LADIES REPORT: CHELSEA 0 BRISTOL 0
Returning to league action following their midweek FA Cup heroics, Chelsea Ladies' latest FA WSL fixture ended 0-0 at home to Bristol Academy.
Chelsea manager Matt Beard named an unchanged side from that which beat Arsenal in the FA Cup semi-final three days earlier. Although the return to WSL action allowed two extra substitutes and saw the Blues welcome back Claire Rafferty, who was joined by Sophie Gwilliam on the Chelsea bench.
The opening spell of the match was a cagey affair, with neither side establishing any clear dominance. Chelsea's only early effort on goal came from Dunia Susi, who latched onto Dani Buet's lofted pass before lifting her effort over the bar.
The match came to life midway through the half, with Susi, again wearing the captain's armband in place of the injured Carly Telford, at the heart of the action. Susi fired a left-footed effort from outside the penalty area, forcing a good save from Bristol goalkeeper Siobhan Chamberlain.
The Blues' defence was forced into action with a succession of crosses, which saw Ann-Marie Heatherson and Loren Dykes come close for Bristol. Heatherson had the ball in the net on the half-hour mark, only for her headed effort to be ruled offside.
With the first half drawing to a close, Susi would again come close for the hosts. From a sweeping move, Laura Coombs picked out Susi on the right, who unleashed a fierce effort but was saved well by Chamberlain as the first half drew to a close.
Into the second period, the hosts looked to take the game to the visitors, with Sophie Perry forcing another save from Chamberlain, before Coombs also tested the Bristol 'keeper. Breaking from midfield, Coombs effort screamed inches wide of the post.
With the Blues in the ascendency, Blues skipper Susi continued to torment the Bristol defence, forcing another Chelsea corner.
Despite the hosts' second-half dominance, the visitors came close to snatching a winning goal with little over 10 minutes remaining, as Nikki Watts sprung the offside trap. Chelsea goalkeeper Sarah Quantrill was quick off her line to make the save in another excellent display from the Blues stopper.
With the match drawing to a close, the Blues had the final chance to snatch a winner. From Claire Rafferty's cross, Bleazard had the chance to win it against her former club but her close-range header bounced agonisingly off the post as the match ended 0-0.
Just three days after booking their place in the FA Cup final, manager Matt Beard conceded that his players were feeling the effects of a busy week, but was pleased to pick up a point to leave the Blues in third place with four games played.
'It was a little bit lethargic,' said Beard. 'Thursday was a tough game but we weren't really happy with the performance in the first half, we had one or two words at half-time and I thought the second half performance was a lot better.
'Looking at the positives, it's another clean sheet. We've got a point which keeps the momentum going, so we'll build on that and progress from there.'
The Blues now switch focus to the Continental Cup, with a home fixture against Liverpool on Sunday 13 May at Wheatsheaf Park.
Chelsea (4-4-2): Sarah Quantrill, Sophie Perry (Claire Rafferty 66), Gemma Bonner, Sophie Ingle, Lara Fay, Helen Bleazard, Dani Buet (Drew Spence 57), Katie Sherwood, Dunia Susi (C), Laura Coombs, Kate Longhurst (Helen Lander 57)
Unused Subs Sophie Gwilliam, Ashlee Hincks, Victoria Williams, Sue Lappin.
By Daniel Clarke