Whether to spare the big guns for the upcoming matches (Arsenal, Conti Cup; then Man City in the league) or to send a message, Hayes named an XI without Sam Kerr, Pernille Harder and Ji So-Yun.
Lineup: Berger; Andersson, Eriksson, Bright, Mjelde; Ingle, Leupolz, Cuthbert, Reiten, England, Kirby
I’m certain this won’t be the XI for our two upcoming opponents but it does give Chelsea the chance to play with more than one player in midfield. With Birmingham likely to sit in a low block and look to spring on the counter, controlling those transitions is important, and something we lacked versus Manchester United and Everton.
The match began as expected with Birmingham content to stick two banks of four, deep and very condensed. But just under ten minutes in they conceded a foul wide left of their own penalty box, and a whipped in cross from Jonna Andersson found the head of…
‘9 – Fran Kirby scores a header? Yup, Fran Kirby scores a header!; 1-0
The rest of the half followed a pattern that Birmingham would be delighted with, particularly after conceding so early. Chelsea was patient and managed to craft some near chances, with the best being a Guro Reiten left-footed rocket from just inside the top of the box. The keeper dove but was never going to keep it out, but the bar did. Chelsea are wearing the horrid third kit again, so the bar and the kit can share a 50/50 responsibility for keeping that shot out.
HT – 1-0
More of the same. A compact low block with Chelsea unable to find the sharpness once they manage to trickle the ball into good areas. Might decide to go learn a new hobby. Watercolor painting? Writing a novel? Is glass blowing still a thing?
Anyway, subs should be coming soon. We’ll see if that matters.
’64 – SUBS: Cuthbert OFF, Charles ON; Ingle OFF, Ji ON; Reiten OFF, Kerr ON
All attack now. Leupolz playing the lone midfielder, Ji floating near the box, Kerr and England reprising the partnership developed in the second half of last season.
Tempo picked up now, Chelsea getting closer. So far the final decision to setup a clear chance hasn’t happened, but at least Birmingham are having to block and deflect some shots.
’74 – A god awful offside call keeps the match 1-0. Bethany England scored a looping header after starting her run with her defender YARDS in front of her. The sun played a factor but there’s no reason to lift your flag unless you’re sure, and if that linesman thought he was sure he shouldn’t be allowed to drive himself home.
’76 – SUB: Kirby OFF, Harder ON
Harder is playing central, England is on the right and Kerr on the left but they are also doing a fair bit of interchanging. However, and super unfortunately, the mini-flurry that occurred after the triple sub is well over and the match has now settled into its familiar pattern.
’83 – Close to an equalizer from Birmingham. Some sloppy Chelsea play led to some missed tackles and bad defending and a glancing header was dragged just wide as Berger scrambled. Too close. Birmingham can sniff a point, and no second goal means they won’t need but one stroke of luck to get it.
’85 – Sam Kerr and Bethany England combine in the box, but England’s close-range shot saved by Hannah Hampton.
’92 – Harder shot, missed.
Seventy-percent possession, five-hundred and eighty-eight passes, eight corners, twenty shots, six on target, one goal. Burn the kit.