelsea clash as Sunderland restored to Conti Cup despite 7-0 loss

  • Mel Reay discusses the "strange" circumstances surrounding Sunderland's Conti Cup quarter-final place

Mel Reay has admitted the circumstances surrounding Sunderland's place in the quarter-finals of the Conti Cup are "strange" but the club are delighted to take advantage of them.

The Black Cats looked to be heading out of the competition after a 7-0 defeat to Aston Villa in their final group-stage game which saw them fall to third in the table.

However, the result was overturned after the Villians brought on cup-tied defender Noelle Maritz with the score at 3-0. Sunderland were awarded the three points and progressed as group winners while Villa were forced to settle for second place.

As a result, the Wearsiders will now face Chelsea in the quarter-finals and head coach Reay admits she was happy to take advantage of the situation.

Mel Reay is relishing the opportunity of the trip to Chelsea. Credit: PA

“It was very strange," Reay said of the incident. "I don’t think it has really happened before in terms of the ineligible player but we were delighted to go through.

"I think we had good form in the Conti Cup and we put ourselves up there in a position to compete and obviously, we’re delighted to go through and we’re really excited by the draw."

The opportunity to face the Women's Super League leaders is one that Reay is relishing despite Sunderland's status as underdogs.

"We want to enjoy the occasion and it is a bit of a free hit for us," she said. "We've got nothing to lose but we've got loads of things to learn from it. We want to go there and make a good account of ourselves.

"They've got a squad of about 30 and they are all probably senior internationals so it is a massive task but it is one that excites them. They are not worried or scared about going toe to toe.

"We are just excited by it. It's a one-off game and anything can happen."

Emma Hayes will leave her post as Chelsea manager at the end of the season. Credit: PA

The encounter also offers Reay the opportunity to test herself against Emma Hayes potentially for the last time in her career. The legendary manager will leave Kingsmeadow after 12 years in charge at the end of the season to take up the post as USA boss.

"She is a real model for us female coaches," Reay said. "It is her last year at Chelsea so I'm sure she wants to win all domestic and European competitions so it will be the last time.

"She is obviously the longest-serving manager which in a world where we see managers losing their jobs.

"She has done an unbelievable job at Chelsea and being a female coach she has been on an unbelievable journey and she's going to go onto probably bigger and better things as well. She leaves an unbelievable legacy for everyone to see."

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