Kirby’s double helps Blues maul Bristol City 5-0 to go five points clear at top of the WSL
By Paul Lagan at Twerton Park
Bristol City 0 v Chelsea 5
Chelsea cruised to an emphatic 5-0 victory away to Bristol City to enter the international break at the helm of the WSL - five points clear of second place Manchester City.
A brace from Fran Kirby, and efforts from Pernille Harder, Sam Kerr and Beth England saw off the West Country side, who, while lacking the physical presence and technical skills of their west London opponents, nevertheless demonstrated remarkable enthusiasm and a high degree of mental resilience.
The Bath City pitch almost filled up like a bath such was the second-half deluge from the sky, but all that did was to subdue the champions a bit and give their opponent, who are bottom of the league the occasional respite.
Pernille Harder should have scored within 45 seconds of the start but she had the right leg of Sophie Baggaley to thank for getting in the way from close range. The goalkeeper managed to hack the ball clear at her near right post.
The game should have been over within two minutes, first Jonna Andersson saw her rasper saved by Baggaley and then Kirby was wayward with her follow-up shot which she rammed well wide of goal.
A minute later and it was the turn of Sam Kerr to nod wide of goal as the away side piled on the pressure for the early break.
Ebony Salmon, had a 25 yard shot well saved by Ann-Katrin Berger on seven minutes - their only effort on goal.
But the inevitable happened on 13 minutes when a simple corner by Maren Mjelde was headed in at the near post by Fran Kirby. It was a training ground move that was as simple as it was effective.
The result was over on 36 minutes when good, short passing saw Harder snatch the ball eight yards out and unleash a venomous right-footer that beat Baggaley for pace and doubled the champions’ lead.
Two minutes later and Kirby got in on the act again. Another excellent attack saw Baggaley parry a shot. It fell to Beth England, who slotted it back to Kirby who had the simplest of chance to loft the ball into the back of the net
There were no changes by either side at half-time.
And it took just 10 minutes for the Blues to notch number four.
Kerr allowed the ball to slide to the left for Beth England to grab. As England raced to the byline, Kerr chased into the penalty area and set up in a central position.
When England clipped in a left-footer, it was perfect for Kerr to out jump her opponent and direct her downward header into the corner of the net.
On the hour, England got her reward for unselfish play and her improving match fitness deserved by latching onto a fine cross and tucking home from close range to make it 5-0.
Guro Reiten and Erin Cuthbert entered the fray on 69 minutes - off came Kirby and Ji.
They were followed by Drew Spence and Jessie Fleming. They replaced Harder and Ingle on 81 minutes.
Kerr and Reiten had chances to add to the score, but the London outfit will be happy with the five goals and three points to take back with them down the M4, if they ever manage to get the coach around the irritating diversions caused by junction closures.
Berger, Bright, Ingle, England, Ji, Kirby, Eriksson, Mjelde, Kerr, Harder, Anderson
Subs: Telford, Blundell, Carter, Reiten, Fleming, Cuthbert, Spence
Bristol City Baggaley, Evans, Matthews, Pike, Humphrey, Salmon, Daniels, Wellings, Allen, Purfield, Skeels
Subs: Harland, Bryson, Rafferty, Palmer, Bessel, Collins, Harrison, Mastrantonio, Jones