Chelsea Women recovered from their disappointing draw in Manchester last weekend to wallop a hapless Bristol City 9-0. Goals from Kirby, Cuthbert, England, Mjelde, Bright, Kerr, plus first strikes in Blue for Niamh Charles, Melanie Leupolz and world-record signing Pernille Harder made it an afternoon to remember at the newly redecorated Kingsmeadow.
Emma Hayes shuffled the pack initially, mindful of player fitness. Blundell came into the defence, and Bethany England replaced Guro Reiten up top alongside Australian Sam Kerr. Hayes’s selection implied she was looking for more firepower and a clinical edge – which was lacking from last weekend’s match at Leigh Sports Village.
The opening ten minutes of the contest threatened to look similar to that match as Bristol battled well and Chelsea struggled to find a cutting edge. Although Ji So-Yun quickly took control of the middle of the park, the passing was neat and tidy but lacking a cutting edge. Chelsea’s first real chance came through the German Leupolz, who turned well on the edge of the box, but could only pull her shot wide.
Just a minute later, with 15′ on the clock, there was the opening goal and an emotional moment for Fran Kirby. After missing almost nine months thanks to Pericarditis, she was able to finally celebrate being a goalscorer for Chelsea. Erin Cuthbert’s neat work on the edge of the box created the chance and Kirby’s shot from the edge of the box bounced cruelly in front of Sophie Baggaley, deceiving her and creeping into the far corner.
The goal calmed the Blues down, who nearly doubled the lead instantly. A corner from the left was flicked on by Bright, the ball came back to her for a shot which was miscued and cleared off the line. Kerr couldn’t turn in the rebound and Leupolz then slammed a strike down the throat of Baggaley. Chelsea had to only wait ten minutes until the 30′ before the points were effectively safe.
Ji was the architect, winning a penalty after a driving run. Mjelde’s imperiously struck penalty into the top corner opened the floodgates for Chelsea. Barely three minutes later, a wide free kick from Erin Cuthbert went deep into the box to Melanie Leupolz, the ex-Bayern Munich midfielder powerfully heading home her first Chelsea goal. Cuthbert scored the fourth as the Scottish star turned some twenty yards out and drilled precisely into the bottom corner.
Chelsea scored their fifth goal in the mad ten minute spell on the 39′. It was too easy for the Blues. Maren Mjelde’s wide free kick perfectly set up Millie Bright to power home unmarked from inside the six-yard box. Chelsea didn’t score for the final five minutes of the first half.
HALF TIME: Chelsea FC 5-0 Bristol City Women
The second half started more evenly. Bristol tried to utilise a lower block against Chelsea, forcing them to leave space in behind. Kirby nearly scored her second of the afternoon after Kerr delivered a super cross but her effort could only float wide.
It took until the 65′ minute for Chelsea to grab a deserved sixth goal. Women’s PFA Player of the Year Beth England was the scorer this time. She capitalised on poor goalkeeping to instinctively poke home from close range for her first goal of the season.
It didn’t get any easier for Bristol City. Hayes turned to her bench to unleash the firepower of Niamh Charles and Pernille Harder in place of scorers England and Leupolz, and the impressive Mjelde replaced by Maria Thorisdottir.
Chelsea continued to attack and by the 69′ minute, they’d notched a seventh goal. Pernille Harder twisted and turned brilliantly inside the box and although her effort was pawed away, it fell perfectly for Niamh Charles to roll into the empty net.
The Danish superstar went one better a few minutes later. Great interplay from Charles and Kerr led to a pass down the wing for the former to cross in for Pernille Harder. The attacker impudently flicked a brilliant finish home with her heel for her first WSL goal. It was a moment of genius from a player of pure quality.
Although Harder had scored, the other superstar attacker – Sam Kerr – was continuing to be frustrated. A great pass from Magda Eriksson found the Australian but her precise header clipped off the bar. She did make it 2 goals in 2 games a few minutes later as Chelsea scored their ninth. Harder was involved again – she drove towards the Bristol defence before slipping a pass through for Kerr. The striker showed good instinct to turn back inside before confidently finishing from close range past a hapless Baggaley.
In added time, Chelsea missed the chance to get into double digits. Substitute Drew Spence pressed high to force Evans into a mistake, but with the goal at her mercy and Baggaley committed, Spence could only drag wide.
FULL TIME: Chelsea FC 9-0 Bristol City Women
It was a deserved win for Chelsea Women and Emma Hayes will be pleased to see the range of goalscorers at Kingsmeadow, but it does raise questions about the competitiveness of the WSL; save one lone effort from Ebony Salmon that sailed wide, Bristol City never laid a glove on the defending Champions.
Written and edited by Rob Pratley