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  • Writer's pictureBy Paul Lagan at Chigwell Construction Stadium

Harder nets three as Blues beat Irons 4-2 in Conti Cup quarter-final

By Paul Lagan at Chigwell Construction Stadium

West Ham United 2 v Chelsea 4

Pernille Harder smashed a hat-trick as the west Londoners saw off a dogged West Ham side 4-2 at the Chigwell Construction Stadium tonight to move into the semi-final of the Conti Cup.

The holders took their time to get into any sort of rhythm allowing the Irons to take to advantage of some sloppy play. It allowed them to equalise Harder’s opener.

But a half-time turnaround saw the WSL champions break into their stride, attempt more chances and push their host further back.Erin Cuthbert put the Blues back into the game with a powerful header before Harder showed her world-class finishing to sow up her hat-trick.

With so little playing time in the past five weeks, chelsea started off with lots of possession, but when in the West Ham third, the final ball let them down - overhit and sometimes missed altogether.

West Ham to their credit were fully prepared for the lack of possession, and made the most of it when they had it.

Nabbing free-kicks where possible and floating in deep, fierce ball, put the under strength Chelsea defence under pressure.

Chelsea were without Sam Kerr and Ji on Asian Cup duty and centre-back, skipper Magda Eriksson out injured.

However after one such attack by the Hammers, the Blues struck in a venomous and clinical way.

A quick counter-attack saw Fran Kirby race clear. She sprinted into the West Ham penalty area, before squaring the ball to in-running Pernille Harder who clipped the ball over Anna Leat to open the score on 26 minutes.

Kirby almost doubled the lead, this time Harder was the provider, but the England attacked could not finish a clever bicycle kick.

The home side were unlucky to see Chelsea goalkeeper in fine form as Ann-Karin Berger was right on the spot on 32 minutes to thwart Danny Brynjarsdottier at the near post.

But the Irons got their just rewards two minutes later when Katerina Svitkova thumped home from 20 yards out to level the score.

Harder almost scored a lucky goal when her chipped shot into the six-yard box - intended for Jessie Fleming missed the Canadian, inched past Leat and tapped off the left upright.

There were no changes by either sides at half-time.

Sophie Ingle tried her trademark long-range pile-driver on 54 minutes. It was on target, but blocked - she had another effort, this time a volley, which Leat was able to snaffle.

But the Blues deservedly restored their one goal margin on 57 minutes.

A blistering move involving six players that spanned the width of the pitch eventually saw a left byline cross fed into the centre of the Irons penalty area. Scotland winger Erin Cuthbert rose the highest and smashed home the perfect header.

Number three was soon to follow. Kirby tried a curler which Let could only parry into the path of Harder who ticked home into an empty net.

If it wasn’t already game over, it was on 65 minutes when Harder completed her hat-trick with a wonderful strike.

Guro Reiten replaced Ariel Nouwen, who was soon followed by Kirby coming off for Beth England with Jessie Fleming coming off for Drew Spence on 73 minutes.

Russian Alsu Abullina made her debut for the Blues - the luckless Jonna Andersson, who must now be fearing for her Chelsea future trudged off.

Head coach Emma Hayes spoke to the disappointed left back for a couple of minutes before she slotted home beside the other subs in the dugout

The Irons kept going and substitute Halle Houssein tucked home from close range with seven minutes left on the clock to give an air of respectability to the game.

Teams: West Ham United, Anna Leat, Zantac Wayne, Abbey-Leigh Stringer, Gilly Flaherty, Claudia Walker, Katerina Svitkova, Kate Longhurst, Lucy Parker, Melisa Filis, Grace Fisk, Danny Brynjarsdottir

Subs: Emily Moore, Lisa Evans, Emma Snerle, Lois Joel, Halle Houssein

Chelsea, Berger, Nouwen, Bright, Ingle, Carter, Kirby, Fleming, Charles, Cuthbert, Harder, Andersson

Subs: Musovic, England, Reiten, Spence, Abullina, Telford


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