Kerr’s double secures three points against dour Villa to put Blues back on top of WSL
By Paul Lagan at Kingsmeadow Stadium
Chelsea 2 v Aston Villa 0
Sam Kerr propelled the Blues back to the top of the WSL as the champions struggled but eventually overcame a dogged Aston Villa 2-0 at Kingsmeadow.
The three points were secured thanks to instinctive finishing by the Australian striker - either side of half-time, but this was not a vintage performance from the champions who face a much sterner task on Wednesday when they face Wolfsburg in the second leg of the Champions League.
They are defending a 2-1 lead but will need to defend much better than they did against the Midlanders.
Coach Emma Hayes made a host of changes from the first leg which would go towards explaining the disjointed performance from the west Londoners, but the prospect of reaching the semi-final of Europe’s top competition appeared to weigh heavily on the shoulders of the regular, highly experienced players.
The opening exchanges were nip and tuck as Villa fought to prevent the Blues from taking an early stranglehold on the game.
Gradually, the champions started to force the pace and create openings. On 14 minutes, a quick break involving Ji, Sam Kerr, and Fran Kirby, saw Kerr arrow a low ball to in-running Guro Reiten, but the Norway international could only side-foot the ball inches wide of Lisa Weiss’s right post.
Kerr then failed to latch onto a ball which saw her one-on-one with Weiss, but the Australian striker could only hit a weak shot into the goalkeeper’s body.
Hannah Blundell was next to try a shot on 19 minutes - her goal-bound right-footer took a massive deflection away from goal for a corner.
But on 24 minutes the home side broke the deadlock. A simple drive by Kirby into the Villa penalty area, saw Kerr reach the ball first ahead of Asmita Ale and she managed to squeeze her glancing header into the far corner of Weiss’s net.
While remaining dominate in possession, the Blues failed to create any more gilt-edged chances in the half.
There were no changes at half-time from Hayes.
Villa started to play well, but were struck again on the counter-attack on 57 minutes when Kerr slotted home a lofted left-footer from just inside the Villa penalty area. With the game effectively over, that gave Hayes the reason to make a host of substitutions to save some legs for Wednesday’s encounter in Budapest.
Teams: Chelsea Musovic, Blundell, Bright, Carter, Ji, Reiten, Kirby, Eriksson, Fleming, Kerr, Cuthbert
Subs: Telford, Ingle, Leupolz, Charles, Harder, Spence, Andersson, Fox, Beever-Jones
Weiss, Ale, Franklin-Fraiture, Asante, Follis, Arthur, Hutton, McLoughlin, Iwabuchi, Evers, Hanssen
Subs: Rogers, N’Dow, West, Siems, Syme, Gregory, Silva, Hayles
Referee: Sarah Garratt