Ladies report: Doncaster Rovers Belles 1 Chelsea 4

Chelsea Ladies came from a goal down to thrash Doncaster Rovers Belles in an entertaining FA Cup fifth-round tie at Keepmoat Stadium.

After conceding just five minute into the game, the Blues responded well to draw level through an own goal by Nicola Hobbs. A debut strike from Karen Carney put us in front in the second half and then a wonderful goal by Ji So-Yun made it 3-1 before Eniola Aluko put the seal on a brilliant performance.

Emma Hayes made several changes to her side from last weekend's 7-1 win over Bristol City Women in our final pre-season friendly. Hedvig Lindahl was back between the sticks in place of Fran Kitching. The back four lined up, from right to left, with Hannah Blundell, Niamh Fahey, Millie Bright and Gilly Flaherty. In midfield, Drew Spence partnered Katie Chapman and in front of them was the trio of Gemma Davison, Ji and Carney. With Fran Kirby not available, Aluko played as the lone forward.

The home side made a bright start and almost went ahead after three minutes when a sliced clearance from Fahey gave Courtney Sweetman-Kirk a sight at goal, but Lindahl was out quickly and the forward could only slice her shot wide.

It proved to be a short-lived reprieve for the visitors, playing in our white away strip with blue socks, as Jess Sigsworth embarked on a fine solo run and then wriggled her way free inside the box to fire a low effort past Lindahl.

Having looked off the pace in the opening minutes, the Blues came to life after the goal. Our first chance came the way of Aluko, who showed great strength to hold off the goalkeeper from a corner-kick whipped in by Karen Carney but somehow Donny smuggled the ball clear.

The first sign of the slick, one-touch passing which has been on display from Hayes' side over the past couple of years duly arrived in the 10th minute, but the final pass for Davison was slightly over-hit and the winger could only find Nicola Hobbs with her shot. The goalkeeper went from hero to villain, though, as from the resulting corner she could only touch the ball into her own net after Flaherty had helped the ball on and Leandra Little had headed it back towards goal.

Spurred on by the goal, Chelsea looked far more confident, especially attacking down the flanks, and once such move saw Blundell glide past her marker with a lovely first touch to cut in from the right; although her pull-back was missed by Aluko, Ji was onto it like a flash, taking a touch and firing in a low left-footed strike which beat the keeper but was cleared off the line by Little.

More desperate defending from Doncaster saw Simpkins and Roberts block from Ji and Davison respectively, but Natasha Dowie's header at the other end called for Lindahl to make a decent save. The Blues should have been ahead by the break, however, as with virtually the last kick of the half Davison was played in by Aluko. Her finish looked to have caught out Hobbs, but somehow the keeper clawed it out.

There were no changes made by either side at half-time, nor was there any alteration to the balance of play. It was nearly all Chelsea at the start of the second period and although Aluko sent a header wide from within the six-yard box, we didn't have to wait long to take the lead as Carney raced through on goal and with only the goalkeeper to beat she sent a delightful left-footed lob over the stranded Hobbs and into the back of the net. It was a fine way to mark her competitive debut for the Blues.

The goal just before the hour mark sparked a flurry of chances for the visitors through a combination of Donny losing their shape and Hayes' side oozing confidence. A great run by Aluko presented Ji with a sight at goal, only for the South Korean's side-footed effort to rattle the crossbar, and the duo switched roles soon after for Aluko to drive across goal, but Hobbs brilliantly tipped it wide.

The pressure eventually paid off with two goals in as many minutes from the two players who had both gone so close moments before. The first was of the highest quality. Aluko switched the play to Blundell, whose first touch and cross allowed Carney to deftly touch the ball back to Ji for an emphatic left-footed finish. Then it was Aluko's turn to get the goal her performance deserved as she followed up her hat-trick last week with a low finish which Hobbs half-stopped but couldn't prevent trickling over the line.

Then came the changes; Beth England was the first on, making her debut for the Blues against her former club in place of Davison, while Jade Bailey was another making her maiden appearance as she replaced Aluko. The final substitution saw Jenna Legg replace Carney, who received a standing ovation from the travelling Chelsea support.

Other than a couple of blocks, the game was comfortably seen out and, if anything, the lead could have been greater, as England was a whisker away from marking her debut with a goal and both Spence and Ji failed to make the most of breakaway opportunities.

Still, after conceding the early goal it was a more than satisfactory afternoon for Hayes' side, who return to the Keepmoat Stadium on Thursday for the first game of our FA Women's Super League 1 defence.

Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Lindahl; Blundell, Bright, Fahey, Flaherty; Chapman, Spence; Davison (England 74), Ji, Carney (Legg 83); Aluko (Bailey 76)

Unused subs: Kitching, L Rafferty

Goals: Hobbs (og) 14, Carney 59, Ji 70, Aluko 73

Doncaster Rovers Belles: Hobbs, Easton (Gummer 76), Tierney (Mosby 76), Little, Roberts, Lipka, Sweetman-Kirk, Dowie, Sigsworth, Simpkins, Barker

Goal: Sigsworth 5

 

Picture credit: Ray Smith