Chelsea Women concluded our pre-season campaign with a 3-1 victory over the Israeli women’s national team thanks to goals from Bethany England, Magdalena Eriksson and Sophie Ingle in front of a crowd of 8,534 in the Middle East.
The Blues played a much sharper game than our opponents tonight and ended their trip to Israel with a well-deserved win.
England got us off the mark on five minutes when she fired home from four yards out and Eriksson doubled our lead in the early stages of the second half with a rocket of a strike into the top corner.
But it was not all one-way traffic tonight. Israel showed promising signs and got one back 12 minutes later from a good headed effort from Vered Cohen.
Welsh midfielder Ingle extended our goal margin from a clever chip past the Israeli no.1 and sealed us our first win of our pre-season campaign.
Today’s friendly was our final pre-season match ahead of our Barclays FA Women’s Super League opener against Tottenham Hotspur at Stamford Bridge on Sunday 8 September.
The match was staged to celebrate women’s football and support further development of women’s sport in Israel. The game which took place at the Ha-Moshava Stadium, just outside of Tel Aviv, was sponsored by Chelsea’s owner Roman Abramovich and the Israeli FA.
It has been less than a fortnight since the Blues’ pre-season trip to France which resulted in two disappointing defeats. Our first game in the Women’s French Cup ended in a frustrating 5-2 loss against Montpellier, with Maren Mjelde converting from the spot and Guro Reiten registering her first goal in a Chelsea shirt. The second fixture finished with a 5-0 thumping against Bayern Munich.
Against Israel Emma Hayes started her side in a 4-4-2 diamond formation, with Ann-Katrin Berger in goal and the back four consisting of Mjelde, Millie Bright, Eriksson and Hannah Blundell. Ingle, Drew Spence, Ji So-Yun and Fran Kirby made up the diamond in midfield with Reiten and England, who had her first call-up to England’s squad today, were the strike partnership.
Our attacking intent was evident from the whistle, as we pressed high up the pitch with Blundell and Mjelde exploiting the flanks.
A misplaced pass from Israel’s no.7 opened up the first opportunity of the game and a successful one of that. Blundell pounced on a loose ball and powered into the 18-yard box, and her drilled cross fell kindly to Reiten in a congested area. The Norwegian’s effort bounced off a defender towards England, and our no.9 knocked in from close range.
Israel’s first chance came after 27 minutes when midfielder Shahar Nakav spotted Blundell out of position. The 22-year-old played a long-range pass for Shira Elinav to run onto and the right winger drove towards goal with pace and got her shot off. However, Elinav’s attempt did not trouble Berger and our goalkeeper gathered the ball with complete ease.
The opportunities kept coming for the Blues in the first half but the quality of the final pass appeared to be lacking for Hayes’ side. This meant the Blues entered the interval with a slender one-goal lead.
Two changes were made at the break – Spence made way for Jess Carter and Maria Thorisdottir replaced Blundell. There were a number of positional changes as the manager experimented with players in different areas.
The second half began with a wonder goal from today’s skipper Eriksson. England laid off the ball nicely to her team-mate and the no.16 smashed a superb left-footed strike that flew into the top right-hand corner, completely out of reach of Amit Cohen in the Israeli goal.
Shortly after our Swedish international's clinical finish, Reiten almost got her name on the scoresheet and a Ji free-kick hit the outer post.
Both sides made changes with a half-hour remaining, Chelsea’s was a change of goalkeeper as Carly Telford came on.
Israel reduced the two-goal deficit on the 63rd minute. Daniel Sofer used her pace and got around Eriksson, she dinked a lovely ball into striker V. Cohen who looped her headed effort over the top of Telford.
The game suddenly began to open up at this point and both teams’ defence invited pressure. Firstly England broke clear down the right and whipped in a delightful ball which fell kindly to Eriksson, for the Scandinavian to only hit the woodwork.
And then the Middle Eastern country counter-attacked up the field with D. Sofer and V. Cohen being at the heart of the move. The two players linked up well with some tidy one-two passes and the no.11’s effort skimmed the post, which was a huge let off for Telford and the Blues.
On 71 minutes, Ji worked her magic and back heeled the ball over the Israeli defence for Ingle to run onto. Our 2018/19 Players’ Player of the Year, who is known for her defensive qualities, lofted it past the line.
The final changes of the contest came on the 74th minute. Mjelde, Bright and England made way for Anita Asante, Deanna Cooper and Adelina Engman.
Attention now turns to our big opening fixture of the 2019/20 season, which is a London derby against Spurs at Stamford Bridge on Sunday 8 September.
Chelsea (4-4-2) Berger (Telford 59); Mjelde (Asante 74), Bright (Cooper 74), Eriksson (c), Blundell (Thorisdottir); Ingle, Spence (Carter 45), Ji, Kirby; Reiten, England (Engman 74).
Unused subs Andersson.