Match Report

Women's Report: Chelsea 1 West Ham 1

The Blues' final home game of the Women's Super League season ended in a disappointing draw after a second-half header from Gilly Flaherty cancelled out Bethany England's opener.

This was a special occasion at Kingsmeadow as we celebrated Drew Spence's 10 years in the Chelsea first team, and it looked like it would be marked in some style as we dominated the first half and deservedly went into the interval with the lead.

England was the scorer, taking her tally for the season to 18, and it was a trademark effort by our No15 as she stooped to head home a free-kick from Erin Cuthbert shortly before half-time. There were plenty of other chances for us, too, throughout this contest, but we were made to pay when West Ham scored through one of the few attacks they mustered. It came from the head of Flaherty, who was twice a Double winner with the Blues, which meant an afternoon of celebration for Spence ultimately ended in frustration.

The midweek trip to Paris took a lot out of the players both emotionally and physically, so it came as no surprise to see Emma Hayes ring the changes for our final home league fixture of the campaign. Ann-Katrin Berger, Hannah Blundell, Jonna Andersson, Sophie Ingle and Karen Carney were replaced by Carly Telford, Jess Carter, Millie Bright, Ali Riley and Cuthbert.

That meant an ultra-attacking starting XI, with Telford's goal protected by a back four of Carter, Bright, Magda Eriksson and Riley. Mjelde took the anchor role in midfield behind Spence and Ji So-Yun and the front three included Cuthbert and Ramona Bachmann either side of England.

Despite the presence of Bright, our vice-captain, the armband was worn by Spence on her special day. There was also a special presentation made to our long-serving No24 by Hayes, who has been her manager for the past seven years, and the players welcomed her onto the pitch with a guard of honour.

Hayes makes a presentation to Spence

That's as far as the niceties between the sides extended, however, as the game began at a high tempo and with the Blues dictating matters from the first whistle. Indeed, had Lady Luck been smiling upon us we may have found ourselves two goals to the good inside five minutes. First, there was a great chance for England as she raced through on goal, only to clip her finish just wide. Then it was Spence's turn to go close, this time with with a driven strike on the angle which whizzed just the wrong side of the far post.

We continued to push hard for an opener, despite the Hammers becoming more competitive as the half wore on, and Mjelde was the next to go close. Clearly full of confidence after her last-minute strike in Paris on Wednesday night, she whipped a free-kick from outside the D which Anna Moorhouse had to tip over the bar.

An opener was even closer from our next attack, and it was the ever-dangerous England who was the width of the post away from making it 1-0. Ji was instrumental in the build-up, buying herself a yard of space with a cheeky Cruyff turn before sliding a perfect pass through for our No15 to scamper through. The angle was tight, and everyone expected her to square it, but England looked to go near post and drove her strike against the woodwork.

Cuthbert and England celebrate the opener

Our top scorer wouldn't have to wait much longer to add to her team-leading goal tally, though. This time it was the simplest of moves, as Cuthbert sent over an inviting free-kick which England met at the back stick with a diving header past Moorhouse and into the back of the net.

That gave us a lead at the half-time interval which our performance had more than merited, a point which Hammers boss Matt Beard emphasised with a pair of substitutes ahead of the resumption. They were both well received, too, as former Blues duo Claire Rafferty and Kate Longhurst entered the fray.

The first 15 minutes of the second half flew by with little action of note, but then the game burst to life again when England came close to doubling her tally on the counter, with only a last-ditch challenge denying her.

Ji looks to win back possession

That moment proved costly for the Blues as just four minutes later, and following the introduction of Adelina Engman in place of Ji, the visitors drew level. Telford made a brilliant save to keep out a curling effort from Jane Ross, but the resulting set-piece was headed home by Flaherty. Out of respect for her former club, the centre-half didn't celebrate and held her hands up apologetically.

After the goal went in, Hayes wasted little time shuffling her pack; off came Spence and Carter, to be replaced by Carney and Blundell. The response was almost immediate, as first Mjelde and then England came close to restoring our lead, the former with a curling strike which whistled past the post and the latter via a lob which she put a little too much mustard on.

It looked as though the game was petering out into a draw, but there was late drama when both Eriksson and Engman were denied by a magnificent double-save from Moorhouse to preserve a point for her side. It was a frustrating final home game of the WSL season for the Blues, but attention will soon turn to a mouthwatering month in the cups.

There is now an international break, which will be followed by two massive semi-finals in April. We travel to Manchester City in a fortnight's time with a place in the FA Cup final at stake and then it's a double-header with Lyon to see which side will face Barcelona or Bayern Munich in Budapest with the Champions League up for grabs.

Chelsea (4-1-2-3) Telford; Carter (Blundell 70), Bright, Eriksson, Riley; Mjelde; Spence (c) (Carney 70), Ji (Engman 62); Cuthbert, England, Bachmann
Unused subs Berger, Thorisdottir, Andersson, Cooper
Scorer England 42
Booked Carter 15

West Ham United (4-3-3) Moorhouse; Percival, Flaherty (c), Hendrix, Simon (Rafferty 46); Visalli, Reichardt (Longhurst 46), Cho; Lehmann, Kiernan (Kmita 76), Ross
Unused subs Spencer, Sampson
Scorer Flaherty 65
Booked Reichardt 35

Crowd 2,854

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