Kirby shines with brace as Chelsea thrash Benfica 5-0 in Champions League in Portugal
By Paul Lagan
Fran Kirby opened the scoring after just two minutes and netted a brace as the Blues got their Champions League campaign off to the perfect start, thrashing against Benfica 5-0, in Portugal this afternoon.
The winger slotted home from close range from the first attack of the game, and follow-up goals from Millie Bright, Pernille Harder and Beth England completed the rout.
It’s the fifth appearance in the Champions League by the Blues and they have come a vast distance in terms of the ability of the side from those early matches.
Benfica recovered well from the shock of the early goal loss and started to retain the ball better.
But the second goal came on 29 minutes when an inch-perfect left footed free-kick by Guro Reiten saw the ball arrowed to the far post where Bright ducked low to head the ball home from an angle.
Ji was unlucky not to notch up the third two minutes later but a defender managed to thwart the attacking midfielder.
But the third was coming and it was Kirby who crashed home a low, right-footer from 10 yards out after excellent set-up play again by Reiten on 34 minutes.
Deep into added time and once again Reiten proved her worth by pinging in a deep corner where Pernille Harder, at the far post, thumped a powerful header into the back of the net to make it 4-0 to the west Londoners.
Manager Emma Hayes opted to bring on Jess Carter for Andersson.
A brilliant team play on 53 minutes should have secured the fifth goal, but after carter sent in a low left byline cross, Harder was on the spot but slashed a left-footer over the crossbar.
But a minute later it was number five. A sloppy back pass saw Beth England latch onto the ball and dispatch it with consummate ease from just inside the Benfica penalty area. Her left-footer was clipped over the goalkeeper and planted into the back of the empty net.
It was the signal for a quadruple substitution with Maria Thorisdottir, Niamh Charles, Erin Cuthbert and Jessie Fleming on for Kirby, Eriksson, Melde and Ji.
Benfica were reduced to 10 men when Christie Uchibe sliced Cuthbert in half. Added to her first half yellow, the referee brandished another, quickly followed by a red.
Ann-Katrin Berger took a ball in the face in the dying seconds to deny Benfica a late consolation goal.
The return leg is at Kingsmeadow next Wednesday.
Chelsea team: Berger, Mjelde, Bright, Eriksson, Andersson, Ji, Ingle, Reiten, Harder, England, Kirby
Subs: Telford, Orman Thorisdottir, Blundell, Carter, J Fleming, Kerr, Charles, Cuthbert, Spencer