Ladies report: Brighton 0 Chelsea 3

The Continental Tyres Cup campaign is off to a strong start thanks to Fran Kirby’s fourth goal of the season, Crystal Dunn’s third in two games and a late strike from Ji So-Yun.

Wednesday night’s game in Lancing on the South Coast was the first group-stage outing for the Blues in this competition and it proved a very comfortable one, even if it took until late in the game for the scoreline to reflect the balance of play.  

Kirby had scored inside quarter-of-an-hour but after that, Brighton proved resilient despite being pressed back for long periods. Their resistance was broken inside the final 15 minutes by a sharp finish from substitute Dunn with Ji capping the performance inside added time. An outstanding Hedvig Lindahl save between those two goals ensured this was the sixth clean sheet in seven games this season. 

There were seven team changes from the 6-0 win against Yeovil at the weekend but as is now guaranteed whichever 11 is selected, it was a strong line-up to face the WSL2 side.

The first incident of note was a yellow card shown to Millie Bright. Brighton’s lone striker Ini Umotong, who had already come off worse in one challenge with the Chelsea defender, was now impeded as she broke beyond halfway and a booking duly followed. It proved to be a rare hiccup in this Blues performance.  

It was not long before Gemma Davison got Chelsea going with a run and cross, quickly followed by another cross from Maria Thorisdottir from the opposite flank which the Brighton keeper attempted but failed to catch but got away with it. Davison then set up Bachmann for Chelsea’s first shot but that cleared the crossbar.

 Wing-back Gemma Davison caused Brighton problems down the right

Bright had a deflected shot saved as Chelsea pushed forward in numbers and it looked only a matter of time before the opening goal. That arrived with 13 minutes on the clock and owed a lot to Ji’s carefully delivered cross to the far post after a Davison shot was blocked. The ball across was half-cleared but only as far as Kirby who was not going to waste her first opportunity and smashed it in from an angle.

 Fran Kirby receives the congratulations for her opening goal

From a straighter position but five yards further out, the England international hit another sweet strike just a few minutes later and very nearly made it 2-0. This time the ball bounced off the top of the crossbar with Chloe Sansom in the Seagulls goal struggling to get to it.

Chelsea were increasingly dominating possession and making the home side work very hard as the game approached half-an-hour played.

Two goalmouth scrambles came close to doubling the advantage, the first when Chapman challenged for a Davison cross and almost bundled the briefly loose ball in, and then Claire Rafferty, making her first start of the season, had several bites at getting it over the line after a surging run and delivery by Bachmann, but a blockade of Brighton players somehow kept it out.

 Claire Rafferty is thwarted on the line

The Blues grip on the game was now vice-like, with Brighton pass after Brighton pass intercepted as they tried to play their way out of their defensive third of the pitch. Kirby was not far from scoring with her longest-distance shot yet as half-time neared but 1-0 remained the scoreline as the whistle blew for the interval.

Emma Hayes’ side picked up where they left off when the second half commenced, although Kirby will be disappointed with her shot when the Brighton backline made a hash of clearing a Rafferty cross.

A scything Davison run through the centre this time, leading to a Ji ball over the top, almost carved out a chance for the Spring Series Golden Boot winner, but the offside flag went up.

Chelsea kept on hammering on the big yellow wall across the home side’s penalty area. Umotong up front for Hope Powell’s side was very isolated, although she did run Lindahl close in a race for a loose ball after former Blue Dani Buet had charged down a clearance.

Dunn had come on by the mid-point in the second half and she hit her first shot over by some distance. Her next one would be unerring. Before then Mjelde’s stinging drive from over 30 yards out was heading into the top corner until a flying save by Sansom. Magda Eriksson then went close with a header from the corner that followed.

Finally, on 76 minutes, all the pressure paid off when Dunn was played in with back to goal but in space inside the area. In a flash the American international turned and smacked the ball high into the net, although we were grateful soon after for a great save by Lindahl to maintain the hard-won two-goal lead. Having been a spectator for so long, the Swede’s strong hand denied Umotong after she had stormed clear.

 Crystal Dunn doubles the lead late on

A corner at the other end inside added time completed the action for the night, as the ball fell to Ji and she struck it across the turf and into the bottom corner of the net for the 3-0 final score.

Next up it is the second game in this competition, away to Bristol City on Saturday.  

Chelsea (3-5-2) Lindahl; Bright (Carney 71) Thorsidottir, Eriksson; Davison, Chapman (c), Mjelde, Ji, Rafferty (Dunn 63), Bachmann (Aluko 75), Kirby.
Unused subs Telford, Blundell, Flaherty, Cuthbert.
Scorers Kirby 13, Dunn 76, Ji 90+1
Booked Bright 2

Brighton (4-5-1) Sansom; Roe (Natkiel 73), Whelan, Ritchie, Perry (c); Thomas, Barton, Buet, Legg, Gibbons; Umotong (Somes 88).
Unused subs 
Gillett, Rafferty, Whelan, Taylor.