Ladies report: Sunderland 0 Chelsea 7

A five-goal showing in the first half secured a healthy victory for the Blues as we returned to winning ways in the Spring Series.

Despite missing an early penalty, the visitors utterly dominated the Black Cats and five was the least a brilliant first-half performance deserved. Erin Cuthbert struck a couple of splendid goals and there were also clinical finishes from Karen Carney and Ramona Bachmann. The second half was lit up by the returning Fran Kirby, who netted twice after coming off the bench.

It was a much-changed starting 11 from the team that took on Arsenal in an exhilarating London derby in midweek. Gilly Flaherty and Niamh Fahey were brought in either side of sweeper Deanna Cooper, while Gemma Davison was selected on the right-hand side of midfield, Cuthbert took up one of the two attacking-midfield positions and Eniola Aluko started in attack. The players to make way were Millie Bright, Hannah Blundell, Katie Chapman, Bachmann and Crystal Dunn. There was also a place on the bench for Kirby, returning after injury.

Chelsea looked the stronger side from the outset, but we spurned the chance to go ahead from the penalty spot only seven minutes into the contest. Cuthbert turned her marker superbly and then had the presence of mind to pick out Aluko's well-timed run. It looked like she had let the ball get away from her, but she adjusted at the last second to get her body between ball and defender for a clear penalty. Davison stepped up to take the spot-kick, but she was denied by a brilliant save by Anke Preuss, who got down low to her left to keep it out.

The effect of the challenge on Aluko was still being felt a few minutes after the incident and last season's Golden Boot winner couldn't continue. Bachmann came on in her place, emphasising the added strength in depth the Blues can boast this season.

The game's opening goal arrived two minutes later and it owed much to a driving run by Mjelde. The Norwegian, selected in midfield for this game, drove away from her marker with ease and then timed her through-ball to perfection, sending Cuthbert in on goal for a tidy right-footed finish into the far corner.

A combination of poor finishing and last-ditch defending temporarily halted the Blues attack in their stride, but the final 15 minutes of the half brought about a barrage of goals which put the result well and truly out of any doubt.

Carney made it 2-0 when she was the recipient of a clipped ball over the top by Ji, who should have had a goal herself moments earlier. The Blues No8 made no mistake, however, going outside the defender to fashion a yard of space before curling home into the far corner.

The two were heavily involved in our third, too. Carney seemed to keep hold of the ball for an eternity in the middle of the park, displaying excellent close control to hold off several challenges before finding Ji, who had the awareness to pick out the onrushing Mjelde for a simple finish.

Having scored twice against the Black Cats earlier this season, there was no way Bachmann was missing out again after one uncharacteristic shot fizzed wide of the post, and she made it 4-0 with a crisp strike which bounced in off the far post.

Carney was involved in the build-up to that and she was at it again for our fifth on the stroke of half-time, playing Cuthbert in for her second of the afternoon. At half-time, 5-0 was the very least our dominance deserved.

A combination of the Blues stepping off slightly and Sunderland regrouping at the break led to a slightly attritional start to the second period, although Ji and Bachmann both failed to cash in on presentable chances on the edge of the box.

The latter looked to be struggling, and she soon made way for the returning Kirby, while Emma Hayes' final change saw Crystal Dunn replace Beth England. Having played predominantly as an attacking player in the early part of her Chelsea career, it was a first outing at wing-back for the USA international.

Kirby almost made a dream return, as within two minutes of her introduction she broke purposefully alongside Cuthbert and Carney. The latter eventually laid the ball into her path, but she couldn't find the far corner with a shot which whizzed just past the post.

Sunderland's best chance of the game arrived through Staniforth, who burst clear of a Cooper challenge to fire at Telford, who pulled off a brilliant save. However, the last word went to Kirby, who scored her first two goals since netting against the same opposition last June.

It was a pair of trademark finishes from the Blues No14, who skipped around the keeper before slotting home for the first and then finished with the outside of her right boot from inside the box.

Next up we travel to Manchester City on Thursday night, followed by a home game against Liverpool at Wheatsheaf Park on Sunday.

Sunderland: Preuss, Sharp, Bannon (c), Williams, Holmes, Hill, Lambert (Joice h/t), Staniforth, Bruinenberg, Roche, Ramshaw (Leon 69)
Unused subs: Olsen, Pattinson, Brown, Galloway, Gibson

Chelsea (3-4-2-1): Telford; Flaherty (c), Cooper, Fahey; Davison, Mjelde, Ji, England (Dunn 57); Carney, Cuthbert; Aluko (Bachmann 15, Kirby 57)
Unused subs: Kitching, Bright, Spence
Scorers: Cuthbert 17, 44 Carney 31, Mjelde 34, Bachmann 41, Kirby 80, 85

Crowd: 775