3 main takeaways as Chelsea progress to FA Cup quarter-finals

Mayra Ramirez of Chelsea celebrates with teammates after scoring in the Adobe Women's FA Cup match vs Crystal Palace
Mayra Ramirez of Chelsea celebrates with teammates after scoring in the Adobe Women's FA Cup match vs Crystal Palace (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Chelsea have progressed into the Adobe FA Cup quarter-finals after edging out a slim 1-0 win over Championship side Crystal Palace.

Emma Hayes named arguably the strongest side she could have put out against the Eagles, despite injury to star forward Lauren James. However, Chelsea were held for more than 80 minutes before Mayra Ramirez bagged her first goal for the club.

As Chelsea look ahead to the quarter-finals against Everton, we take a look at our three main takeaways from this cup tie. 

Lauren James is the key to Chelsea’s attack

It was the talk in the crowd when James was announced that she wouldn’t be playing. Despite the strong side that Chelsea fielded, she is an important cog in the system. The Blues were always the side with more of the ball, and pouncing on every loose ball, or a heavy touch, but ultimately, not enough chances were being created. 

James has stepped up a level this season and with their frustration building, it was clear something in the team was missing. Or someone.  

James has 12 goals in the Women’s Super League, so losing her goal threat was apparent But the lack of that threat overall was probably not what a packed Kingsmeadow expected. 

That’s not to say that the players who came in didn’t perform well. Fran Kirby made her presence known by linking the play to the attack, but the aura of James was something the players may have got complacent to.  

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Ramirez is a natural goal-scorer, give her those chances 

The last 20 minutes saw an onslaught on the Palace defence, with Ramirez hitting the bar, and an offside goal as a scare. If we saw that build-up quicker, we may have seen the cracks in the defence earlier too.  

But, one moment of individual excellence saw Ashley Lawrence dart down the right flank and play it across to Ramirez. The finish was astute with a delicious flick. 

Hayes mentioned that even though the task was ‘a lot harder’ due to there ‘not being enough space’, Ramirez has time on her side, with a message for patience. 

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“I’m delighted for Mayra to score such a world-class goal. When you’re playing teams that leave a lot of bodies low it’s a lot harder. There’s not a lot of space. Let’s see what happens when teams don’t close that same sort of space.”

It was Ramirez’s second start and she’ll need to get used to playing with new players. But Chelsea know already they have a special striker that has the type of ability teams dream for.  

The quality through the leagues are improving 

Crystal Palace held the champions for 80 minutes and defended valiantly against the likes of Ramirez and Kirby.

Their fans, like always, were heard and gave them an extra bite into challenges. They typically made use of the few seconds when the ball was out of play to add to their advantage. It was a performance that won’t please many eyes, with zero shots on target and two shots overall, but of a determined and resolute Championship team playing against the WSL champions.  

Laura Kaminski coming off the pitch had one theme via her post-match interview. A sense of pride.  

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“They’re one of the best teams in the world, we came toe-to-toe in terms of the first half and defended really well,” she said. “We didn’t have much of the ball, but we had plans in moments and the players really tried to do that. We never have played that shape before, and we haven’t had a challenge like that before.” 

Chelsea are into the quarter-finals of the FA Cup, but Crystal Palace won’t be too disheartened. Many predicted a thrashing, yet in reality it was a frustrating game that showed resilience from both teams.

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