Chelsea Ladies left it late to beat Everton Ladies on Sunday as they remained unbeaten in the league with a 1-0 victory. Chelsea’s start to 2018 hasn’t seen them at their most fluid and creative best on the pitch and this match continued that trend. The fact they managed to grind out a victory however, will leave them in good stead in preparation for Thursday’s rescheduled top of the table clash with Manchester City Women. Everton Ladies can count themselves highly unfortunate not to get a point or even get the win in a game they had plenty of chances in.
Emma Hayes looked to freshen up the team by making a raft of changes as well as changing the system. Chelsea played with a back four for the first time this season in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Anita Asante came in at centre back for her first appearance for the team after being signed earlier this month while Jonna Andersson came in at left back for her first start, having come on as a sub in the last two matches. Ramona Bachmann was up front on her own with Erin Cuthbert, Karen Carney and Crystal Dunn in the three attacking midfield positions behind her. Everton lined up in their customary 4-3-3 with top scorer Courtney Sweetman-Kirk leading the line.
All the changes made to the Blues line-up seemed to have a negative effect as they started the game in a disjointed manner, failing to keep hold of possession. Everton were able to settle on the ball better and on 15 minutes even had the ball in the net. A simple long ball was flicked on for Sweetman-Kirk to run on to and finish, however she was harshly judged to be offside. The disjointed nature of Chelsea’s performance continued as defensive confusion led to a huge opportunity for Everton. Again, a simple long ball wasn’t dealt with as Sweetman-Kirk ran through on goal only to be brought down by Asante to concede a penalty. Sweetman-Kirk stepped up herself to take the kick, but her penalty hit the outside of the post before going out of play.
The second half saw an improved Chelsea, but it took for the triple introduction of Fran Kirby, Ji So-Yun and Maren Mjelde midway through the half for things to really get going in an attacking sense for the Blues. Crystal Dunn was beginning to find a lot of joy out on the right hand side and the ball kept coming over to her side. On one occasion, Dunn managed to put in a cross that was inadvertently deflected to the edge of the box with Fran Kirby lurking, unfortunately her well struck volley was saved.
Chelsea continued to press forward with Ji having another close effort on goal. It took until the 84th minute for the deadlock to be broken; Dunn made another jinking run from the right into the box, the ball fell to Fran Kirby who fantastically feigned as if she was about to shoot before shifting the ball over to Jonna Andersson to shoot first time into the net via the crossbar.
Andersson’s first goal for the club couldn’t have come at a better time and Chelsea will be relieved to come away with the win in another tough battle. All focus now shifts to Thursday’s huge game against Manchester City.
Player of the Match: Crystal Dunn (Chelsea) – Just like her team mates, her first half performance wasn’t the best but after the break was involved throughout. Dancing past multiple Everton players on several occasions from the right, her lovely run led to the late winner.