Dwarfed by the cloud of smoke that engulfed the north stand at Kingsmeadow, Chelsea keeper Zecira Musovic kept her cool as the Women’s Champions League match against Vllaznia approached the final whistle. Chelsea’s eight-goal demolition of the Albanian title-holders under the floodlights on Wednesday night was the perfect pick-me-up for recuperating Blues manager Emma Hayes,
Dwarfed by the cloud of smoke that engulfed the north stand at Kingsmeadow, Chelsea keeper Zecira Musovic kept her cool as the Women’s Champions League match against Vllaznia approached the final whistle.
Chelsea’s eight-goal demolition of the Albanian title-holders under the floodlights on Wednesday night was the perfect pick-me-up for recuperating Blues manager Emma Hayes, who was watching from home while stand-in Denise Reddy occupied the dugout.
Sam Kerr produced one of her trademark somersaults after netting her fourth goal of the night, while Pernille Harder scored a hat-trick and sub Katerina Svitkova added a peach of a header to complete the 8-0 scoreline.
It was sweet, accurate, relentless one-touch football that left Vllaznia, playing with a line of five defenders, all at sea and unable to even conjure up one chance on Chelsea’s goal.
Keeper Zecira Musovic, given a chance between the sticks with Ann-Katrin Berger being rested, had just a couple of touches of the ball all evening. It was that one-sided.
Chelsea host Aston Villa at the weekend, and if they take their current form into that match, another victory looks likely.
Yet for all Kerr’s success and Harder’s beautiful forward play, Chelsea’s star of the night was Guro Reiten, the creative force down the left wing, who provided cross after cross of outstanding quality, and had four (possibly more) assists.
She is the stealth bomber of the Blues’ side; sneaking up on opponents, darting into tight spaces and always keeping total control of the ball. This Champions League group game was a Reiten masterclass.
Uefa’s visiting officials and observers looked alarmed about policing the huge Albanian contingent of fans, who began letting off flares in their red and blue club colours towards the end of the game.
Mercifully the wind blew the clouds of smoke over Norbiton, rather than the Kingsmeadow pitch, otherwise the Croatian ref, Sabina Bolic, who briefly paused the match to consult security officials, might have had some difficult decisions to make.
Strong gusts from the south east carried the dense billows out and over the north stand, causing brief concern among motorists in Kingston Road.
Keeper Musovic – having nothing better to do – had wandered up to the halfway line anyway, and was nowhere near the pyrotechnics, although she did saunter back to the edge of her goal area and watched as a ground official, wearing thick insulated gloves, gingerly picked up one blue flare that had landed near the penalty spot, and put it in a fire bucket.
Albania’s vast London population seemed to have descended en masse to the ground several hours before the 8pm kick-off, making Fat Boys Cafe their base. Only a couple of hundred tickets had been formally sold to Vllaznia fans, but hundreds more in the 3,022-strong crowd were backing the Albanian women.
Although it all ended peacefully, and the Vllaznia players made new friends by high-fiving everyone on the touchline as they did a tour of the pitch at the end, a stewards’ inquiry will be held by Chelsea to ensure staff are better prepared for any future ‘flare-ups’.
During the game itself, the visiting supporters had been noisy… but there were no signs of fireworks. It was only after 83 minutes, with the score at 7-0 thanks to Sam Kerr (four), Pernille Harder (two) and Katerina Svitkova, that the first flare was lit and lobbed.
After the brief halt and restart, Harder completed her hat-trick, and there were also near-misses by subs Fran Kirby and Beth England – increasingly a lonely figure on the bench these days.
There was also a rare appearance – her first of the season – by the Russian left-back Alsu Abdullina, a player who has been slowly building up to match fitness in training.
The Blues next face Villa at Kingsmeadow on Sunday afternoon (Oct 30).