A goal and four assists for Guro Reiten helped Chelsea Women return to the top of the Women’s Super League table after a convincing victory at Leicester City, our 11th consecutive win in all competitions.
The Blues had been temporarily ousted as league leaders after victories for Manchester United and Arsenal earlier in the day but that didn’t dampen the spirits of Emma Hayes’s side, who were clinical and in control throughout.
Reiten’s glut of goal involvements started with a strike of her own inside four minutes before she teed up Jessie Fleming to make it 2-0 before the quarter-hour mark. The next period of the game was quieter but the visitors finished the first half with a flourish as Fran Kirby, Niamh Charles and Sam Kerr all notched.
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Leicester improved after the interval and forced Ann-Katrin Berger into some serious work to preserve her clean sheet, although it was Chelsea with the additional goals in the second period as Charles and Kirby completed braces and substitute Bethany England powered in a late header.
The win returns Emma Hayes’s side to the top of the table, three points clear of our nearest rivals albeit having played a game more. It was the perfect way for the boss to mark her 300th game in charge!
There were two changes from our last outing against Real Madrid in the Women’s Champions League with both Eve Perisset and Fleming returning to the side.
Erin Cuthbert, scorer against the Spaniards, dropped to the bench while Kadeisha Buchanan was absent from the matchday squad.
That also meant an unchanged trio of Kirby, Reiten and Kerr in attack.
On our last visit to the King Power Stadium back in March, it took less than 180 seconds for Reiten to open the scoring and though the Norwegian needed a whole additional minute to do the same this term, her strike represented another blistering start for the Blues in the East Midlands.
It came with our first meaningful attack of a cold afternoon after Sophie Ingle punched an incisive pass through the midfield line and into the feet of Fran Kirby. The Euro 2022-winning Lioness kept things simple and laid the ball back for Reiten, who steered a left-footed shot past the goalkeeper from just inside the box.
For Reiten, who has been nominated for the November WSL Player of the Month award, it continued her excellent form. Meanwhile, for the visitors, it provided an immediate platform from which to build our fluid attacking moves and the chances soon mounted up.
Kerr saw a strike blocked behind for a corner before Kirby forced a low save from Demi Lambourne, the Foxes goalkeeper. A second goal felt inevitable and it soon arrived before the 15-minute mark when Johanna Rytting Kaneyrd advanced down the right flank and delivered.
The Swedish international’s cross evaded its target in the centre but fell nicely for Kirby, whose low strike was kept alive by Reiten at the back post and eventually poked in by Fleming from a few yards out.
Reiten looked to build further on her early goal and assist, playing in Kerr with an excellent pass down the inside-left channel which the striker reached before Lambourne. After knocking it past the keeper, the damp surface narrowed the angle against our number 20 and Reiten’s eventual effort was saved.
Leicester came into this game against the reigning champions still searching for their first points of the season in their ninth match, making this a top-versus-bottom clash at the start of the weekend.
While the hosts had a couple of promising moments in possession, there was little in the first half to trouble a Chelsea defence that had kept back-to-back clean sheets.
Kerr looked likeliest to be next on the scoresheet, clipping narrowly wide following a wonderful tee-up by Kirby before she struck the post at the end of a swift counter-attack initiated by Reiten.
Guro the guru
After two goals in the opening 13 minutes, another flurry came at the end of the half as the Blues turned a solid 2-0 lead into a 5-0 advantage before the break with some magical football.
Reiten was at the heart of everything good we produced and it was the 28-year-old’s clever cross after a period of sustained pressure around the Leicester box that unlocked the door for our third goal. Kirby took the delivery down on her chest and then dispatched a fine finish on the half-volley.
Moments later, Charles made it four when she found space at the near post to flick on Reiten’s inswinging corner from the right and then watch as the ball looped over Lambourne and into the far corner.
Our fifth came in the final minute of the first period and was perhaps Reiten’s most impressive contribution of the afternoon as she dissected the Leicester defence with a pinpoint cross from the left to find Kerr, who finished first-time for 5-0. Reiten walked off for the interval having played a part in all five of our goals and the Blues were in command.
Foxes fight on
Leicester made a double change at half-time and one of the new arrivals, Natasha Flint, forced a first save from Ann-Katrin Berger within moments of the restart. It was a low effort but lacked the power to really trouble our German goalkeeper.
The difference in the clinical edge of these two sides was then demonstrated when the Blues went up the other end and added another to their score count, the persistent Charles turning provider from the left and Charles turning in Jemma Purfield’s half-clearance for her second of the afternoon.
The Foxes were beaten but refused to be broken and their best spell of the game came around the hour mark as Aileen Whelan tested Berger from range before Flint brought a wonderful flying save from our number 30.
Impact from the bench
Molly Pike then skied over the crossbar as the Blues struggled to deal with a corner into the six-yard box before Kaneyrd fired into the side-netting at the end of a slick move from right to left involving Kirby and England.
Another substitute, Jelena Cankovic, then fired wide before England got in on the act in the 75th minute. Mille Bright’s diagonal switch found Alsu Abdullina on the left and the new arrival picked out England in the centre, with the forward finishing with a powerful header planted inside the near post.
Hayes’s side beat Leicester by an aggregate score of 16-0 last season and the floodgates were open again as Chelsea produced another ruthless finishing masterclass at the King Power Stadium.
Kirby rounded off the scoring with eight minutes remaining, latching onto Abdullina’s byline cutback and pouncing as Lambourne spilled the ball, dinking it majestically over the floundering goalkeeper and guiding it over the goal-line.
The games continue to come thick and fast before Christmas. It’s a trip to Spain next as we visit Real Madrid on Thursday 8 December looking to secure our place in the next round before we host Reading at Kingsmeadow three days later in the Women’s Super League.
Chelsea Berger; Perisset (Carter 75), Bright, Eriksson (c) (Nouwen 75), Charles; Fleming (Cankovic 63), Ingle, Rytting Kaneryd, Kirby, Reiten (Abdullina 75), Kerr (England 63)
Unused subs Musovic, James, Svitkova, Cuthbert
Scorers Reiten 4; Fleming 13, 50; Kirby 39, 82; Charles 41; Kerr 45, England 75
Leicester City Lambourne, Tierney (Smith 83), Brougham, Pike, Whelan (c), Simon (Bott h/t), Howard, C. Jones, Goodwin (Cain 76), Purfield (Vance 78), Baker (Flint h/t)
Unused subs Levell, E. Jones, Scofield, Robinson
Booked Tierney 36