Kerr and England headers secure three points against Hammers to stay top of WSL
By Paul Lagan at Chigwell Construction Stadium
West Ham 0 v Chelsea 2
Sam Kerr powered the Blues to three vital points against a resolute West Han United that keeps the west Londoners top of the WSL.
For a brief spell, Manchester City who were two points behind the champions took over top spot after defeating Everton 1-0.
But when Beth England headed home the second goal, two minutes into the second half, that gave Chelsea the 2-0 victory, a sigh of relief was heard from Chelsea fans worldwide.
This was not a vintage performance for Chelsea, but it was enough.
Skipper Magda Eriksson failed to recover from the injury that kept her out of the midweek Champions League win over Atletico Madrid, while Scotland international Erin Cuthbert was out of the clash at the Chigwell Construction Stadium with what was described as a knock in that 2-0 win at Kingsmeadow.
Head coach Emma Hayes gave a debut to goalkeeper Zecira Musovic.
The home side’s Martha Thomas had the first effort on goal after just three minutes.
Latching into a long ball, the striker expertly took the ball down, cut across the edge of the visitors’ penalty area but whistled her powerful right-footer past Musovic.
Twice in quick succession, west Londoners’ striker Sam Kerr was caught offside, but on seven minutes she was on the spot to power home a header past Courtney Brosnan to open the scoring for the Blues.
West Ham then had a period of good possession without creating any serious pressure on the Blues’ back four.
The champions should have doubled their lead on 28 minutes when Kerr scooped a spinning byline ball on the right into the path of Pernille Harder. Somehow goalkeeper Brosnan managed to parry away from goal the attacking midfielder’s header.
West Ham striker Thomas forced Musovic into her first save of the half, four minutes from the break, but her left-footed daisy-cutter from the edge of the Blues‘ penalty area was easily saved.
Harder did well two minutes later at the other end squirrelling past a couple of defenders, but her effort smacked into the side netting.
There were no changes by either side at half-time.
But within two minutes of the restart the visitors doubled their lead.
It was a regulation right wing cross by Kerr, and at the far post, up popped Beth England, who was unmarked and she powered home a venomous header past Brosnan.
That breathing space in the goals tally allowed head coach Emma Hayes her the option to make changes - Fran Kirby came in for Kerr while Jessie Fleming replaced Harder - both substitutions came on 68 minutes.
An Sophie Ingle long-range effort was fluffed by Brosnan, but she managed to snaffle the ball on the second occasion.
Guro Reiten couldn’t believe she did not score on 75 minutes when first a header rebounded off the crossbar, then, when the ball was returned to her, she thumped a left-footer that had goal screaming all over it, but miraculously, Brosnan threw herself at the ball, and she somehow tipped the ball away from a certain third goal.
Jess Carter and Drew Spence got rare outings on the pitch, they replaced Ji and Niamh Charles with nine minutes left of the clock.
All the changes disrupted the west Londoners’ rhythm, allowing West Ham to take control of the game.
Kenza Dali saw a zipping curling free-kick go just inches wide of Musovic’s crossbar as they sought a deserved goal.
But the Blues are nothing if resolute, and they managed to see out the remainder of the game with what they came for three points.
Teams: West Ham, Brosnan, Redisch, Flaherty, Thomas, Svitkova, Longhurst, Dali, Fisk, Van Egmond, Vetterlein, Brynjarsdottir
Subs; Ramsey, Pacheco, Mustafi, Cissoko, Barker
Chelsea: Musovic, Bright, Ingle, England, Ji, Reiten, Mjelde, Kerr, Charles, Harder, Andersson
Substitute; Berger, Blundell, Carter, Leupolz, Kirby,Fleming, Spence, Fox, Orman