Kerr’s header seals three vital WSL points as Blues battle to a 1-0 victory over rugged Brighton
By Paul Lagan and the People’s Pension Stadium (Crawley)
Brighton 0 v Chelsea 1
Sam Kerr’s glancing header was the difference between the two sides as her first half strike saw the Blues beat rugged Brighton 1-0 this afternoon at Crawley.
The Australian took full advantage of the space created by Pernille Harder, who clipped in the perfect left byline cross and her deft glancing header, from the six-yard area zipped past goalkeeper Cecillie Fiskerstrand.
This was not a game for the purist, and it’s always a war of attrition between the two sides.
But the three points were vital to keep them on the coat tails of leaders Manchester United who remain three points clear of the west Londoners but have played a game more.
Neither side took an early dominance of the ball, as the wind and rain affected control and passing.
But the first effort, albeit a long-ranger from Maya Le Tissier on eight minutes sailed well wide of Ann-Katrina Berger’s left post.
A scooped, looping half-shot by Millie Bright, on the edge of the Brighton penalty area, on 15 minutes put Brighton goalie Cecillie Fiskerstrand under pressure as the wind brought the ball quickly down just underneath the crossbar, Under pressure from Fran Kirby, the stopper did well to snaffle the ball.
Elements of frustration from the Chelsea players were evident as the home side dug deep in defence and thwarted any direct lay by the visitors.
But on 23 minutes, excellent set up play on the left saw Pernille Harder clip over a byline cross. Sam Kerr found an inch of space just outside the six-yard box and directed a glancing header past Fiskerstrand and into the back of the net to go 1-0 up.
Harder tried a 25-Harder with 10 minutes of the first half remaining, but the goalie was equal to the task, diving to her right and grabbing the ball from the base of her right post.
Brighton rattled the Chelsea crossbar a minute after the restart, when from the edge of the Chelsea area, Inessa Kaagman found space to get her shot away. The ball zipped over Berger but rebounded off the woodwork and was cleared.
Cuthbert saw a blistering 20 yarder parried away by Fiskerstrand as the Blues recovered from the early pressure put on by Brighton.
Kerr’s audacious attempt to score from 50 yards failed just short of its target on 60 minutes. The striker had run from the edge of her own area and ran a bit out of puff before deciding to score a worldie.
Emma Hayes opted to make changes, on 65minutes, bringing on Sophie Ingle and Guro Reiten, off came Cuthbert and Ji.
The war of attrition continued with Brighton closing down the Blues, preventing the striking flair up front to demonstrate their quality. But with it still at 1-0, Hayes sensed that a change was needed, and with 10 minutes left, striker Beth England entered the fray, with Harder getting hooked.
From this point onwards it was a case of trying not to make a mistake, allowing the home side a sniff of goal.
This they did and it’s that discipline that will set the Blues in good stead later in the season.
Next up is the return Champions League game against Benfica at Kingsmeadow on Wednesday where the Blues are already 5-0 up
Teams: Berger, Bright, Leupolz, Ji, Kirby, Eriksson, Mjelde, Kerr, Cuthbert, harder, Andersson
Subs: Telford, Thorisdottir, Ingle, carter, England, Reiten, Jessie Fleming, Niamh Charles
Fiskerstrand, Gibbons, Le Tissier, Whelan, Lee, Kaagman, Heroum, O’Sullivan, Scott, Brazil, Williams
Subs: Walsh, Bowman, Kerkdijk, Green, Barton, Simpkins, Jarrett, Bance