Chelsea Women went back to scoring ways after manager Emma Hayes introduced a more fluid formation to beat a gutsy, determined Brighton Women team at Kingsmeadow.
The Blues had played out three successive goalless draws in the league before Brighton’s visit on Sunday (September 30), so Hayes switched formation to three at the back, with captain Millie Bright, Maren Mjelde and Magda Eriksson in front of in-form keeper Carly Telford – who made a string of impressive saves.
It worked. Chelsea were 2-0 up by half-time, and held on despite Hope Powell’s side’s repeated second-half attacks to gain their first three points of the new campaign.
With new summer defender signing Ali Riley on the bench having returned to fitness following her arrival from Rosegard, the Blues went ahead after 32 minutes when Eriksson’s forward punt was flicked past Brighton keeper Marie Hourihan by Fran Kirby.
Four minutes later, Erin Cuthbert – playing the game of her life for Chelsea – converted Ramona Bachmann’s firmly struck cross from the right by wrong-footing Hourihan. “Yes, we work well together,” Cuthbert said at the end of the game on her right-wing partnership with Bachmann.
In truth, there were superb performances all over the pitch from Chelsea, although Telford, Cuthbert, Eriksson and Bright were particularly eye-catching.
Hayes had expressed concerns about the goal ‘drought’ in her programme notes. “It’s a strange situation for us,” she wrote. “Although we can take the positive of three clean sheets and an unbeaten start, we’re not used to scoring droughts. This, remember, is a tem which netted more than 100 goals last season, and we’ve got scorers throughout the squad.”
With Jess Carter and Jonna Andersson prowling up the right and left wings respectively, and Ji So-Yun and Maria Thorisdottir controlling the centre of midfield, Kirby, Bachmann and Cuthbert were given more freedom up front to work openings and challenge a defiant, and extremely physical, Brighton defence.
With 1,175 cheering them on, Chelsea kept up the pressure in the second half, and weather a series of counter-attacks led by Brighton’s Ini Umotong. Telford was at her best in the 81st minute, tipping a powerful Umotong shot over the crossbar to safety.
Hayes later praised the good team performance and the “energy and tenacity” in every department. She agreed that flipping between three and four at the back had added fluidity to both attack and defence. “We’ve had a good week,” she said.
Eight goals and two victories in the space of five days sets Chelsea up nicely ahead of another international break… with the visits of Arsenal and Liverpool to Kingsmeadow just around the corner.