In my preview I called for a history-making — or at least -matching — run out to Arsenal’s 11-1 beating of Bristol City on the first day of December. Emma Hayes, in her 200th match in charge of Chelsea, however had a very different thing in mind. Sam Kerr started on the bench, and players like center-back Jessica Carter and fullback Hannah Blundell got nods in the starting XI.
Still, Chelsea had their normal attacking trio with Guro Reiten on the left, Bethany England center, and Erin Cuthbert on the right. And they ran rampant in the opening stages, fashioning chance after chance after chance after chance after chance afte— you get the idea, and if you watch this team regularly, you knew what was coming.
Bristol City took the lead in the 15th minute.
Human spark-plug Ebony Salmon was allowed to round Erin Cuthbert at the top of the box to control a ball dropping from the sky before snapping off a quick shot toward the corner of the goal. Keeper Ann-Katrin Berger could do nothing more than watch the ball spin and bounce just beyond her fingertips. Chelsea down 0-1 again; and to bottom tier competition, again.
Bristol’s lead would only last thirteen minutes before Bethany England (who else?) would beat the keeper to nod the ball into the net. She paid a bit of a price for it, as the keeper’s two-fisted punch got the back of England’s head instead of the ball, but with the crowd now chanting ‘Are you watching Phil Neville?’ England got back to her feet to celebrate her eighth league goal of the season.
Twelve minutes later Hannah Blundell got in on the scoring to mark her return to the starting lineup since the first match of the season. The fullback popped up in the box, checked from her right to her left then fired a shot into the back of the net.
Chelsea had to score two goals to get the lead they should have had, but now that they had it…
‘45: Jessica Carter, 22-year-old center-back, scored her first Chelsea goal after she stabbed home from a Beth England header that was saved off the bar, simple goaline stab across the line [3-1]
‘45+2: Ji So-yun swept a first-time shot from just outside the box to the far bottom corner [4-1]
HT: Sam Kerr replaces midfielder Drew Spence
‘50: Ji scores again after a wide low cross from Guro Reiten misses England but rolls to the South Korean for a simple tap-in [5-1]
Three goals in seven minutes of match time. That is the Chelsea that I know.
Unfortunately the football gods and everyone in the FA WSL have conspired to not allow Sam Kerr her debut Chelsea goal unless it’s a stunner. In the 68th minute Ji sent Kerr in on goal with a sublimely weighted through ball. Unlike versus Reading, Kerr beat the keeper this time but a recovering Bristol City defender slid to clear the ball before it reached the line. Kerr-sed? Let’s not get carried away — yet.
The Sam Kerr/Bethany England partnership was on full display again as the two showed their willingness to find one another. Kerr attempted to assist England again with a cushioned header on the edge of the penalty area. The keeper, however, came up with a brilliant reaction save.
Chelsea continued to craft chances and half-chances while not facing any real threat from Bristol. Ramona Bachmann replaced Erin Cuthbert, then Jamie-Lee Napier replaced Ji So-yun, and still it was only a case of how many more goals would come.
Somewhat surprisingly, just one. Bethany England got her brace with another header (could have scored 4 or 5 of those today), taking her tally in the league to nine.
The Blues have a league cup match against Aston Villa on Wednesday, then head to Arsenal’s Meadow Park for a titanic matchup that will likely be instrumental in determining what the final league table looks like. There won’t be a better time for Sam Kerr to score her first (or second, or third, and — maybe — fourth?).
NB: Meanwhile, Arsenal won as well, 4-0 over Brighton, so they retain the league lead.