Still searching for their first win of the 2023/24 Barclays Women’s Super League campaign, Carla Ward surprisingly dropped club captain Rachel Corsie down to a seat on the Aston Villa substitutes’ bench as Maz Pacheco returned to the hosts’ back-four on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Chelsea headed into the contest at the Poundland Bescot Stadium as one of three sides yet to suffer a defeat in the WSL this season, after overcoming Brighton & Hove Albion by a 4-2 scoreline at Kingsmeadow before the international break.
AVL: Van Domselaar; Mayling, Patten, Turner, Pacheco; Nobbs, Staniforth, Blindkilde-Brown; Lehmann, Daly, Hanson
CHE: Berger; Périsset, Bright, Carter; Kaneryd, Nüsken, Cuthbert, Charles; Kirby, Fishel, Fleming
Knowing a victory would temporarily propel them back to the summit of the Barclays Women’s Super League standings, reigning champions Chelsea began the opening encounter of matchday five on the front foot as Fran Kirby struck the crossbar after only eight minutes.
However, there was nothing that Aston Villa goalkeeper Daphne van Domselaar or the Poundland Bescot Stadium woodwork could do to prevent the visitors from taking the lead in the 21st minute. Making her 250th appearance for the club, Millie Bright marked the special occasion with her opening goal of the season, as the Blues’ captain made her way up from the back to fire an unstoppable volley home after Mia Fishel had seen her header cleared off the line by Rachel Daly.Embed from Getty Images
Ominously for Carla Ward’s so-far winless Villans, it would take Chelsea only five minutes to double their advantage, as following a brilliant van Domselaar save to deny Kirby moments earlier, the England international would have the ball in the back net at the second time of asking following Danielle Turner’s instinctive initial goalline clearance.
Determined again to get their names onto the scoresheet before half time, an unrelenting attacking display from the visitors nearly saw this come to fruition. However, a sublime sequence of saves from van Domselaar denied Jessie Fleming, Erin Cuthbert and then the goal-hungry Kirby, as the hosts returned to the home dressing room still with a chance of salvaging something from a so-far one-sided contest.
Demoralisingly for Villa, their hopes of doing that were all but ended in the 56th minute, as after being rescued by the offside flag, which in turn denied Kirby her second of the game, Johanna Rytting Kaneryd marked her return to the Blues’ eleven with a clinical one-on-one finish into the far corner of the net that left van Domselaar with little chance of making a save.
Clearly in the mood to make their hosts suffer further, Chelsea had the ball in the net again shortly after the hour-mark, as Ashley Lawrence was left with the simple task of firing home her maiden goal for the Blues from close range after being left criminally unmarked by a confidence-starved Villa defence.
Already assured of all three points on an unforgettable afternoon at the Poundland Bescot Stadium, Chelsea turned their attention to building a formidably-sized goal difference over their nearest title rivals only four minutes later, as substitute Aggie Beever-Jones added a sublimely struck solely-taken fifth goal.Embed from Getty Images
Niamh Charles would then get in on the goalscoring act in the 73rd minute with a well-timed volley from inside the penalty area after Fleming had left Maz Pacheco wondering which way she would deliver the ball into the box.
Thankfully for Villa, that would turn out to be the last time that a goal-possessed Chelsea side would beat a now clearly frustrated van Domselaar, as the heavy defeat leaves Ward’s side now languishing at the bottom of the WSL. Meanwhile, at the opposite end of the standings, Chelsea have opened up not only a three-point gap over their nearest challengers, Manchester City, but also a positive goal difference by the same number.