Four goal thrashing of Hammers sees Blues go top of the league with two games left in titanic season
By Paul Lagan at Chigwell Construction Stadium
West Ham 0 v Chelsea 4
Chelsea hit top spot in the WSL after dispatching dour West Ham 4-0 at the Chigwell Construction Stadium tonight.
Goals from Niamh Charles, Pernille Harder, Sophie Ingle and a last-minute thumper from substitute Erin Cuthbert saw the west Londoners leap-frog Manchester United to take a two point lead.
There are now just two games remaining for all the sides and Chelsea’s home match against Arsenal which takes place before United’s home game with neighbours City could see the Blues take the title should they beat the Gooners and City take all three points off United.
West Ham are safe this season but are a team struggling with a lack of confidence and a lack of firepower and while no game is supposed to be easy, this was as easy as it got for the visitors.
The Blues were supposed to be tired after recent high-profile and high-energy matches, but the Hammers failed to test the Chelsea rearguard with any sense of conviction.
All the early work was being done by the visitors, as West Ham resisted the temptation to launch into a high pressing strategy.
Head coach Emma Hayes made an early adjustment. Right back Kadeisha Buchanan changed positions with centre-back Jess Carter.
But the first effort on goal came from the Hammers on 11 minutes when a weak, hooked shot by Vivian Asseyi dropped into the arms of Zecira Musovic.
But class and pressure count, and on 13 minutes, excellent set up play just inside the West Ham penalty area cut the Hammers to shreds and Niamh Charles slotted home.
A left-footed rasper by Jelena Cankovic, just inched over Mackenzie Arnold’s crossbar as Chelsea went for the jugular.
This was followed by a Pernille Harder left footer which Arnold did well to stop.
Harder again should have scored on 29 minutes when she was free at the far post when she headed wide from close range from a deep left-wing free-kick.
There were no changes by either side at half-time.
But within a minute, Arnold produced a fine save to thwart an Ingle left footer from the edge of the penalty area.
But it came with the next attack, Ingle the provider, who passed to Harder who smashed home to make it 2-0 to the west Londoners.
Number three was not far behind, and on 65 minutes, after a corner that wasn’t cleared, the ball fell invitingly off the crossbar to Ingle who headed home from six yards out.
With Arsenal in mind, and after a tiring FA Cup final three days previously, Hayes decided to spice up the side, on came Guro Reiten, Erin Cuthbert and Lauren James - off went Harder, Cankovic, and Jessie Fleming.
Charles was next to leave the pitch with 10 minutes in the clock along with Kerr, with Alsu Abdullina and Katrina Svitkova having a run out.
Cuthbert, with the clock almost up in added time, thumped home from the edge of the box to make it four.
But substitutes usually disrupt whatever the rhythm of the game was, and in this case, it simply dropped the pressure all-round, and the Blues were content with the four goals, while West Ham were also content with just four goals conceded.
Teams: Arnold, Smith, Shimizu, Tysiak, Eva’s, Brynjarsdottir, Longhurst, Parker, Fisk, Cissoko, Asseyi
Subs: Hillyerd, Snerle, Atkinson, Thestrup, Denton, Hayashi, Cooke, Houssein, Ademiluyi
Chelsea: Musovic, Ingle, Carter, Eriksson, Fleming, Rytting Kaneryd, Kerr, Charles, Harder, Buchanan, Cankovic
Subs: Berger, Leupolz, James, Reiten, Svitkova, Perisset, Mjelde, Cuthbert, Abdullina
Referee: Louise Saunders