Chelsea Ladies FC won’t be back on the pitch until next weekend, March 18. In the meantime, let’s see what’s happened over the past month. Scroll to the bottom if you want spoilers for the current league table.
February first brought a sobering nil-nil against Manchester City at home. Chelsea looked capable of beating the only team which had bested them thus far this season, but failed to come away with the three points. Despite the scoreline, BT Sport viewers got their money's worth, with Fran Kirby, Drew Spence, and Ramona Bachmann all nearly pushing the Blues in front at various points in the match.
The creative frustration felt by the squad was quickly relieved as the dam burst against the London Bees in the Women’s FA Cup at the weekend. The Ladies racked up a stunning ten goals, with Erin Cuthbert leading the line and bagging herself a hat trick. Cuthbert, Ji So-Yun, and Kirby all put on a show that demonstrates just how far the top tier teams are from the second division in women’s football in England.
The Ladies returned to league play against a more challenging opponent in the champions of old, Birmingham City. Nevertheless, the Blues were still an unstoppable force, running out 2-0 winners thanks to excellent goals from Kirby and Ji. Chelsea’s defense was stout, and a high line from Birmingham was exploited enough times that the Blues could’ve come away with a few more goals had they been in a more clinical mood.
The team found their shooting boots for the match against Doncaster Rovers the following weekend in the fifth round of the FA Women’s Cup. The Belles were in fine form and came into the match determined to work hard and keep the attacking force of the Ladies at bay. With the exception of a third goal in three games from Ji that came from a second chance opportunity, Doncaster Rovers proved resolute throughout the first half. After the break was a different story, however, as Kirby, Bachmann, Spence, and Cuthbert would all add to the tally, giving Chelsea a dominant but deserved scoreline of 6-0. The match also marked an important moment for Chelsea, returning hero Anita Asante’s first time with the captain’s armband.
Players come and players go, but the club must go on, and carry on they did against Yeovil Town as league action continued. The Blues went back to business, giving the talented Yeovil keeper Megan Walsh a difficult night. In the end, though Walsh performed admirably, Chelsea took all three points thanks to second half goals from Kirby and January signing Johnna Anderson. The professional display from the Blues coincided with a stumble from their title rivals as City succumbed to a Birmingham City side out for revenge since the Citizens had knocked them out of the FA Cup the previous weekend.
The stage was set perfectly for a massive battle between the Spring Series holders and the division champions from the 2016 season, and unlike earlier in the season, weather would not delay this clash of the titans. This time it was City’s turn to host, and Chelsea were not acquiescent guests from the start. Chelsea’s captain for the day Asante played Kirby in behind early in the first half, and the striker nearly scored with just seconds on the clock. Kirby would later draw a save that would result in an opportunity for Millie Bright, who smashed the ball into the roof of the net to put the Blues up 1-0. They remained the better side for the rest of the half as well. After some great work down the left wing and a quick 1-2 with Crystal Dunn, Ji slotted home and Chelsea looked sure to take the day. Unfortunately, City are not the team to go quietly into that good night. A contentious second half led to a comeback draw that City will surely feel better about, despite still sitting a point behind us in the table.
So that’s it for match reports. Of course, we all knew that American rising star Crystal Dunn would be leaving the squad before the end of the season, but now that moment has finally come. Having helped the Blues to a Spring series triumph and to the top of the current table, the twenty-five year old has returned to the States to ply her trade for one of the newest NWSL teams, North Carolina Courage, and we wish Dunn all the best.
Up next, Chelsea will take on Liverpool Ladies on March 18, before traveling from the west coast of England to the south shore of France for a Champions League quarterfinal tie against Montpellier on March 21.