• By Paul Lagan at Vicarage Road

Kerr hat-trick, a brace from Kirby and Chelsea thrash Bristol City 6-0 to retain Conti Cup



By Paul Lagan at Vicarage Road

Chelsea 6 Bristol City 0

Sam Kerr crashed home a hat-trick, Fran Kirby notched up a brace and Chelsea duly retained the Conti-Cup by thrashing Bristol City 6-0 at Watford’s Vicarage Road this afternoon.

Chelsea are top of the WSL, Bristol at the bottom, the gulf in class was evident throughout the match with the only blemish on the west Londoner’s victory is what looked like a terrible injury to defender Maren Mjelde 15 minutes before the end.

Her Norway compatriot Guro Reiten was the other goalscorer.

This was as one-sided a final as it could get, and such a contrast to last season’s final when Chelsea survived a high pressure Arsenal side to come out 2-1 winners with a last-gasp goal by Beth England to secure their first Conti Cup title.

England was already ruled out of this match with concussion, one can only wonder what the final score could have been had the striker taken to the pitch.

It took just one minute and 27 seconds for striker Kerr to tap home from close range as Chelsea asserted their superiority from the first whistle.

A simple byline cross by Kirby, who had beaten the offside trap was enough to open up their opponents.

Skipper Magda Eriksson almost doubled the lead when her header from a corner from Reiten inched wide of Sophie Baggaley’s right post.

Kerr did what Eriksson failed to do on 10 minutes when she skilfully latched on top a Kirby pass after Bristol gave the ball away and she slotted home a low, left footer wide of the helpless goalkeeper.

The Australian then produced a celebratory cartwheel, much to the delight of her cheering team-mates on and off the pitch.

That it took until the 29th minutes before the third goal went in was a surprise in itself. But when it did come, it came from the trusty right boot of Kirby, who showed creative imagination to chip Baggaley from 25 yards, the ball nestling in the far corner of her net.

Number four was just a pass away and it duly arrived with 11 minutes still left of the first half, Kirby jinked left and right, twisting the blood of the hapless defender in the process before tucking the ball home.

Emma Hayes made changes at the break, on came Hannah Blundell, Drew Spence and Erin Cuthbert, off were Jonna Andersson, Melanie Leupolz and Sophie Ingle.

Ebony Salmon had the Robins’ first effort on goal for the visitors on 48 minutes but it was easily saved by Ann-Katrina Berger. Seconds later and it was number five as Kerr notched up her hat-trick.

A sensational break involving Kerr and Kirby saw the Blues hit the joy of six on 55 minutes when Reiten got a deserved goal, side-footing the ball home at the far-post.

Berger was finally forced to make a proper save on 59 minutes when live-wire Robins striker Salmon showed her ability to race into the Chelsea penalty area and let fly with a smart left-footer - Berger was equal to the task, managing to get her left arm out to block the goal-bound shot.

Niamh Charles and Jess Carter got the chance to play in a cup final on 61 minutes - Kerr and Kirby left the field.

This meant Cuthbert taking up a front role alongside Charles.

With 15 minutes left, Maren Mjelde was flattened by substitute Aimee Palmer - she got a justified yellow card from referee Abi Byrne, while the Norway defender, screamed howls of pain.

She was treated on the pitch for more than seven minutes before getting carried off.

The Blues were left with 10 players as a consequence, having made their five substitutions.

The jubilation that should have come from such an emphatic victory was muted as a consequence of Mjelde’s injury but the Blues have to take up the reins again on Wednesday, when they travel up to Merseyside to face Everton in a crucial WSL match.

Teams:

Chelsea: Berger, Bright, Ingle, Leupolz, Reiten, Kirby, Eriksson, Fleming, Mjelde, Kerr, Andersson

Subs: Musovic, Telford, Blundell, Carter, Ji, Charles, Cuthbert, Harder, Spence

Bristol City: Baggaley, Bryson, Evan, Humphrey, Salmon, Daniels, Welling, Bessel, Purfield, Mastrantonio, Skeels

Subs: Smith, Rafferty, Allen, Palmer, Collins, Harrison, Layzell, Jones

Referee: Abi Byrne