CHELSEA 3 DONCASTER ROVERS BELLES 1
Chelsea Ladies came back from a goal behind to dominate the first league game of the season and thump Doncaster Rovers Belles 3-1.
A Helen Lander goal put Chelsea back on level terms following Doncaster's opener, before a Dunia Susi (pictured) brace secured a win in the second-half at Wheatsheaf Park.
Two weeks after the sides' previous meeting, Chelsea manager Matt Beard named an unchanged starting line-up from the 2-0 FA Cup win at the Keepmoat Stadium. Much like their previous encounter, this FAWSL opener was a scrappy affair in the opening stages, as both sides struggled to establish a rhythm.
Both sets of players struggled to contend with the wet conditions as neither side created any clear chances in the opening 20 minutes. However, midway through the half, the game would come to life bizarre fashion.
Following some tenacious work from Aine O'Gorman on the right flank, her low cross was spilled by Chelsea goalkeeper Carly Telford. When the Blues defence could not clear, the loose ball was tapped in by Alyssa Lagona to give the visitors the lead.
Doncaster's advantage would last just five minutes. Reacting first to Susi's flick, Blues forward Lander fired in a controlled half-volley from the edge of the Belles penalty area, levelling the scores with the striker's first goal of the season. But, despite this enthralling spell in the match, chances would continue to be scarce as the first-half ended with scores level.
As the teams emerged from the interval, two changes for Chelsea saw a new look left flank, with Ashlee Hincks replacing Helen Bleazard and with Sophie Ingle moving into midfield, Laura Coombs made way for the returning Claire Rafferty at left-back, after seven months out due to injury. With the match approaching the hour mark, the Blues' new-look left-flank combination would turn the match in the hosts' favour.
A decisive break from the Blues, strong running and an exchange of passes between Hincks and Rafferty allowed the left-back to deliver a pinpoint cross to the onrushing Susi, who found the bottom corner with a composed finish.
With Chelsea looking to preserve their lead, the visitors looked to press for an equaliser, with Telford redeedming herself after her earlier error, diving bravely at the feet of Beth England to deny the visitors inside the Chelsea six-yard box. Minutes later, the visitors would again come close, as Leandra Little rose highest to meet a corner kick, only for Sophie Perry to head clear on the goal-line.
With the match set for a tense finale, Chelsea would seal the win in stoppage time, with a moment of individual brilliance from Susi. After receiving the ball from a Lander pass, the England international cut inside before finding the bottom corner to secure all three points with her third goal in two matches against the Belles.
After the match, Blues boss Beard was delighted to see his charges begin their league campaign with three points.
'It's good to start the league season with a win,' explained Beard. 'It's our fourth competitive game and we're got three wins out of four, so we're pleased with how the season has started.'
Chelsea Ladies continue their FA WSL campaign on Sunday 22 April when they host Liverpool LFC at Wheatsheaf Park.
Chelsea (4-4-2): Carly Telford (C); Sophie Perry, Gemma Bonner, Victoria Williams, Sophie Ingle; Helen Bleazard (Ashlee Hincks HT), Kate Sherwood (Sue Lappin 60), Dani Buet, Laura Coombs (Claire Rafferty HT); Dunia Susi, Helen Lander.
Unused subs Sarah Quantrill, Lara Fay, Drew Spence, Kate Longhurst.