Chelsea Women put six past Sarajevo in the Women’s Champions League at Kingsmeadow to emphatically advance into the Round of 16. On a mild, moonlit evening they rediscovered the joy of scoring – an immense relief to manager Emma Hayes who, after three successive 0-0 draws in the domestic league, was starting to wonder why
Chelsea Women put six past Sarajevo in the Women’s Champions League at Kingsmeadow to emphatically advance into the Round of 16.
On a mild, moonlit evening they rediscovered the joy of scoring – an immense relief to manager Emma Hayes who, after three successive 0-0 draws in the domestic league, was starting to wonder why the goals that made watching the side last season so enjoyable had mysteriously dried up.
Watched by a disappointingly small crowd of 667, Chelsea put down a marker as early as the fourth minute when Drew Spence paused, controlled then fired the ball home past Envera Hasanbegovic in the SFK 2000 Sarajevo goal.
In the previous leg of the tournament in Bosnia, Chelsea had scored five. So that early strike set up the prospect of a rout.
But Sarajevo mustered their defence well, and for the Blues it became an exercise in patiently breaking down a resolute and determined blockade.
Hasanbegovic, arguably the noisiest goalie who has ever graced the Kingsmeadow pitch, bellowed out Bosnia instructions throughout the game, but as Chelsea dominated the match (Blues keeper Hedvig Lindahl had to make just one catch of a speculative lob, to ironic cheers) the pressure began to tell.
Fran Kirby, through on the gallop in the 31st minute, rounded Hasanbegovic and slotted home a second, before winding the Sarajevo keeper with a firmly struck ball into her midriff moments later.
At half-time Chelsea were cruising… so much so that Emma Hayes was able to look up into the press box to ask about the Manchester City score as she walked back on to the pitch to resume play.
“They’re losing?” she said, asking for more detail. “What? 2-0? Losing!”
The Blues resumed scoring in the 50th minute when Maren Mjelde unleashed one of her specialist long-range free kicks. It sailed over Hasanbegovic’s head, through her flailing arms and dinked down off the underside of the crossbar to make it 3-0.
Hayes rang the changes. Having replaced seven of the team that had faced Everton at the weekend, she made three more substitutions, with Adelina Engman, Drew Spence and captain Kaz Carney coming off, and Ji So-Yun, Erin Cuthbert and Ramona Bachmann coming on… Mjelde taking over the captain’s armband.
A blizzard of shots followed with the fresh legs opening up the Sarajevo defence in a game played almost exclusively in the Bosnia half.
Kirby got her second (Chelsea’s fourth) after nutmegging the keeper in a devastating attack down the right, then Hannah Blundell – one of the hardest workers on the night – made it 5-0 before Kirby got the chance off a hat-trick after being tripped in the Bosnian area.
Uncharacteristically, she fluffed the shot, which was easily blocked. But Cuthbert was alive to the possibility of a rebound, and pounced immediately to make it 6-0 anyway.
“I wanted a performance – and goals come from that,” said Hayes afterwards.
The draw for the next round takes place in Switzerland on Monday. And Man City, dumped out by Atletico Madrid on the night Chelsea Women did so well, will not be in the hat.