Ladies report: Doncaster Rovers Belles 1 Chelsea 4
news Thu 24 Mar 2016
Chelsea Ladies' FA Women's Super League 1 title began with a second victory of the week at Keepmoat Stadium.
The Blues went in front when Karen Carney scored for the second straight game, confidently dispatching a penalty kick after Millie Bright had been brought down in the box. Although Doncaster were level through an unfortunate own goal by Claire Rafferty, headers from Beth England, against her former club, and Katie Chapman gave us a 3-1 lead at the break. Eniola Aluko put the seal on the victory late on to mirror the scoreline from Sunday's FA Women's Cup fifth-round tie.
With three games in eight days to start the new campaign, Emma Hayes opted to make two adjustments to the starting 11 which won so comfortably on Sunday. Rafferty's return at left-back allowed Gilly Flaherty to resume her usual role at the heart of the defence alongside Niamh Fahey, with Millie Bright moving into midfield in place of Drew Spence, who dropped to the bench. Bethany England also came into the team in place of Davison, giving her a first competitive Chelsea start against her old team-mates. Fran Kirby returned from illness to take her place among the substitutes as Aluko was selected as the lone forward.
There was little goalmouth action to report on in the early stages before the game burst into life after 10 minutes when Aluko smashed a shot off the crossbar. The Blues didn't have to wait long for an even better opportunity, though, as Bright was brought down in the area by Leandra Little. Carney stepped up to take the spot-kick and she confidently buried it high to the goalkeeper's left.
We almost went further ahead when Hannah Blundell beat the left-back for pace and then cut back inside before crossing low for England. Unfortunately, the ball was just behind the former Donny forward and Hobbs was able to make a fairly straightforward save.
Then, against the run of play, Doncaster levelled in fortuitous circumstances. Courtney Sweetman-Kirk whipped in a dangerous right-footed cross which Rafferty attempted to clear, but in doing so sent the ball bouncing past Hedvig Lindahl and into the back of the net.
The score wasn't level for long as the Blues went back in front after 23 minutes, with Carney turning provider on this occasion. Having seen her first corner cleared, the winger whipped in a second onto the head of England, who powered home a header to put us back in front. There were a few boos from the home crowd for the former Donny player, who opted not to celebrate against her old club.
Carney came close to extending the lead after being found by Ji, who chested the ball down and volleyed a sumptuous through-pass for the former Birmingham winger, but the ball bobbled up at the crucial moment and her finish just missed the target at the near post.
Set-pieces were looking Doncaster's most likely route back into the game, but it was from another Carney corner that we added our third just before the break. The cross was perfectly weighted to find Chapman at the back post to steer a header beyond Hobbs and into the back of the net.
The Chelsea captain almost added her second of the night just after the interval when she was found in the box by Rafferty, but Hobbs proved to be equal to her effort from close range. The goalkeeper would have struggled to get anything behind our next attempt, which came from Aluko after she had created a yard of space with a superb touch, but a Doncaster centre-half got her body behind the ball to block a fierce strike.
Chelsea's strength in depth was shown in the first change of the game, which was a double substitution just past the hour mark, as England duo Kirby and Davison came on for Flaherty and Carney.
There was almost a fourth for the Blues as Ji connected sweetly with a low corner kick, but Hobbs pulled off a sensational stop to palm the strike away and keep her side in the contest.
Hayes made her third and final change when Jade Bailey was brought on for England to bolster the midfield and the fourth goal arrived with six minutes remaining after a wonderful move. Davison beat two players down the right and pulled the back to Ji, whose dummy left Aluko in space to drill a low finish past the keeper.
The victory secured a seventh win in seven FA Women's Super League meetings between the sides and gets our title defence off to a fine start.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Lindahl; Blundell, Fahey, Flaherty (Kirby 64), C Rafferty; Bright, Chapman (c); Carney (Davison 64), Ji, England (Bailey 74); Aluko
Unused subs Kitching, L Rafferty, Legg, Spence
Scorers Carney (pen) 12, England 23, Chapman 43, Aluko 84
Doncaster Rovers Belles (4-3-3) Hobbs; Simpkins, Roberts, Little, Barker; Lipka, Easton (Mosby 86), Tierney (Newborough 72); Sigsworth, Dowie, Sweetman-Kirk
Unused subs: Moorhouse, Gummer, Whittle, Hallas-Potts, Breen
Scorer C Rafferty (og) 15