What was in Fran Kirby's mind after she intercepted a sloppy pass from French fullback Sakina Karchaoui on the edge of the Montpellier area in the fourth minute, and faced a one-on-one duel with Yankee keeper Casey Murphy? She laughed. 'Don't miss!' 'I seemed to have so much time on the ball, so I just
What was in Fran Kirby’s mind after she intercepted a sloppy pass from French fullback Sakina Karchaoui on the edge of the Montpellier area in the fourth minute, and faced a one-on-one duel with Yankee keeper Casey Murphy?
She laughed. ‘Don’t miss!’
‘I seemed to have so much time on the ball, so I just kept it low and kicked it hard,’ she added after Chelsea Ladies’ historic 3-1 quarter-final second-leg win at Kingsmeadow, in front of a record team crowd of over 3,000.
The 5-1 aggregate victory, against a French side generally regarded as technically superior to their English opponents, sets up a semi-final clash with an old enemy, Wolfsburg.
It was a stirring performance from a Chelsea side who seemed determined and knackered in equal measure after a gruelling few weeks of competitive football.
‘It settled the nerves,’ added Kirby of her early goal, beating the Montpellier keeper in a blur of blue. If you’d have wanted any player to get that fourth-minute chance it would have been Kirby. Her five-yard sprint eclipses everyone – a point not lost on delighted manager Emma Hayes.
‘It was a fast start; it was what we asked for,’ she said. ‘Both early goals, at the beginning of each half. We forced them into an error, but Fran deserves the credit. She’s playing at her best-ever level, and I believe she’s the best English player by a country mile!’
Chelsea kicked off, playing towards the Kingston Road end, and had to pinch themselves after the early opener. The fear had been that Montpellier would instantly rob the Blues of their first-leg two-goal supremacy, but resilient defending and the punchy counter-attacks that Hayes had called for before the match were enough to carry the team through to the 37th minute.
Then Montpellier scored, with former Blues striker Sofia Jakobsson – her long blonde mane switching left and right as she ran – engineering a superb goal, cheekily lobbed over the advancing Chelsea keeper Hedvig Lindahl.
Everyone finally relaxed in the second half after Ramona Bachmann raced forward in the 49th minute to loft the ball into the net.
Then Ji So-Yun was felled in the area in the 77th minute, and Kirby scored her second from the spot, placing the ball deftly beyond Murphy’s reach.
Bring on Wolfsburg!