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  • By Paul Lagan at Kingsmeadow Stadium

Pernille Harder hat-trick sees Chelsea cruise to Conti Cup final after 6-0 drubbing of West Ham

By Paul Lagan at Kingsmeadow

Chelsea 6 v West Ham United 0

Conti Cup semi-final

Reigning champions Chelsea will contest this year’s Conti Cup final after an emphatic 6-0 drubbing of East Londoners West Ham at Kingsmeadow tonight with Denmark striker Pernille Harder helping herself to a hat-trick

The final at Watford’s Vicarage Road on March 14.

They will face either Bristol City or Leicester City.

Three goals for Harder, a thunderbolt from Sophie Ingle, and strikes from Beth England and Fran Kirby saw off the Hammers, who offered little in the first half, and, while better in the second, offered little resistance.

The gulf in class between WSL champions Chelsea and the Hammers was evident from the start.

The Blues took just four minutes to open the scoring when Pernille Harder raced clear. Hammers goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold came out to close the attacker down, but was slightly too late and the Denmark striker clipped the ball past her and into an empty net.

Harder and Fran Kirby combined well on 10 minutes, with the winger free on goal. But unlike her colleague earlier, Kirby elected to pass instead and the ball drifted harmlessly wide.

Sophie Ingle thought she would try her luck from 35 yards on 16 minutes. The Wales midfielder’s left-footed pile-driver was on target, but hapless Arnold misjudged the late dip of the ball and it slid under her body and into the net to make it 2-0 to the home side.

Number three was self-inflicted as Arnold made a hash of a clearance and Harder pounced from close range to slot home.

The fourth came two minutes later on 26 minutes when Kirby set up Beth England who had the simplest of chance to ram the ball home.

The second half started as did the first with the home side totally dominating possession .

Kirby and England had chances to extend the led but Arnold was equal both times to thwart the onslaught.

But as Chelsea eased the pressure, the Hammers gained a bit of a foothold in the game - Ann-Karin Berger had to be sharp at her hear post to prevent a tap-in from Katerina Svitkova on 54 minutes.

To arrest the decline, Emma Hayes opted for a triple substitution, Jonna Andersson was replaced by Hannah Blundell, Ji came off for Jessie Fleming. The third saw Erin Cuthbert come on for Melanie Leupolz - all three came on on 63 minutes.

A long-range effort by Hammers midfielder Lois Joel was well wide of Berger’s goal on 65 minutes.

Magda Eriksson’s last-gasp challenge prevented Adriana Leon from getting a shot away.

Sloppy play between Millie Bright and Maren Mjelde allowed Hammers left back Maz Pacheco free rein to attack. Berger was on hand to parry away the fierce left footer.

But with 20 minutes left on the clock, a semblance of a home attack saw the ball cross the Hammers six-yard line and Kirby was in the perfect spot to knock the ball over the line to make it 5-0.

Hayes brought on Drew Spence for Eriksson, and Kirby was replaced by Guro Reiten.

Ingle moved into the centre-back slot left vacant by Eriksson with Spence taking Ingle’s central midfield position.

With five minutes left in the clock, Harder had the easiest of chances to nab her hat-trick and take home the match ball.

Reiten was unlucky to see her 25 yard free-kick crash off the angle of crossbar and post.

Che;sea return to WSL action on Sunday with the visit of Brighton & Hove Albion to Kingsmeadow.

Teams: Berger, Bright, Ingle, Leupolz, England, Ji, Kirby, Eriksson, Mjelde, Harder, Andersson

Subs: Telford, Blundell, Carter, Jessie Fleming, Kerr, Cuthbert, Spence

West Ham: Arnold, Redisch, Pacheco, Flaherty, Svitkova, Longhurst, Leon, Joel, Fisk, Van Edmond, Vetterlein

Subs: Brosnan, Thomas, Mustafi, Dali, Cissoko, Barker

Referee: Stacey Pearson


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