I jinxed it. I told you there would be goals, and I’ve been around football long enough to know that you should never do that, and that horrors typically await the prematurely bold. I have to be better.
Anyway, so do Chelsea.
The match started as you would’ve expected, Chelsea dominating possession and Brighton hanging on. A few slim chances were created but not taken, however it gave the feeling that the Blues were figuring out how to attack, and would find the spaces to make the danger tell.
Wide forwards Guro Reiten and Erin Cuthbert were able to get on the ball in midfield areas but not really down the wings or around the box. Brighton defended low, as expected, but also did a good job of chasing players off the ball, and into passing backwards. Reiten and left-back Jonna Andersson developed a good understanding that saw Reiten release Andersson down the line and in space on multiple overlapping runs, but the final pass was either just off or the ensuing shot blocked.
Chelsea went into the half knotted with Brighton 0-0, but surely feeling like the goals would come. In fact the last matchup, which the Blues won 4-0, had the same halftime score line.
This would not be like that time.
After the break Brighton came alive and it was Chelsea who was trying to cope. Some key interceptions and clearances from England international Millie Bright kept Brighton at bay, but only just. And only until the 84th minute.
A Brighton cross was headed out but pinged back into a crowded box at pace, leading to a cushioned header being volleyed into the back of the net. By then Brighton had the lead and the knowledge of how to repel Chelsea attacks, and the full-time whistle wasn’t far away. They looked poised to heap the full lot of embarrassment on the visitors, sending them home with nothing but bruised egos.
In the 91st minute Chelsea found the goal that had been eluding them since the first few kicks of the match. A lobbed cross into the box from midfield found the head of Millie Bright who nodded it on to Guro Reiten, whose touch bobbled to substitute forward Adelina Engman who put the ball into the roof of the net from close range.
Unfortunately it seems Chelsea’s stalled attack wasn’t merely the product of opening day jitters at the Bridge and instead might well and truly be a problem. Brighton committed twelve fouls to Chelsea’s six, but the Blues lost the possession battle and only ended up outshooting Brighton by one (sevens shots to six). The Blues had five shots on target, but outside of the goal, most didn’t truly trouble the Brighton keeper.
Guro and Cuthbert are having to drop deep to get involved in play, Without Fran Kirby, Chelsea’s link to attack once again funneled through Ji So-Yun. Though it’s a role she’s fully capable of playing well, Ji had another unconvincing showing. This caused Erin Cuthbert and Guro Reiten to sit closer to midfield to get involved with play, but left no one forward other than striker Bethany England.
Emma Hayes’ squad has to either figure out some other method of attack or pray harder and to more gods for Kirby’s return.
Up next is West Ham in the kickoff of the FA WSL Cup. The Hammers gave Arsenal, last season’s WSL Champions, all they could handle in a hard fought 2-1 loss. Chelsea will be back at their home pitch in Kingsmeadow and will need to get back to looking like themselves if they are to get a result.