Ladies report: Notts County 1 Chelsea 3

Goals from Eniola Aluko, Ji So-Yun and Bethany England ensured Chelsea Ladies finished the 2016 season with a win.

The Blues took an early lead through top scorer Aluko, who finished at the second attempt after a cross from Ana Borges, but the scores were level at the break after Aileen Whelan levelled. However, two goals in as many second-half minutes settled the game in our favour. First, Aluko turned provider to tee up Ji for a deft header and then England hammered home an unstoppable strike from inside the box.

Emma Hayes made three changes to the side which secured Champions League football following a 3-2 win over Reading in our final home fixture of the campaign. Gilly Flaherty returned from injury in place of Claire Rafferty, with Millie Bright moving to left-back. In midfield, skipper Katie Chapman missed out and Jade Bailey came in alongside Karen Carney. Bethany England was also brought into the side out wide in place of Gemma Davison. After making her comeback following a five-month injury lay-off, Fran Kirby was not risked for our final fixture of the season.

Chelsea should have led within five minutes of the start, but England couldn't direct her header at goal after being found unmarked at the back stick by Borges. The Portuguese winger was proving to be our best attacking outlet in the early stages and after another raid down the right went unrewarded, it proved to be a case of third time lucky.

On this occasion, Boggy took her time and delayed her cross to pick out Aluko free in the box. Although her initial finish was well saved, the Blues No9 followed up her own shot to bundle in the rebound for her fourth goal in three appearances.

The lead proved to be shortlived, though, as Notts County equalised with virtually their first attack of the match. Former Blues forward Rachel Williams broke through two challenges and although the third dispossessed her, the ball fell invitingly for Whelan to curl a low finish past Hedvig Lindahl.

The goal was certainly against the run of play and the game soon returned to a similar pattern, with the Blues knocking the ball around confidently and attacking strongly down both flanks. On such occasion, a cross from England was headed straight at the keeper by Aluko, while Ji also had two presentable chances which she failed to capitalise on.

The goalmouth action dried up as the half went on, with stoppages for injuries certainly not helping the flow of the game, but Chelsea had a great chance to go in a goal to the good when the lively Borges was played through on goal. Although she made good contact with her strike, the angle was against her and the shot fizzed just wide.

The second half began with Notts looking the brighter side, but just as in the opening half, too many shots failed to test the goalkeeper. Both teams were certainly guilty of that in the early exchanges after the break, but when Chelsea did hit the target just before the hour mark we were rewarded with two goals in quick succession to take complete control of the game.

The first came at the end of the swiftest of counter-attacks, as Carney sent Aluko away down the left and her cross was delicately headed in by Ji. Then, almost straight from the restart, we doubled our advantage. Carney was involved again, teeing up England to fire a rasping strike past Walsh.

With a comfortable lead, the Blues returned to playing with the same freedom we had shown in the first quarter of the match and there was an opportunity to test Bailey at centre-half and to hand vital first-team minutes to Miri Taylor and Laura Rafferty.

All in all, it was a satisfactory result and performance with which to end the WSL campaign.

 

Notts County Walsh, Buet, Hassall, Clarke (Steggles 30, Cushin 66), Williams, Potter, James, Crichton, Whelan, Oliver, Bassett (c)
Unused subs Cushin
Scorer Whelan 14

Chelsea (4-4-2) Lindahl; Blundell, Fahey (Spence 64), Flaherty (c), Bright; Borges, Carney (Taylor 75), Bailey, England; Aluko, Ji (L Rafferty 78)
Unused subs Spencer, C Rafferty, Davison
Scorers Aluko 9, Ji 58, England 59

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