A dramatic salmon-pink sunset over Surbiton was the backdrop for Chelsea Ladies’ first European night under the floodlights at Kingsmeadow, with Bayern Munich the illustrious visitors.
That the Blues achieved a 1-0 victory, with backs against the wall, augers well, while the 2,136 attendance proves there is a local appetite for affordable top-flight women’s football in the area.
It’s been a great start to the new football era for the Ladies at Kingsmeadow with a 6-0 drubbing of Bristol City on the first day, followed by a 6-0 win away at Sunderland.
On October 4, the Blues approached their opening Women’s Champions League fixture against Bayern with gusto, despite having lost 3-0 to the Bavarians in pre-season.
New signing Maria Thorisdottir, playing an unfamiliar right wing-back role, created early openings, while the sprinting duo Fran Kirby and Drew Spence led the breakaways.
The goal came in the 10th minute, with Spence steering the ball home.
In the second half Bayern almost overwhelmed Chelsea Ladies, but the Blues showed gritty resilience to cling on for victory.
With tickets pegged at £6 (£3 juniors) even for floodlit European matches, and just £3/£1 for the league cup, the spectators who enjoyed the early matches sense they’re catching a wave.
Chelsea Ladies’ arrival means Surbitonians now have top-flight women’s hockey and football on the doorstep.
The challenge? To fill Kingsmeadow week after week. The recent AFC Wimbledon v MK Dons game at the stadium pulled in 4,000, while Chelsea Ladies achieved 1,540 on opening day… but if the torrent of goals continues, that will surely grow.
The summer Women’s Euros set pulses racing. The Lionesses’ 2-1 win over Portugal even beat Love Island in the TV ratings. The FA’s Kelly Simmons said: “It puts women’s football in the shop window, challenging perceptions that it isn’t for girls.”
The Blues’ squad also includes South Korean talent Ji So-Yun. As the second biggest concentration of Koreans outside Seoul is a five-minute bus ride from the ground, there’s scope to tap into another pool of potential local support.
The next goal rush is expected to be Yeovil Town’s visit at 2pm on October 29. Tickets at www.chelseafc.com