LADIES REPORT: DONCASTER ROVERS BELLES 0 CHELSEA LADIES 1
A late Laura Coombs strike saw Chelsea Ladies defeat Doncaster Rovers Belles by a solitary goal after a dominant display at the Keepmoat Stadium.
In the Blues' first competitive fixture since the mid-season break, new manager Emma Hayes took charge of her first league match since arriving at the club, with assistant manager Daryl Willard also in the Chelsea dugout for the first time.
The Chelsea line-up featured Hayes' first signing, as Spanish international Adriana Martin came in to spearhead the attack.
The visitors began brightly, with winger Helen Bleazard a constant menace on the left flank. The Wales international almost opened the scoring, arriving late at the far post only to fire over from close range.
Just a minute later, forward Helen Lander also came close. Capitalising on a defensive mix-up, Lander lifted the ball over Mary Earps in the Belles' goal only to see her effort dip onto the roof of the net.
Chelsea continued to create chances, again coming close on 25 minutes. After more tenacious work from Bleazard forced a corner, Danni Buet's delivery met the head of Sophie Ingle, whose flick was cleared off the line to keep the scores level
The Blues' onslaught continued, with the visitors continuing to create a number of chances, including debutant Martin coming close, meeting yet another Buet corner and heading inches wide of the far post.
The visitors created the final chance of the half in stoppage time, with Claire Rafferty's pinpoint cross finding Sue Lappin at the farpost. Lappin side-footed passed the post as the first half ended goalless.
Into the second half, Chelsea were quick to re-establish dominance but continued to be frustrated in front of goal. There were two early chances after the restart, as Coombs' pull-back was met by Lappin, who fired over, while Martin again came close, rising to meet Rafferty's cross, only to be denied by Earps.
The chances continued, with Bleazard, Martin and Dunia Susi all coming close, but a deserved goal still eluded the visitors. Chelsea finally broke the deadlock on 75 minutes.
After an impressive run from Susi, her pull-back was met by Coombs who lashed home from 15 yards to give Chelsea the lead with 15 minutes remaining.
After the match, Manager Emma Hayes was delighted with her side's performance, despite spurning a host of chances.
'You have to create to score and sometimes that's the biggest challenge and we created a lot,' said Hayes.
'We wanted that goal and fortunately it fell to the feet of Laura Coombs who finished in style. For us the priority was being tough to beat but we created chances and won the game.'
Chelsea (4-4-2): Carly Telford (c); Claire Rafferty, Gemma Bonner, Kylie Davies, Dunia Susi; Helen Bleazard (Katie Sherwood 81), Danni Buet, Sophie Ingle, Sue Lappin (Sophie Perry 62); Helen Lander (Laura Coombs 30), Adriana Martin.
Unused subs Sarah Quantrill, Drew Spence, Sophie Gwilliam.
By Daniel Clarke