Bristol City 0–6 Chelsea
By Ben Gilby
Chelsea produced an absolutely rampant performance to retain the Continental Tyres League Cup Final at Vicarage Road but the success was tempered by an appalling injury to Maren Mjelde.
The first final not to feature either Arsenal or Manchester City was effectively over before the half-hour mark as a dreadfully outclassed Bristol City were undone by a super show from Sam Kerr and Fran Kirby.
All the talk pre-game was the dreadful condensed schedule that Chelsea had coming into the Final, which included a trip to Monza in midweek to take on Atletico Madrid. However, any fears that this was a realistic concern was put to bed with just over a minute gone.
Sophie Ingle took possession inside her own half to find Canadian international Jessie Fleming. In turn she played in Guro Reiten. A perfect pass towards the right found Fran Kirby who got in behind the Vixens defence and squared a perfect low ball across the box to Sam Kerr who was not going to miss at the back post. Just ninety-four seconds had been played.
Chelsea continued to swamp their opponents and with seven minutes gone, Melanie Leupolz’s corner to the back post saw Magda Eriksson rise above Yana Daniels at the back post and head narrowly wide.
The Blues were playing some incredible pass and move football in the early exchanges which their Westcountry opponents found nigh on impossible to prevent, forcing them continuously on to the back foot.
With ten minutes gone, Chelsea underlined their dominance with a second. A poor ball out of defence was gobbled upon by the rampant Londoners. Kirby grabbed possession centrally just outside the box and played a perfect ball towards the left for Kerr. The Matilda beat her defender with ease and slotted home before the producing her first trademark backflip in English football.
Just before the twenty minute mark, Chelsea had strong claims for a penalty waved away when Gemma Evans brought Kerr down in the box.
It was relentless from Chelsea with the Vixens simply unable to escape their own half. The Blues had another strong penalty shout Yana Daniels looked to have handled as a ball came into the box. The Londoners were only awarded a corner.
With twenty-four minutes gone, Bristol City lost possession once more with Kirby benefiting again. She ran through the middle and played a ball out to Kerr on the right. The Western Australian returned the favour to the Lioness who continued her run to the edge of the box which saw an effort go narrowly wide of the left hand post.
Chelsea put the icing on the cake before the half-hour mark and it came from a catastrophic error from Bristol City goalkeeper Sophie Baggaley. She found herself on the edge of the ‘D’ with Kerr breathing down her neck as she attempted to make a clearance. The City custodian’s attempted ball out was woefully weak and directed straight at Kirby who simply looped the ball back over Baggaley’s head into the net.
Four minutes later, Kirby grabbed her second. Kerr took possession in the centre circle. Gemma Evans failed to get an effective tackle in which allowed the Fremantle born star to feed Kirby who ran onto the pass, drew Baggaley who tried to block the effort, but the shot deflected off of the keeper and rolled in.
With three minutes of the half remaining, Kirby was denied her hat-trick. Jemma Purfield simply could not stop her 1-2 with Kerr which led to the former Reading star getting a shot away which Baggaley blocked with her legs.
Just before the break, Bristol City had their first shot on goal as Ebony Salmon got away down the right and played a cross over which was headed back to the other Fremantle born player on the pitch, the Vixens’ Ella Mastrantonio whose effort was over the bar.
Shortly afterwards the half-time whistle sounded and the only matter remaining to be settled in this Final now was how many goals Chelsea would add in the second period.
Bristol City started the second half by winning their first corner of the game, but Chelsea dealt with it well. Ann-Katrin Berger’s subsequent clearance found Fran Kirby who scampered away along the right before finding Guro Reiten centrally. A perfectly weighted ball across Vixens defender Keira Skeels gave Sam Kerr a golden opportunity to claim her hat-trick and she rolled her shot past Baggaley with ease.
Less than six minutes later, Chelsea added yet another goal as substitute Drew Spence took possession and played a lovely through ball which eventually found its way to Kerr on the left who fed Kirby once again. The England star could have smashed home her hat-trick, but she played the ball across to Norwegian star Guro Reiten to fire home for a stunning team goal.
It was now reaching humiliation for Bristol City, and a minute later Kerr was clean through once more, but Baggaley was quickly off of her line to block the shot well.
Just before the hour, Ebony Salmon showed her immense skill. Running down the left, she drew Millie Bright and beat her before firing a vicious effort which Berger did well to deflect over. From the resulting corner, Salmon found Skeels who forced another save from Berger.
A combination of Chelsea’s big lead and them having made a raft of substitutions changed the flow of the game. City were now seen more coming forward with Faye Bryson delivering a great cross from the right which was met firmly by the head of Aimee Palmer with Berger needing to push the effort over.
Seconds later, Charlie Wellings released Salmon who ran on to the right hand side of the box and got a fierce drive away which Berger tipped over for another City corner.
With fifteen minutes left, Maren Mjelde received what appeared to be a serious knee injury after a challenge from Palmer, and the Norwegian had to be stretchered from the pitch which will be a major loss for Chelsea for the big games ahead.
When play resumed, City created another opportunity. Harrison was played through but just as she was about to get a shot in on goal, Hannah Blundell put in a challenge to clear the danger at the cost of a corner.
The West Londoners responded with Niamh Charles showing great strength to get free down the left and play a ball in to Drew Spence who met it on the volley but the effort went wide.
That was the last chance as the game drifted towards its conclusion. Chelsea’s incredible performance and achievement is sadly blighted by the appalling injury to such a key player in Maren Mjelde. For Bristol City, they need to put this result behind them quickly to pick up another couple of results which will ensure their FA Women’s Super League status is preserved for another season.
Teams: BRISTOL CITY: Baggaley, Bryson, Skeels, Evans, Purfield, Humphrey, Bissell, Mastrantonio, Wellings, Daniel, Salmon. Substitutes: Smith (GK), Rafferty, Allen, Palmer, Collis, Harrison, Layzell, Jones.
CHELSEA: Berger, Mjelde, Bright, Eriksson, Andersson, Leupolz, Ingle, Kirby, Fleming, Reiten, Kerr. Substitutes: Musovic (GK), Telford (GK), Blundell, Carter, Ji, Charles, Cuthbert, Harder, Spence.
Scorers: Kerr 2, 10, 48. Kirby 29, 34. Reiten 54.