Second-half goals from Bethany England and Guro Reiten, as part of a much-improved display after the break, ensured the Blues made a winning start to our Continental Tyres League Cup campaign.
After a frustrating first 45 minutes, when chances were at a premium, Emma Hayes’ half-time team talk clearly had the desired effect as her team took the game to the Hammers, going ahead through a second goal of the season for England, who finished clinically after being set up by Magdalena Eriksson.
There was some debate over the clincher, which came with 20 minutes left on the clock via the left boot of Reiten. The Norwegian international was credited with her first Chelsea goal after an inswinging corner caught out West Ham keeper Anna Moorhouse, although there was some doubt about the identity of the scorer, with some claiming the fists of the goalkeeper had delivered the decisive touch.
What wasn’t up for discussion was the final outcome of the game, a deserved 2-0 victory for the Blues which gets us off to a perfect start in our Continental Tyres League Cup campaign, which continues in October with a trip to Crystal Palace.
Hayes made five changes to the side which drew at Brighton a week earlier, as Carly Telford, Deanna Cooper, Anita Asante, Maria Thorisdottir and Ramona Bachmann came into the starting XI at the expense of Ann-Katrin Berger, Maren Mjelde, Sophie Ingle, Ji So-Yun and Drew Spence.
That meant we lined up with Telford behind a back four of Cooper, Millie Bright, captain Eriksson and Jonna Andersson. In midfield, Asante sat deepest of a three also comprising Thorisdottir and Erin Cuthbert, while the attacking triumvirate had Bachmann and Reiten either side of England.
Our substitutes’ bench also included Emily Orman, the young goalkeeper from our academy team, who was selected in a matchday squad for the first time, alongside Fran Kirby following our No14’s recent absence with a knee injury.
After our first game of the campaign had been played at Stamford Bridge, it was back to our regular home of Kingsmeadow for our maiden fixture of Continental Tyres League Cup Group D against the Hammers. Aside from the usual pre-season lick of paint, there was also a big screen erected in the corner of the Chemflow End and a new collection of banners dotted around the ground, including several in honour of our World Cup stars who had performed so admirably in France during the summer.
Although the visitors' side wasn’t blessed with as many international players, what they did have going for them was a tenacity and work-rate which ensured the early stages of this contest were far from comfortable for the Blues.
The two sides traded pot shots in the first 15 minutes, as Reiten tested Moorhouse with a low drive which the keeper expertly held on to, before Telford made an even better stop to palm away an opportunistic snap-shot by Adriana Leon that earned a rendition of ‘We’ve got Carly Telford in our goal’ from the home supporters.
Before kick-off, many may have expected West Ham to get plenty of bodies behind the ball and defend deep, but that certainly wasn’t how the game played out in the first half. Although Chelsea were clearly the side looking to get on the front foot and dictate the tempo, our former manager Matt Beard had set his team out to press high when the opportunity arose and to counter at pace.
One such break, which came with Asante caught up the field, allowed Alisha Lehmann to sprint deep into Blues territory and after she passed to Martha Thomas, the Hammers No9 sold Eriksson a dummy and only narrowly cleared the crossbar with a fierce left-footed strike. However, in keeping with the tit-for-tat nature of this contest, Chelsea immediately went up the other end and narrowly missed out on taking the lead when England got across her marker to flick a low Bachmann cross just over the crossbar.
That was as good as it got for the opening half, though, with nearly all the meaningful goal-mouth action coming in the first 20 minutes as the two sides cancelled each other out. The 15-minute interval for half-time was an opportunity for Hayes to get back to the drawing board, with improvements needed after the break following a less than cohesive showing in the first 45.
The Blues immediately emerged for the second half showing greater urgency, as England closed down the West Ham defence and fired a shot straight at Moorhouse within 60 seconds of the restart and then Bachmann cut inside to curl a left-footed shot which required an even better save from the keeper.
The door was well and truly being hammered down at this point, and the opening goal duly arrived with 50 minutes on the clock. England, who had netted so spectacularly a fortnight ago at Stamford Bridge, was the scorer once again, finishing smartly past Moorhouse after taking a pass from Eriksson in her stride.
To their credit, West Ham responded well, forcing the Chelsea defence into several blocks in and around our penalty area, but they were about to be presented with a threat of their own to deal with at the other end as Kirby was introduced just past the hour mark. The visitors responded in kind, bringing on Jacynta Galabadaarachchi, prompting a round of applause for the stadium announcer from some of the West Ham staff sitting nearby for his pronunciation of the Australian striker’s surname!
Another Chelsea change followed, as last weekend’s goal hero Adelina Engman was introduced at the expense of Cuthbert, and her first touch very nearly got her on the scoresheet again as she got on the end of a low cross from Reiten to the back stick but it was brilliantly kept out by Moorhouse.
We didn’t have to wait much longer for our second, though, as the resulting corner kick saw us double our advantage. There was plenty of whip and dip on the left-footed delivery by Reiten and although the goal was announced as hers – and the players immediately ran over to her in celebration – it looked to have been punched into her own net by the Hammers goalkeeper. Should the initial announcement remain, it would mean a first Blues goal for Reiten on her third appearance since signing from LSK Kvinner in the summer.
Although there was the disappointment of seeing Engman leave the field due to injury, we comfortably saw out the remainder of the contest to record our second victory from three games so far this season.
Next up for Hayes and her squad is a trip to Bristol next Sunday for the final fixture before the international break, and you certainly won’t want to miss our next game after that – the visit of Arsenal to Kingsmeadow on Sunday 13 October for what promises to be another wonderful afternoon of Barclays Women’s Super League action.
Chelsea (4-1-2-3) Telford; Cooper, Bright, Eriksson (c), Andersson; Asante; Thorisdottir, Cuthbert (Engman 69); Bachmann (Kirby 62), England (Spence 78), ReitenUnused subs Orman, Carter, IngleScorers England 50, Reiten 70
West Ham Moorhouse, Redisch (Simon 79), Hendrix, Flaherty (c), Lehmann (Kiernan 73), Thomas, Longhurst, Leon (Galabadaarachchi 65), So-Hyun, Middag, VetterleinUnused sub Brosnan
Referee Kirsty Dowle