It’s a goal she must have scored 1,000 times in her dreams… an overhead gem which Magda Eriksson rifled home against Liverpool to give Chelsea Women a morale-boosting victory ahead of their midweek Champions League trip to Italy.
The defender met Erin Cuthbert’s corner kick – one of nine won by the Blues, reflecting their dominance in this Women’s Super League Sunday afternoon match – brought the ball down and, with her back to goal, executed a superb flying bicycle shot up and over helpless Scouser keeper Fran Kitching.
It was a goal which came in the 27th minute of a match played in alternating blinding sunshine, heavy grey cloud and horizontal hail, and it was the only one of the game, despite Chelsea’s continuous forays upfield in both halves.
Dominating possession, they heeded manager Emma Hayes’ programme instruction to both players and fans: “Don’t get frustrated!” She acknowledged that a string of 0-0 results had dented confidence on the pitch and in the stand, but will have been grateful for three points and a positive outcome against a Liverpool side which boasts some of the most fleet-footed players in the land.
Even Hannah Blundell, something of a whippet down the wing, couldn’t match Rinsola Babjide for pace – the wiry Liverpudlian posing some of the biggest threats of the afternoon, though her own frustration eventually got the better of her, and she was booked for petulantly wellying the ball away after a free kick was awarded against her.
Chelsea had a slew of half-chances before Eriksson’s goal, and plenty afterwards too. But they couldn’t get the second goal needed to kill the game off.
While it remained 1-0 there was, at times, an edginess to play, with Liverpool occasionally threatening towards the end. Carly Telford, in the Blues goal, had just two saves to make – one in the single minute of stoppage time at the end of the first half, from Kirsty Linnett, and one right at the death, when she made a vital interception of Jess Clarke’s cross/shot.
That came in the fourth of six minutes of extra time, occasioned by the dramatic and worrying clash of heads in the 82nd minute between Chelsea sub Maria Thorisdottir and Liverpool defender Jasmine Matthews, which saw both women leave the pitch after several minutes of lying in the opposition area, seemingly unconscious.
The speed with which the medical teams raced on told its own story. Both women were immediately substituted, with Thorisdottir being assisted round the pitch perimeter to a loud ovation from the 1,528 in Kingsmeadow, still gingerly touching the left side of her forehead.
The latest Opta stats reveal that Liverpool’s Niamh Charles (who didn’t play in the Chelsea game) and Jessica Clarke (who did) have attempted the most dribbles this season, with 32 and 26 respectively. Vicky Jepson’s side are quick on the break, and gritty at the back – notably with Satara Murray’s hearty interceptions and dogged defending.
But it was still Chelsea that had the best of this encounter, controlling the pace, creating the chances and rebuffing attempts by the Reds to get back into this game.
Magda Eriksson, heroine of the hour, shared her thoughts afterwards. “I don’t really know what happened! I just tried to get it on goal, and it felt like it took ages for it to go in. I’m so happy with it, and so happy with three points today. We were desperate to get them, and we played really well today as a team as well.
Asked if it was the best goal she’d ever scored, she said: “Yeah! I haven’t scored that many. It’s either a header or a bicycle kick, I guess.
“We need to build on this performance. Of course we could have, and should have, scored even more goals. But the three points is all that matters for us now. We had a really good team performance – we played together and everyone fought right until the end, so I’m very pleased.
“Looking ahead to the Fiorentina game, the clean sheet is always a good sign. We’ve been quite consistent with clean sheets this season, so that’s always a good sign… and we know that goals will come; we have enough quality for that. We’re in one of those moments right now where, you know, where the ball just doesn’t want to [go in].”
The Blues now fly to Tuscany for the return leg of their tie against Fiorentina, with a one-goal advantage. The match will be played at 5.30pm, UK time, on Halloween.