Chelsea humbled as they crash 2-1 at home to Brighton to open up WSL title race
By Paul Lagan At Kingsmeadow
Chelsea 1 Brighton 2
Chelsea crashed to a humbling defeat to lowly Brighton 2-1 at home to open up the WSL title race.
Undefeated for a record-breaking 33 matches, Emma Hayes’s side took the lead but were pulled back and ultimately suffered when a simple corner ended up in the back of the net.
With Manchester United losing earlier in the day, Chelsea had a golden opportunity to put daylight between the second-placed side and the chasing pack.
They failed lamentably.
Brighton had a simple game plan, defend deep, tackle as hard as they could and hope for a break.
They did all three with consummate professionalism.
After four minutes Beth England charged down goalkeeper Megan Walsh’s kick out. The striker then passed to in-running Sam Kerr who sliced the ball wide.
But seconds later, from a corner, the Australian headed home from Guro Reiten’s kick. But the South Coast side got themselves back into the game within two minutes, when from a corner of their own, Aileen Whelan, powerfully header past Carly Telford.
Emma Hayes with one eye on Wednesday’s WSL League match giant Arsenal, in mind, made. Number of changes. Millie Bright, Maren Mjelde, Fran Kirby and Ann-Karin Berger the notable absentees. Would that decision come to bite them on the now sponsored shorts - it did.
A Beth England effort, on 20 minutes took a deflection, and clipped the Brighton crossbar as the champions went in search of the lead.
Brighton, too their credit, were proficient in their aggression tactics, hoping to unsettle the hime side.
The home side pushed forward and forced a succession of corners, all dealt with admirably bu the Seagulls.
England was unfortunate to see her header, again from a corner hacked off the line by Danique Kerkdijk with Walsh beaten on 37 minutes.
There were no changes from either sides at half-time.
Kerr had another golden chance after 48 minutes. having slimmed My Le Tissier on the right, she raced into the Brighton penalty area. But her shot to goal was so weak, Walsh had ample time at her right post to snaffle the ball.
Emma Hayes had seen enough not 56 minutes and opted to make a triple substitution, brining in Ji, Pernille Harder and Fran Kirby. Reiten, Fleming and England made way.
The changes increased the tempo in the home side’s game, without increasing the number of threatening attack.
The fourth change saw Hannah Blundell replaced by Mjelde on 78 minutes.
A quick counter attack saw Jonna Andersson flick the ball onto in-running Harder on 76 minutes. The striker side-footed a deft volley which beat Walsh but hit the base of her left post and rebounded safely into her hands.
With minutes and the champions went behind. A Megan Connolly corner was missed by Telford and the ball zipped into the back of her net on 78 minutes.
Despite pushing forward for an equaliser, the Blues failed to create a chance worthy of the name/
They return to league action, on Wednesday against Arsenal.
Teams: Chelsea, Telford, Blundell, Ingle, Leupolz, England, Reiten, Eriksson, Fleming, Kerr, Cuthbert, Andersson
Subs: Musovic, Carter, Ji, Kirby, Mjelde, Harder, Spence
Brighton: Walsh, Kerkdijk, Le Tissier, Whelan, Connolly, Geum-Min, Kaagman, Koivisto, Brazil, Simpkins, Williams
Subs: Fiskerstrand, Roe, Bowman, Heroum, Jarrett, Symonds, Bance
Referee: Cristiana Hattersley