Beth England and Erin Cuthbert scored to seal Chelsea a 2-0 victory over West Ham and move them back into second in the WSL table behind leaders Arsenal.
It was the second meeting in a week between the two sides, with Chelsea having knocked West Ham out of the Conti Cup last Wednesday with a thrilling 4-2 victory.
While the goals did not quite rain as they had done a week ago, it was another dominant performance from Emma Hayes’ side. They ended a run of two WSL games without a goal as England (51) turned home from close range shortly after her introduction as a substitute.
Cuthbert (82) then added a wonderful second with a chipped finish, sending Chelsea back above Manchester United into second place. The pressure is on for leaders Arsenal – who face Brighton in the WSL on Thursday, live on Sky Sports – with just a point now separating the sides.
After a fairly even start, Chelsea began to find their rhythm and had two wonderful chances to go ahead inside 15 minutes. The first saw Anna Leat spill a high catch from a Chelsea corner, but Niamh Charles lifted a bouncing ball over the crossbar from close range. Soon after, Leat made a sensational stop to keep out Pernille Harder’s fierce header.
- Chelsea made two changes from their goalless draw with Brighton. Jess Carter and Drew Spence dropped to the bench, with Sophie Ingle and Niamh Charles into the XI.
- West Ham made three changes after beating Everton 3-0 last time out. Gilly Flaherty and Abbey-Leigh Stringer were among the subs, with and Dany Brynjarsdottir not in the squad through illness. Hawa Cissoko returned from suspension, with Emma Snerle and Melisa Filis also back into the XI.
Cuthbert delivered some wonderful balls into the area and almost found the net herself after a superb Chelsea move. Fran Kirby picked out the Scotland international to her right, but Cuthbert powered her effort over the crossbar.
West Ham offered little at the other end. The closest they came was just before the half an hour when Aniek Nouwen’s dangerous clearance hit Claudia Walker on the back inside the 18-yard box, but the ball luckily deflected away from the target.
Leat continued to be tested as the half continued. She made a good, low save from a Chelsea corner after Millie Bright nodded her way. Soon after, a superb solo run and eventual shot from Harder forced another save. The Chelsea forward then sent a fierce header wide, beating two West Ham defenders in the air.
Six minutes after the break – and her introduction as a substitute – England fired Chelsea ahead. Cuthbert’s initial effort was palmed away by Leat, but England was lurking at close range to turn home for her 50th WSL goal.
Chelsea kept pushing immediately after the goal. England was unable to keep a Kirby pass under her control inside the area, with the former also twice testing Leat, but they were ultimately easy collections for the goalkeeper.
The Blues continued to see the better of the play and finally capitalised with a second goal late on. Kirby did superbly well to find some space and lay the ball off for Cuthbert. It was then a wonderful, floated finish that beat the leaping Leat, adding to the hand she had in the opener.
While a defensive display was expected, West Ham ended the game without any shots on target or any shots at all in the second half. Their five-match unbeaten run in the WSL comes to an end, and the Hammers remain in seventh with 17 points.
Hayes pleased with ‘scrappy’ goals
Chelsea manager Emma Hayes to BBC Sport:
“We deserved to win the game, we had enough chances, especially in the first half… I’m just happy we scored scrappy goals. I’ve got the team that wants to score the most perfect goal so I’m delighted. The finishes were scrappy.
“We’ve wanted to walk the ball into the net and I’ve said before, we’re creating the highest xG, the most chances across the league but we don’t score enough goals for the amount we create. So the type of goals, I want more of those goals from us.
“This league is tough. West Ham are a really good side and I can see why they’ve only lost a few games in the league this season. That stands for the rest of the league too, it’s a good league.”
On England sub: “The reality was we needed that and I thought her response was great, her width was great, she did a great job for the team. That’s her 50th WSL goal and I’m delighted with how quickly she settled into the second half.
“Beth is first to react and that’s why she’s on the scoresheet because she feared that it wouldn’t go in. We’ve got so many great players that can finish with a range of finishes, but sometimes I think you just need goals like tonight.”
On reverting to a back three: “I often change. I felt like with no Magda [Eriksson] that we’ve lost a little bit of leadership in there so Aniek’s come into the team – I thought she was brilliant tonight. For those reasons, we decided to go with a back three rather than put Aniek in a position where perhaps she’s still learning.”
Player of the match – Erin Cuthbert
A goal and helping to set up another is not a bad evening’s work from Cuthbert. She topped the charts for shots (5), shots on target and shots in the box (both three), plus total duels (10) and aerial duels (3).
Hayes said of Cuthbert after the game: “Erin knows what I’ve been asking of her, that the number of goals she gets for the number of chances she gets is not enough. This is the next step for her.
Chelsea: Berger (7), Bright (7), Ingle (7), Nouwen (7), Cuthbert (8), Andersson (7), Charles (7), Reiten (7), Fleming (6), Harder (7), Kirby (8).
Subs used: England (7), Carter (6), Spence (n/a), Abdullina (n/a).
West Ham: Leat (7), Parker (7), Fisk (7), Cissoko (7), Wyne (6), Filis (6), Snerle (6), Svitkova (6), Longhurst (6), Walker (6), Evans (6).
Subs used: Stringer (6).
Player of the match: Erin Cuthbert.
“She’ll turn round to me and say ‘well put me in that area more often’ because she’s always got something to say for herself!
“She’s a brilliant character, she’s played 150 games for us. She’s a worrier and she’s got absolutely everything to her game.”
Opta stats – Chelsea ease past West Ham
- Chelsea have kept a clean sheet in 7 of their 11 games, no team has done this more in the Women’s Super League this season.
- Fran Kirby has assisted 6 goals this season (1 in this game), no player has more in the Women’s Super League.
- West Ham attempted three shots in this game, their lowest total in a single match in the Women’s Super League this season.
- Lucy Parker attempted 70 passes in this game, the highest total for a West Ham player in the Women’s Super League this season.
Chelsea have two big cup fixtures coming up, travelling to Aston Villa in the Women’s FA Cup fourth round on Saturday before a Conti Cup semi-final against Manchester United next Wednesday. They will return to WSL action on Sunday February 6, taking on Man City at home; kick-off 12.30pm.
West Ham travel to Sheffield United in their FA Cup fourth round fixture on Sunday. They then travel to Aston Villa in the WSL on Sunday February 6; kick-off 6pm.