It was Fran Kirby who kicked 2022 off for Chelsea, following an entire month of (mostly forced) rest for the Blues. We returned to action at the Chigwell Construction Stadium, advancing to the Continental Cup semifinals by beating hosts West Ham 4-2 at their turf!
Although manager Emma Hayes enjoyed giving her players a well-deserved break following a very bad run of games — ending on our elimination from the Champions League at the group stage with a 4-0 loss to Wolfsburg —, the lack of sharpness from this time off was an issue at least in the first few minutes. That made the Hammers see the opportunity to surprise the title defenders, trying to breach our defence with balls over the top.
But the talents of two of the world’s best, Pernille Harder and Kirby, playing alongside Niamh Charles upfront, would eventually shine bright for the Blues. On a great counterattack started by Jessie Fleming, she connects with Kirby running with much freedom towards the box. As defenders closed in on English international, she was selfless by squaring it to Harder for our first goal of the night.
Chelsea would not be able to hold the lead for long. A defensive hiccup gave West Ham’s Katerina Svitková time and space to get the tying goal in the first half.
The Blues nearly recovered the lead after a nice play from Harder to set up Fleming with a great goalscoring chance. However the Canadian could not reach the pass to make it justice.
In the second half, Chelsea kept the pressure on with the attacking line commanding our efforts. It was just a matter of time until the Blues found their second goal, with Erin Cuthbert heading it home.
A third score would follow, courtesy of Harder. A great one-two between Kirby and Fleming lead to the former trying a powerful shot at goal. While the attempt was parried by the Hammers’ keeper, Anna Leat, the rebound fell to the Danish attacker whose job was only to push the ball past the goalline, to record her second goal of the night.
And Harder would soon complete her hat-trick! Her third goal, and our fourth tonight, was a simple and beautiful header to catch Leat off-guard in the penalty box.
The three-goal lead allowed Hayes to make changes without worries of disturbing the team’s equilibrium. In fact, our subs would keep up our offensive impetus and try to score some goals of their own. But on the opposite side West Ham managed to hold their own to not suffer further damage, and score a consolation goal against a Chelsea team starting on the right foot this year.
- I really missed this.
- Sans Sam Kerr and Ji So-yun due to international duty, and Melanie Leupolz out with long COVID, Emma Hayes still landed a pretty strong team. The two “unusual” sights are Aniek Nouwen in defence, and Niamh Charles upfront next to Fran Kirby and Pernille Harder.
- Subs are Guro Reiten for Aniek Nouwen, Beth England for Fran Kirby, Drew Spence for Jessie Fleming, and Alsu Abdullina (with her debut!) for Jonna Andersson.
- Our edges are clearly rough given the long break. But sharpness shall soon come back!
- No Kerrby? No problem! Welcome to Harby!
- IT’S A HAT-TRIIIIIICK!