Chelsea FCW hosted Brighton & Hove Albion WFC Sunday, looking to tighten their grip on the WSL table. Title rivals Manchester United unexpectedly dropped points to Reading in the day’s early match, giving the Blues a golden opportunity. Instead, the Blues’ WSL record unbeaten streak of 33 matches came to a screeching halt.
Five minutes into the match, Chelsea looked well on their way to victory. After winning a corner, the resulting ball in was found by Sam Kerr who steered a header off the bar and in. Unfortunately, the lead was short lived. Just minutes later, Brighton restored parity from a corner kick of their own, when Aileen Whelan was left all alone at the back post to nod home. Two goals in the opening ten minutes suggested a shootout, but it wasn’t to be.
Brighton were compact in the middle of the park, forcing the Blues to find space out wide. Though they were able to play balls into the box with regularity, Chelsea couldn’t find a finishing touch to take control of the match. Halftime arrived with the score still deadlocked at a goal apiece.
After the second half started without a major change to momentum, Emma Hayes opted for a triple sub, a real sign of Chelsea’s intent to take control of the match. The changes appeared to re-energize the Blues, but a second goal still seemed elusive.
Then came the gut punch. Brighton won another corner, and just like in the first half, the Blues looked overwhelmed defending it. Suddenly the Blues were down a goal at home, finding themselves in the rare position of chasing a match.
Chelsea poured on the attack in the final stages of the game, coming repeatedly close to scoring, the nearest of which saw a flicked shot ricochet agonizingly off the post. Despite Chelsea’s will, the final whistle came, sounding the end to Chelsea’s 25 month, WSL unbeaten run.
- Starting XI: Telford, Blundell (Mjelde ‘67), Ingle, Eriksson, Andersson, Leupolz, Fleming (Ji ‘56), Reiten (Kirby ‘56), Cuthbert, England (Harder ‘56), Kerr
- The shocking result does nothing to diminish the absolutely incredible unbeaten run of 33 matches in the WSL (more on this in the coming days).
- Massive credit to Brighton & Hove Albion WFC. We were far from our best today, but Brighton deserve massive respect for not only doing what no one else could, but doing it at Kingsmeadow no less.
- Despite the disappointment of dropping points to a struggling Brighton side, Manchester United’s earlier defeat keeps the Blues in firm control of their league fate. Wednesday’s derby against Arsenal takes on additional importance.
- Millie Bright’s absence in the lineup may not be the sole reason Chelsea conceded both goals from set pieces, but I have to believe her presence was sorely missed. Sophie Ingle has deputized well in defense, but the Blues lack of true CB depth seemed to play a part in today’s result.
- For all of Chelsea’s attacking firepower, they just couldn’t quite find a rhythm. Kirby, Ji, and Harder came on together ten minutes after halftime, but even their introductions couldn’t make the difference.
- Not that it is so simple, but teams may want to look closely at how Brighton setup against Chelsea in both league meetings this season. After making Chelsea work hard for a 1-0 victory in December, today’s 2-1 win levels Brighton with Chelsea at 2-2 for the season. It is slightly concerning that a team so far below Chelsea’s point total could repeatedly give them such headaches.
- Next Up: A huge London derby against Arsenal WFC awaits the Blues this Wednesday, February 10th.