Chelsea extended their lead at the top of the Barclays FA Women’s Super League table with a comfortable 5-0 win over bottom side Bristol City at a wet Twerton Park in Bath.
The defending champions were absolutely rampant in the first half, forcing the Vixens to feed on such meagre scraps that you could count the number times that they got out of their own half on one hand.
With just over thirty seconds played, Sophie Baggaley was forced into an excellent one handed save and before the two minute mark, Magda Eriksson was allowed to run through the middle unchecked and fire in a shot which went just wide of the right hand post.
Four minutes in Baggaley saved City again. Pernille Harder’s exquisite back heel to Fran Kirby saw the Lioness play a one-two with Sam Kerr and then found Eriksson who Baggaley denied.
Just two minutes later, Ji sent in a cross which was headed narrowly wide of the left hand post by Kerr.
The Vixens responded when Ebony Salmon, rightly called up to the England squad, played the ball through Ji’s legs and ran onto it to escape into the visitors box and got an early shot away which Ann-Katrin Berger held.
Chelsea’s dominance finally resulted in a goal just before the quarter of an hour mark. A corner came in from the left and Kirby got the slightest of touches to direct it past Baggaley for her tenth league goal of the season.
In the period after the goal, Emma Hayes’ side sought to maximise possession and pulled City around whilst waiting patiently for the right moment to release the final ball. Harder was noticeably popping up all over the place behind the front pair. The influence of Jonna Andersson was also worth emphasising. The Swede is someone who doesn’t get the same sort of headlines that the offensive Chelsea stars do, but she was so influential down the left and tormented Flo Allen and Charlie Wellings non-stop.
With half an hour gone, Ji danced down the left and played a ball in for Beth England who half-volleyed an effort just wide of the post.
Eight minutes before the break, Chelsea doubled their lead. Sophie Ingle won the ball on the right thanks to a great tackle and found Harder. The Dane played in England before receiving the ball back and slamming home a superb shot on the right hand side of the area.
Four minutes later it was three. Kerr was found down the left and found Kirby who had ghosted in on the right hand side of the box to sweep it into the net.
Deep into first half stoppage time, Chelsea almost got another when Andersson came in from the left and lofted an effort which bounced off of the top of the bar and over.
Despite being 3-0 up at the break, with seventy four per-cent of possession and twelve shots on target, Chelsea should arguably have been much further ahead.
The second half opened in heavy rain which would only make the sticky pitch tougher as the game progressed.
Chelsea remained firmly in control. It did though take them a further ten minutes to increase their advantage. Pernille Harder found Beth England down the left and the Lioness’ cross was met by a trademark thumping header from Sam Kerr for her eleventh league goal of the season.
To their credit, the Vixens responded by creating a rare opportunity as Ebony Salmon was found on the left and played in a superb ball – one you felt her team would have wished she could have got on the end of herself – but Ann-Katrin Berger was alive to the danger.
The consequences of that were clear for all to see just four minutes later when Harder popped up and played in a teasing low cross which was prodded into the net by Beth England sliding through the mud.
Back came City and again, it was Salmon who cut in from the left and fired a shot over the bar.
Chelsea continued to create and England came in off the left once more and found Fran Kirby who hit a powerful curling shot which Sophie Baggaley did well to push away for a corner. The resulting flag kick was met by the head of Sam Kerr, but the Australian’s effort flew over.
As the game entered its closing stages, Bristol City created their final half chance when Molly Pike played a beautiful ball across to Charlie Wellings. Her attempt to find Abi Harrison was foiled by the diving Berger.
The visitors had four further opportunities to increase their lead, all of which were dealt with by solid Bristol City defence. First, Erin Cuthbert, on as a sub, got passed Gemma Evans thanks to an outrageous show and go before putting in a dangerous cross which was cleared.
Evans was the victim again shortly afterwards when her slip allowed Sam Kerr to run onto a great long ball from Millie Bright. Kerr fed Guro Reiten, but the Norwegian’s effort was deflected for a corner.
Reiten again created the danger with two minutes to play when her high pass found Kerr. She passed to England, but great work from Kiera Skeels saw the ball out for a corner.
Finally, it was Evans who produced a quite magnificent tackle on Kerr just as the Matildas hot-shot was about to pull the trigger.
Chelsea are now five points clear at the top of the Barclays FA Women’s Super League having played a game more than second placed Manchester City.
This match may well have served as a dress rehearsal for next month’s Continental Cup Final between the two sides at Vicarage Road and ultimately that rather than today’s one is the game against Chelsea that matters for Bristol City. Their FA Women’s Super League future will be decided by games against the teams around them in the table and whilst they remain within touching distance of West Ham United, those survival hopes remain strong.
Bristol City: Baggaley, Allen, Skeels, Evans, Purfield, Matthews, Wellings, Pike, Humphrey, Daniels, Salmon. Substitutes: Bryson, Rafferty, Haaland (GK), Palmer, Bissell, Collis, Harrison, Mastrantonio, Jones.
Chelsea: Berger, Mjelde, Bright, Eriksson, Andersson, Ingle, Kirby, Harder, Ji, Kerr, England. Substitutes: Blundell, Carter, Reiten, Fleming, Cuthbert, Spence, Telford (GK),
Scorers: Kirby 14, 40. Harder 36. Kerr 55. England 60.
Referee: Emily Heaslip.