A last gasp winner – and equally memorable celebration – from Sam Kerr ensured the Blues kept their WSL destiny in their own hands. Emma Hayes’s side triumphed over Carla Ward’s dogged Villains in the very dying embers to ensure it ended Chelsea 1-0 Aston Villa in a dramatic match at Kingsmeadow.
After the midweek victory over London rivals West Ham, Emma Hayes made two changes. Once again, they kept the 3-5-2 formation and again Zecira Musovic kept her place in goal. Jess Carter, Aniek Nouwen and captain Millie Bright started in a now familiar back 3. Niamh Charles and Jonna Andersson were deployed as wingbacks, whilst Drew Spence came into the pivot to partner Ji So-Yun. Beth England was the surprise name up front, partnering Sam Kerr.
Both Pernille Harder and Fran Kirby were unavailable.
Aston Villa started off pressing well and caused problems for Chelsea. An early free kick floated wide, before some great defending denied Guro Reiten a chance to connect to Bright’s ranging pass. A looping cross from Jess Carter nearly caught out Hannah Hampton – who was taking her time at restarts – before Kerr headed straight at the English stopper.
The Blues began to control possession, with Ji instrumental in the dominance. However, they struggled to create clear cut opportunities as their opponents stood firm. A flurry of late corners came to nothing and at half-time, there was still a lot for the Blues to do.
One half-time change saw Spence replaced by Sophie Ingle. Kerr forced Hampton into an excellent stop, before England nodded a great chance onto the roof of the net, as pressure built.
The Blues made a flurry of changes to try and disrupt Villa’s focus. Jessie Fleming, Erin Cuthbert and Lauren James were all called for, with England, Ji and Charles being replaced. Hampton again made several excellent saves, before Sam Kerr though she had opened the scoring. She turned in Jessie Fleming’s cutback, but the offside flag denied her.
Aston Villa captain Remi Allen almost pulled off an almighty shock. A fast break saw her effort from the edge of the box curl past Musovic, but it clipped the post to go wide. The magnificent Kingsmeadow crowd, loud as ever continued to rally the troops.
With mere moments left on the clock, the breakthrough. It was pure route one. Zecira Musovic’s long ball bounced unkindly for the Villa backline, Sam Kerr gambled and poked the finish past a despairing Hampton. Cue wild celebrations. Kerr removed her shirt. Hayes stormed down the touchline. Pandemonium.
Chelsea 1-0 Aston Villa. Just 2 points behind Arsenal, with a game in hand.
Full Time: Chelsea 1-0 Aston Villa
Final Thoughts: Chelsea 1-0 Aston Villa
Sam Kerr’s dramatic finish may well be ‘the season-defining moment’ if the Blues do defend their WSL crown. It was cruel on Carla Ward, Villa and Hampton who produced a magnificent rearguard display, but one might argue, this is what champions do.