Chelsea thrash Villa despite exhaustion worries

Aston Villa welcomed Chelsea to the Poundland Bescot Stadium on Sunday, and the game couldn’t have come at a better time for Carla Ward’s side. Chelsea were taken to penalties on Thursday night by Lyon, and while Emma Hayes’ side emerged victorious, she spoke post-match about their injury concerns and fatigue ahead of the season run-in.

AVL: Hampton; Pacheco, Turner, Patten, Staniforth; Dali, Blindkilde; Hanson, Nobbs, Lehmann; Daly

CHE: Musovic; Charles, Eriksson, Buchanan, Carter; Ingle, Fleming; Reiten, Cankovic, Rytting Kaneryd; Kerr

Guro Reiten looked to help Chelsea to an early opener as she rushed down the left flank early on, playing in Sam Kerr in the centre of the box – but Hannah Hampton did well to deny the Australian from close range.

Despite talk pre-match of Chelsea potentially being tired and off their best, Emma Hayes’ side looked to assert their dominance early on – winning the midfield battles and preventing Villa from getting a look in on goal.

The Blues came close with 15 minutes on the clock, forcing Hannah Hampton into a fine save after Guro Reiten got a shot off from close range. Villa had a chance of their own soon though, but Kenza Dali’s effort was blocked too.

Chelsea’s best attacking plays seemed to come from a combination of Guro Reiten and Niamh Charles on the left flank, and the pair combined to create an opportunity for Sam Kerr – but the Australian couldn’t stretch to reach the ball into the box.

Emma Hayes’ side finally took a deserved lead in the 22nd minute though, as Jelena Cankovic capitalised on a poor clearance from Villa. Guro Reiten picked the ball up, heading it down to the feet of Cankovic who fired a sweetly-hit effort into the back of the net.

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The Blues were doing exceptionally well at denying Rachel Daly chance to progress the ball, as they knew that would be the key to Villa’s success. Chelsea had the majority of possession, but when they didn’t, they were marking Daly so closely to ensure she wasn’t an option for her teammates.

Guro Reiten could have doubled Chelsea’s lead in the 35th minute after Sam Kerr squared it to the Norwegian, but she appeared to have leant back a little too much, powering her strike over the bar instead of finding the back of the net. It really felt as if a second goal was coming for Chelsea, who were well and truly dominating their opposition.

Sam Kerr was the next to take on a shot after Jelena Cankovic sent her through on goal – but her effort ricocheted off the crossbar! The Blues doubled their lead in the 43rd minute though, as Guro Reiten intercepted a stray pass from Rachel Daly before playing a one-two with Cankovic. The Serbian’s pass back to Reiten was superb, allowing the Norwegian to strike first-time, tucking her effort away between the post and Hannah Hampton.

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Villa sought to reduce the deficit straight from the break, with Alisha Lehmann breaking free on the right and driving a ball towards Kenza Dali in the centre of the box – but it was blocked well by Jess Carter. The hosts regained possession and recycled the chance, but couldn’t make it count.

Sam Kerr was the next on the scoresheet though, bagging her 50th Women’s Super League goal. The Australian picked the ball up on the left flank, working infield before firing a shot across the face of goal. In doing so, she not only sent her side 3-0 up, but also became the second fastest player to hit 50 goals in WSL history – second to only Vivienne Miedema.

There were a few chances for either side as the game finally drew to a close, though neither team was able to capitalise on them – and Chelsea head back to the capital with a three-nil win over Villa. Attention now turns to the international break, with England set to face Brazil and Australia at Wembley and Brentford’s Gtech Community Stadium respectively. Emma Hayes will be hoping that Chelsea’s representatives stay fit, as she battles with an already depleted squad.

Tonight’s win takes Chelsea one point off the top spot, though they have a game in hand over Manchester United. Should they win that fixture against Brighton, they’ll find themselves topping the Women’s Super League – and at that point, it’s fair to say they’d be considered favourites to lift the WSL trophy at the end of the season.

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