Chelsea 1-0 Aston Villa
Words and Pictures by Ben Gilby
Above: Chelsea celebrate after Beth England’s first half header sealed their 1-0 win at Kingsmeadow. Photo: Ben Gilby
Chelsea ended their pre-season campaign with victory over Aston Villa in front of over 1,000 noisy spectators at Kingsmeadow.
It was a disjointed performance from Emma Hayes Champions, although with all her returning Olympians in action for the first time since returning from Tokyo, it was to be expected. The positives for Chelsea were a run out for all the senior players with the exception of Lauren James who Hayes has stated will not be ready for a while yet.
Despite the defeat, Villa boss Carla Ward will surely be very pleased with her squad’s showing. Exceptionally well organised at the back with Alisha Lehmann a big threat along the right hand side and Hannah Hampton solid in goal.
In a cagey opening, the vast majority of play from a Chelsea perspective was through the middle. Erin Cuthbert was finding acres of space on the left but not found with any regularity by her team mates. This was a missed opportunity for the Blues as on the occasions the Scottish terrier was involved, she created real danger.
Villa created several opportunities in the first half with the Lehmann providing balls across for Freya Gregory, but her finishing was off target.
The Blues punished Villa for these missed opportunities on 24 minutes when Guro Reiten’s cross was headed in by Beth England.
Chelsea struggled to construct real out and out chances on the night and when they did, they found Hannah Hampton in decent form in the Villa goal.
Cuthbert was very unlucky not to have doubled Chelsea’s lead on the hour when her shot went agonizingly wide and not long afterwards, Pernille Harder’s effort lacked the power to trouble Hampton.
With 20 minutes to go, Chelsea brought on nine substitutes with only Jess Carter and Magda Eriksson remaining on the pitch.
These raft of changes did bring the opportunity for the renewal of the telepathic partnership between Fran Kirby and Sam Kerr. There was one glorious link up between the two at the death when Kirby popped up on the left flank and played a sublime ball into Kerr who shot wide.
With the FASWL starting next week, both teams will have work to do to build on what was on display last night. Chelsea journey to the Emirates to take on Arsenal in a mouth watering clash and Aston Villa need to find a way of finishing the chances that Lehmann creates when they host newly promoted Leicester City. But, for now it’s just great for the fans to be able to see their heroes again before the pressure of domestic and European club football begins again.
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Teams: CHELSEA: Berger (Musovic 69); Carter, Bright (Nouwen 69), Eriksson, Charles (Fox 69); Ji (Spence 69), Leupolz (Ingle 69); Cuthbert (Fleming 69), Harder (Kirby 69), Reiten (Andersson 69); England (Kerr 69). Substitute Not Used: Telford (GK).
Scorer: England 24.
ASTON VILLA: Hampton (Rogers 68), Mayling, Sargeant (Ndow 31), Asante, Pacheco, McLoughlin, Allen, Trialist (Brown 62), Lehmann (Hayles 82), Boye-Hlorkah, Gregory (Trialist 68). Substitutes Not Used: Arthur, Goodwin, McAteer, Rabjohn.