Cradling her little son Harry, who is now three months, Chelsea Women manager Emma Hayes admitted that the 3-1 victory over Brighton & Hove Albion had been every bit as tough as she had anticipated at a sultry Kingsmeadow. Her opposite number, the former England Lionesses gaffer Hope Powell, made life difficult for the
Cradling her little son Harry, who is now three months, Chelsea Women manager Emma Hayes admitted that the 3-1 victory over Brighton & Hove Albion had been every bit as tough as she had anticipated at a sultry Kingsmeadow.
Her opposite number, the former England Lionesses gaffer Hope Powell, made life difficult for the Blues, who are so used to carving open opposition defences that frustration risks setting in if they don’t get their way.
But Chelsea stuck at their task, and felt a whole lot better about this tricky Continental Tyres fixture at half-time, after a rare Seagulls error saw otherwise dogged goalie Sophie Harris misplace a clearance kick, allowing Fran Kirby to intercept and square the ball to an alert Drew Spence during the solitary minute of stoppage time.
Spence made the most of Brighton being suddenly short-staffed at the back, and slotted home to open the scoring.
A scrappy goal by Fran Kirby after 67 minutes looked to have made the tie safe, but 10 minutes later Aileen Whelan got one back for the Seagulls, heading home a corner kick and leading to some nervy moments.
Two minutes from time, sub Beth England headed in Jonna Andersson’s cross to make the scoreline safe.
“It’s hot and that grass is long,” said Emma. “We’re still four weeks into pre-season, but once again we showed the quality that we have, coming off the bench.”
Hope said that she’d been proud of her girls’ resilience against the reigning league champions. “We always knew that [this game] was going to be tough,” she said. “We were disciplined, but they’ve got a lot of strong players and it was good to see us score against a very good Chelsea side.”
Emma said that she always knew it was going to be a tricky task. “I’ve pushed the players hard in training this week, and I’m going to do that for the whole season. If I start the pre-season training any earlier then the players don’t get a break… which is why I say we’re still in a pre-season phase.
“Hope Powell is renowned for being a defensive coach, and an exceptional one at that; you have to respect that our opponents are coming here to be difficult, they’re sitting in their half, blocking lines and looking to counter.
“I didn’t see anything I wasn’t prepared for; the game played out exactly the way I thought it would. All the subs came on and improved the performance. To compete on all fronts we need the collective, and part of the reason we deepened the squad this year is so we’ve got the quality to go even further.
“The squad has more athletic potential and more versatility.”
Emma changed Chelsea Women’s formation for the day from the 4-3-3 against Juve in midweek to three at the back against Brighton, with Sophie Ingle given the ‘Claude Makelele’ role, just in front of an all-blonde back line of Maren Mjelde, Millie Bright and Andersson, but behind the midfield of Jess Carter, captain Karen Carney and the tall figure of Maria Thorisdottir.
Starting up front were Erin Cuthbert, Drew Spence (in the centre) and Fran Kirby.
Emma said that switching the formation gave her team “more fluidity”.
Next weekend, the Conti Cup odyssey continues as the Blues travel to The Hive to face London Bees.
Tickets for all Chelsea Women matches, including season tickets and the crunch opening league game against Manchester City on Sunday September 9 at: http://purchase.tickets.com/buy/TicketPurchase?agency=CLFC_PUBLIC&organ_val=51291&schedule=list&_ga=2.69078162.260045089.1508150524-1264053192.1487938627