It took a while for the Blues to find their legs against fellow Londoners West Ham United WFC on Sunday afternoon. As she is wont to do, manager Emma Hayes selected an attack heavy lineup, beginning the game with Sam Kerr, Bethany England, Pernille Harder, and Fran Kirby all on the pitch.
Chelsea struggled to find fluidity, particularly in the first half. The Blues did enter the break with the lead, courtesy of a Frank Kirby - Sam Kerr connection. But the advantage dissipated shortly after halftime as Rachel Daly was left all alone to tap in at the far post.
Thankfully the hosts responded quickly, with Sam Kerr scoring twice in the final half hour to complete her hat-trick and put the Blues in front 3-1. The Irons continued to fight and forced a tense finish to the match after an Eriksson OG reduced the lead to a single goal.
Fortunately, six minutes of added time weren’t enough for West Ham to find the equalizer. And so the Blues were spared the consequence of a very average performance.
- Lineup: Berger, Andersson, Mjelde, Eriksson, Thorisdottir (Bright 58’), Leupolz, Ji (Ingle 66’), Kirby, Harder, Kerr (Cuthbert 71’), England (Reiten 66’)
- Chelsea FCW make a rare change to their defensive line, choosing to save Millie Bright for Wednesday’s Champions League matchup with Benfica. Maren Mjelde partnered Magda Eriksson in the center of defense as Maria Thorisdottir filled in at fullback. Bright came on for Thorisdottir to see out the final 30 minutes.
- With all the attacking talent in the world, the Blues continue to look disjointed in attack. It appears Emma Hayes is still looking for midfield/forward balance required. Chelsea are still winning matches but it is pretty clear this squad is capable of reaching much higher levels than they showed today.
- Great to see Sam Kerr getting a hat-trick after struggling to find her scoring form. None of the chances were difficult, but she consistently showed her striker’s instinct to be in the right position and react more quickly than her defender. She picked up a knock on the follow through to her third goal and was subbed off shortly after. She did return to sidelines to watch the rest of the match, so the injury might not be a major one — thankfully!
- Fran Kirby starts the match as she returns from an ankle knock. She appeared back to full strength, using her pace multiple times to break away from defenders as well as to cover in defense. She also combined well with Kerr in attack, assisting on two of Kerr’s goals.
- The Irons were disciplined in defense in the first half. They forced the Blues to break down a compact defense and minimized Chelsea’s opportunities on the counter where they could take advantage of their team speed advantage.
- Ann-Katrin Berger made a brilliant 1v1 save against Rachel Daly in the first half. After Daly broke away from both center backs near midfield, she had all day to think about her finish. Berger did well to close down space and stand tall as she saved what should have been the equalizer.
- The Blues return to action this Wednesday as they begin their Champions League campaign against Portuguese champions S.L. Benfica.