Chelsea Ladies managed to overcome their toughest test of the season so far in their second group stage game of the Continental Tyres Cup, as it took a last gasp penalty to overcome Bristol City Women. The Vixens gave a fantastic account of themselves and can count themselves extremely unlucky not to have come out of the game with anything to show for it.
After the first meeting between these sides ended 6-0 to the Blues, Emma Hayes and her squad could be forgiven for thinking that this game would be more of the same. However, that wasn’t to be the case. Chelsea started the game with a much changed line up from their midweek fixture. Hannah Blundell and Crystal Dunn were restored to the full back positions that they excelled in in the league last weekend while Drew Spence, Erin Cuthbert and Eniola Aluko came in and made up the front three.
The game began with Chelsea dominating possession and it looked like there would be another deluge of goals for the Blues at the Stoke Gifford Stadium. After just five minutes Chelsea had a huge opportunity to open the scoring. After being played in by Hannah Blundell, Drew Spence found herself one on one with Bristol keeper Caitlin Leach who pulled off a fantastic save.
Determined not to continue their losing streak, Bristol came into the game with the intention of not conceding and their game plan worked well throughout the first half as much of it was spent remaining compact and not letting Chelsea get in behind. Emma Hayes’ Ladies toiled and were left frustrated as they failed to get any clear cut chances and had to resort to a lot of long range efforts that were dealt with comfortably. The first half ended in a 0-0 stalemate.
It was becoming clear that for Chelsea to win this match it was going to take something special to break down the Bristol City defence. Fortunately for the Blues, they didn’t have to wait long in to the second half. With the clock ticking towards 48 minutes, Eniola Aluko received the ball at the edge of the box with her back to goal. She managed to cleverly turn her marker and manoeuvre herself into a scoring position where she clinically slotted the ball in.
In response to going a goal down, Willie Kirk made a couple of changes and these changes seemed to have the desired effect. Gaining ascendancy in the match Bristol had a couple of half chances and were getting closer and closer to scoring. Finally in the 85th minute, Chelsea’s domestic run of not conceding was ended. Bristol’s captain Millie Turner was left free to emphatically finish after her first attempt at goal was initially saved.
As the game headed into its final moments, players on both sides were showing signs of tiredness as the pace of the game slowed down. It took one last surge of energy from Karen Carney to break Bristol City hearts. She picked the ball up and drove towards the goal and was caught by a late swinging leg. The referee pointed to the spot and Carney picked herself up to score the last minute penalty herself, sending the keeper the wrong way.
Chelsea Ladies just managed to come out of this game with the three points in what was a huge change from the swashbuckling style they have exhibited in their previous games this season. Credit has to be given to Bristol City who pushed Chelsea as far as they have been pushed and Willie Kirk’s blueprint will definitely be duplicated by Chelsea’s future opponents.
Player of the Match: Millie Turner (Bristol City) – The Vixens’ captain was unfortunate to be on the losing side as she single handedly dragged her team back in to the game with a fantastic finish.