Chelsea Women began their pre-season campaign with a frustrating 5-2 loss to Montpellier in the Women’s French Cup on a blistering hot evening in the south of France.
The Blues came up against a fitter and sharper opponent who were dominant throughout the contest, particularly in the first half as Montpellier scored four goals.Our latest signing, Guro Reiten, registered her first goal in a Chelsea shirt and her Norwegian team-mate, Maren Mjelde, converted wonderfully from the penalty spot in the closing moments of the game. However, the two goals were not enough to compete with a ruthless Montpellier today.Emma Hayes’ squad travelled across the channel on Monday for our first pre-season tour. We had been invited to take part in the Women’s French Cup, a friendly pre-season tournament between Chelsea, Montpellier, Paris Saint-Germain and Bayern Munich.The Blues have played Montpellier twice previously. The first occasion was a friendly in last years pre-season, which ended in a narrow 3-2 defeat and the second meet was at the quarter-final stage of the Women’s Champions League in the 2017/18 campaign.Hayes started with Anita Asante and Maria Thorisdottir as the centre-back pairing, with Deanna Cooper and Jess Carter stationed at full-back in front of Ann-Katrin Berger in goal.Drew Spence was today’s captain in midfield alongside Sophie Ingle, Ji So-Yun and Reiten, Adelina Engman and Bethany England were the attacking duo.
Montpellier opened the scoring four minutes into the match when Sandie Toletti made a clever run in between Maria Thorisdottir and Deanna Cooper. And the French midfielder calmly finished her effort into the bottom corner.Their lead was doubled shortly after as our defence got split open again, and this time Sarah Puntigam found joy and rounded the onrushing Berger.The Austrian earnt herself a brace seven minutes later when a corner got whipped into the middle of the box, and the Chelsea players failed to clear the ball which enabled Puntigam to tap in from close range.Montpellier’s goal tally increased on the stroke of half time, Toletti also got her second of the match when she powerfully headed her effort out of reach of our German goalkeeper.The Blues eventually responded and Reiten scored her first-ever Chelsea goal in added time of the first half with a well-placed finish.Ji So-Yun, who had been pulling the strings in the heart of midfield threaded the ball through to the no.11, who composed herself to slot underneath Cindy Perrault in the French goal.
The Blues began the second half nervy and unsettled, and Montpellier did not let up on the intensity. They continued to apply pressure to our back-line, which saw Nerilia Mondesir increase their score-line on the 59th minute.The forward met the ball on the right flank, she burst ahead and dispatched her effort past Berger who almost got a glove on it.With half-hour left on the clock, Hayes opted to make a change of personnel and made six substitutions. This included the introduction of Charlotte Fleming in central midfield for Spence, who is one of two Chelsea academy players.Cooper and Thorisdottir made way for Millie Bright and Magdalena Eriksson in defence and Mjelde replaced Ji. Fran Kirby replaced our first goal scorer Reiten, and Ramona Bachmann swapped in for Beth England.The changes freshened up the side and gave other players the chance to gain valuable minutes in preparation of our league opener against Spurs at Stamford Bridge on Sunday 8 September.In added time, referee Savina El Bour pointed at the penalty spot after a Montpellier player brought down Kirby who was through on goal. Mjelde, who had the captains armband at the time, stepped up and blasted her penalty into the top corner of the net.Despite the defeat, the players moved one step closer to peak fitness after putting in a big shift against top-quality opposition this evening.We will next be in action on Thursday when we face either Paris Saint-Germain or Bayern Munich at the same venue, Stade Michel Bendichou.Chelsea (4-4-2) Berger; Carter, Asante, Thorisdottir (Bright 60), Cooper (Eriksson 60), Ingle, Spence © (Flemming 60), Ji (Mjelde 60), Reiten (Kirby 60), Engman, England (Bachmann 60).Unused subs: Telford, Orman, Blundell.