Sport Writer Alice Hunt reports on another day to forget for Carla Ward’s Aston Villa side as they suffer a 6-0 defeat to Chelsea
A disheartened and disjointed Aston Villa side were blown away by a dominant Chelsea in the WSL’s lunchtime kick-off. Despite the cold and wet conditions expected for an early winter fixture, 4,086 fans turned out for the game – including a strong Chelsea contingent providing all the noise in Bescot Stadium.
Villa began the game hoping for a win after a tough beginning to the season, with zero points to their name after four games. Unfortunately for Carla Ward’s side, a poor performance and six goals conceded meant that they ended the game bottom of the WSL table – while the impressive Chelsea ended the day top of the league.
Villa enjoyed a bright start to the game, with early attacking pressure culminating in an out-of-character miss from talisman Rachel Daly at the quarter-hour mark. However, chances like these did not come often for Villa, who were outclassed in all areas of the pitch. An impressive save from goalkeeper Daphne van Domselaar and an effort from Chelsea and England star Fran Kirby which hit the bar were just two examples of Chelsea’s command after an initial Villa momentum.
Chelsea’s dominance and Villa’s lacklustre performance were most evident on the left-hand side of the pitch, with Chelsea’s Niamh Charles constantly in acres of space – a trend which was not dealt with by Alisha Lehmann and her Villa teammates. Charles was able to find space in attack after attack for Chelsea, which ended disastrously for Villa, who conceded two goals in the first half. Both Millie Bright and Fran Kirby slotted in rebounds after Villa’s slow-reacting defence were unable to clear their lines – despite an impressive goal-line clearance from Daly in the lead-up to England teammate Bright’s opener.
The second half began in a similar fashion to the first – some brief chances for Villa before the Chelsea control continued. This included an effort from Villa’s Jordan Nobbs, which drew a smart save from Chelsea goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger – just moments after a Fran Kirby goal was disallowed for offside.
What is clear to see is how big of a miss Kenza Dali has been this season as Villa’s midfield struggled yet again. In possession, they were unable to unleash the attacking talent of Daly and Kirsty Hanson and, in defence, were unable to prevent the Chelsea midfield from soaring up the pitch. Despite this, Hanson did provide a spark when she had the opportunity, by testing the resolute Chelsea defence on several occasions – though each time it came to nothing.
Chelsea’s dominance characterised the remainder of the game, with four more goals coming in the second half. The third goal of the afternoon came from yet more poor Villa defensive work, with Joanna Rytting Kaneryd pouncing on a vulnerable Danielle Turner, before providing an impressive finish. Ashley Lawrence picked up Chelsea’s fourth, with Villa’s weak defence again to blame. The pick of the bunch came from Agnes Beever-Jones, who brought the ball in from the left before placing a tidy finish into the net. A goal from Niamh Charles rounded up the 6-0 victory for Chelsea – a goal finishing an exciting performance from the Chelsea number 21.
It is important to note that Chelsea were able to put in such a dominant performance without some of their key players – Sam Kerr was an unused substitute and neither Lauren James nor Guro Reiten featured in the matchday squad. This highlights the strength of this Chelsea team – with their six goals coming from six different players – while an unbeaten start to the season was continued. The performance further exploited the poor form of a Villa team many were tipping for great success this campaign.
Ultimately, the result seemed a fitting prelude to the news of Chelsea manager Emma Hayes’ departure from the club at the end of the season. Alternatively, it has only piled further pressure on Villa’s Carla Ward, with a fifth consecutive defeat in the WSL this season.