After an up and down start to the season that included a sputtering draw to Manchester United, a loss to Everton, and a 9-0 win over Bristol City, Chelsea FCW returned to form last week. The fixture demons gave us a midweek League Cup match against rivals Arsenal, and four days later a league match versus other rivals Manchester City.
Chelsea dispatched both with ease. Arsenal were beaten 4-1 (again) and City were plunked 3-1. In the latter, a penalty for a handball that may or may not have actually occurred helped Chelsea open the scoring, but our second goal ... my word, the second goal.
Before we get into it, we must first add some context and acknowledge the skill of the opponent. Manchester City are good. Like, really good. They were good before they brought over 2019 World Cup Winners and USWNT stars Samantha Mewis and Rose Lavelle. While Lavelle has only recently started to feature, Mewis had already made herself an immovable force in their already stellar midfield. And what City do with this midfield is simple: unleash an ungodly high press.
Following on from last tweet, here's insight into the style of Manchester City this season under Gareth Taylor— Molly Hudson (@M0lly_Writes) October 9, 2020
City have forced 37 high turnovers in the WSL this season; 11 more than any other side in the competition, with 11 of these ending in a shot, also a division-high.
Everyone who plays them knows this going in, but they still cannot stop being overwhelmed by it.
Knowledge of such evil for the common among us refines fears. For Chelsea goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger, that knowledge served as blueprint — and that is why we need to talk about this goal.
Early in the second half, City lumped a ball high toward forward Ellen White who got underneath it but could only flick it on to no one and all the way into the Chelsea penalty area. There, Berger was patient, and let the ball roll. For a team less talented and confident than Chelsea, it could have been read as a time-wasting technique. It wasn’t.
Chelsea were setting a trap.
White looked towards Berger, and realized that the goalkeeper wasn’t going to pick up the ball unless forced to. She could’ve waited, but that would’ve gone against the team’s ethos. She looks to her teammates for support and lackadaisically, more as a show than an intention, she started trotting forward. Berger remained patient, and continued to wait. White picked up the pace, now with added intention. Berger remained patient still.
As the center forward was keying the press, other City players were taking up their stations, preparing to do that thing that they do so well. Midfielder Keira Walsh strode forward to take up a position high in the center of the pitch. Forward Chloe Kelly fanned left, readying to charge at the center back or fullback. Out of frame, Sam Mewis was moving as well.
Back in the penalty area, Berger has now picked up the ball — no sooner than White breaking social distancing rules. Still seemingly devoid of urgency, Berger takes a couple more slow steps, then winds up and flings the ball up the center of the pitch, bouncing it just before the center circle and into an unmarked Ji So-Yun.
Chest control. Turn. Ball over the top. Kirby racing ahead of City full back Demi Stokes down the right; Sam Kerr doing the same in the center, beyond both center backs. The early cross: perfect; the connection: clean; City goalkeeper Roebuck: stranded.
Berger released the ball at 56:27 and at 56:37 the ball was in the net at the other end of the pitch. Our goalkeeper crafted this goal through cunning, knowledge of the opponent, the ability, strength and technique to launch a perfect throw, and a poker face that could make a statue blink.