In her pre-match press conference quotes, manager Emma Hayes made sure to highlight she expected a tough match against a Leicester City Women side that knows how to sustain high intensity on the pitch. Hence her choice for perhaps our strongest starting eleven sans midfielder Sjoeke Nüsken, who didn’t play at the highest level during our 4-1 win midweek against Paris FC in the Women’s Champions League.
Her choice for a strong lineup paid off immediately. Lauren James got herself a 1v1 thanks to a wrong Leicester City pass, and she didn’t let the opportunity go to waste.
Neither Chelsea nor Lauren James would allow Leicester grow in the game as they tried to chase after an equaliser. James herself got another great chance to score, and she got a helping push from defender Courtney Nevin to double our lead only five minutes into the match.
From that point on the match started getting a bit messy, as Leicester were relentlessly chasing after the ball and making challenges all over the pitch for it. It shouldn’t be a surprise Emma’s diagnosis of Leicester’s playing style turned out to be correct as the Blues were having a really hard time controlling possession under so much pressure from the Foxes.
With Chelsea being so unsteady, a Leicester goal was bound to come. They finally got it via Jutta Rantala, who had plenty of space to run into the box and place a strong shot against Ann-Katrin Berger.
As Leicester sit back to recover after doing so much to chase after the goal, Chelsea began finding more space in midfield and managed to get more chances upfront. Niamh Charles still had to hustle off a Leicester defender before assisting Sam Kerr for our third goal today.
A 3-1 scoreline would be perfect for us, but Leicester — and our inability to consistently match high intensity teams — wouldn’t let that happen. Mistake after mistake allowed the Foxes a free kick only a meter away from the box and while Berger defended the initial attempt, she couldn’t do it on the rebound from which Sam Tierney scored.
The first half was great for neutrals, but not so great for Chelsea. They needed to improve markedly if they were to keep Leicester at bay and maintain their winning streak.
We were still far from ideal in terms of controlling the midfield, but we were managing to keep the Foxes away from our defensive third and doing well in feeding our attackers. In one of such plays Fran Kirby assisted Lauren James for her second goal of the day, which could’ve been the third hadn’t it been for Nevin’s own goal efforts.
Chelsea kept pushing for more and they came quite close to a fifth Hadn’t it been for Janina Leitzig’s goalkeeping, we could have had a second Sam Kerr goal only a few minutes after Lauren’s second.
Then things got a bit scrappy again, with Leicester finding their second wind and Chelsea losing intensity after continued minutes of chasing for goals. Leicester’s efforts lacked structure but made up for it in their will to throw everything they could at every challenge, something we often lacked in today’s game.
But since Aggie Beever-Jones was on the pitch, she couldn’t let her goalscoring streak stop. With help from Ève Périsset, she got her fifth (!!!) consecutive league goal this season.
- Very few changes from the lineup that took on Paris FC, which goes to show manager Emma Hayes has a lot of respect for the Foxes.
- Subs are Ashley Lawrence for Niamh Charles, Sjoeke Nüsken for Lauren James, Aggie Beever-Jones for Fran Kirby, Jessie Fleming for Sam Kerr, and Aniek Nouwen for Maren Mjelde.
- Without Lauren James and Sam Kerr upfront this team would be in deep trouble.
- Much better effort from the team in the second half, even though the midfield control was still lacking.
- Aggie Beever-Jones continues her goalscoring streak just to remind us our attack can get even better in the near future.
- Next up: Arsenal away right after the upcoming international break, in the Women’s Super League