Barely 72 hours after an exhausting, heart-stopping, incredibly dramatic extra-time and penalty shootout victory over Olympique Lyonnais in the Women’s Champions League, Chelsea were back in action today, away to Aston Villa in the league.
Villa, fifth in the table but the form team of the WSL with four straight wins and seven unbeaten, were looking for a famous victory against the defending champions. But thankfully there was no letdown from Emma Hayes’s charges — unlike last weekend’s defeat at Manchester City, which had reignited a title-race that we had been firmly in control of, but now have three challengers nipping at our heels.
Villa started brightly and Zećira Mušović, deputizing for Thursday’s hero, Ann-Katrin Berger, produced an excellent save to deny them an early lead, plunging to her left to tip away a clever flick from the WSL’s second leading scorer, Rachel Daly.
But while Villa continued to maintain the majority of possession, Chelsea’s quality shone through at crucial times. We may have gotten a bit lucky on the opener, with Jelena Čanković poking home from a scramble in the penalty area, but Sam Kerr also let Villa off the hook when she rattled the crossbar when it looked easier to score.
Chelsea looked to build on that lead, and we would find the second just before half, with Čanković turning provider and Guro Reiten producing an unstoppable finish from the top of the box, squeezing it beyond the goalkeeper’s fingers and off the inside of the post.
Villa looked to respond and made a great start to the second half, but Chelsea were able to bend but not break and kept them out — only the third time Villa have been kept off the scoresheet in the league this season!
Those ten bright minutes for the hosts were then swiftly and ruthlessly snuffed out by a Sam Kerr laser in the 55th minute, putting the match beyond doubt early.