Chelsea crush Leicester to go top of Women’s Super League table

Chelsea WSL
KINGSTON UPON THAMES, ENGLAND - MARCH 20: Drew Spence of Chelsea celebrates with teammates after scoring their team's second goal during the Vitality Women's FA Cup Quarter Final match between Chelsea Women and Birmingham City Women at Kingsmeadow on March 20, 2022 in Kingston upon Thames, England. (Photo by Henry Browne/Getty Images)

Chelsea set a new Women’s Super League record on Sunday as they annihilated a hapless Leicester City side to go top of the table for the first time this season.

Emma Hayes’s rampant Blues raced into a six-goal lead by half-time before a further three second-half goals piled misery on Lydia Bedford’s Foxes. They became the first side ever to score three goals inside the opening ten minutes of a league match.

Guro Reiten, Beth England, and Sam Kerr all grabbed braces. Aniek Nouwen scored her first in the WSL. Lauren James also grabbed a maiden Chelsea goal, whilst Jessie Fleming ensured the Blues finished in style.

Leicester vs Chelsea Team News

After their midweek showdown with Spurs was postponed, Chelsea rotated. Zecira Musovic returned in goal. Nouwen, Millie Bright and Jess Carter formed a familiar back three while Niamh Charles continued at right wing-back with Reiten on the left.

The midfield trio of Sophie Ingle, Ji So-Yun and Erin Cuthbert offered ample protection and support. Finally, Kerr and England started up top together, in the absence of Pernille Harder and Fran Kirby.

Bedford admitted Leicester had some key absentees for the tough showdown against Chelsea in her press conference.

Demi Lambourne started in the net, with Ashleigh Plumptre, Georgia Brougham and Sophie Howard as the central defenders.

Esmee de Graaf and Gemma Purfield completed the five-person defence.

A robust midfield on paper featured Sam Tierney, Molly Pike, Shannon O’Brien and Freya Gregory. This left the experienced Natasha Flint as the lone striker.

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First Half: Chelsea’s goals galore

Chelsea knew victory would take them top of the Women’s Super League, and they started with intent.

Reiten was fouled mere minutes into the match. The Norwegian dusted herself down and dispatched the resulting free-kick brilliantly into the corner with barely three minutes gone.

The Blues smelled blood and consequently took advantage. Just 90 seconds later, Bright launched a terrific crossfield 50-yard pass.

Kerr sprang the offside trap and raced away. Although Lambourne denied her initially, Kerr tucked away the rebound. 2-0 with five minutes gone. Foxes already on the run.

Two became three in sensational scenes. Another Chelsea attack saw Kerr this time play in England. Her strike partner made no mistake, walloping into the top corner. Just seven minutes played, however, the away side already had assured that the three points were in the bag.

A Stunning Record Set by Chelsea

The scarcely believable scoreline got even stranger by the 11th minute. A first Chelsea corner saw Reiten’s deep delivery deflect out to England. Her low-drive was turned in by Nouwen to make it 4-0.

Leicester’s first attacking salvo nearly yieled a consolation. Gregory was released by de Graaf and crept behind Chelsea’s high-line. However, her angled effort only brushed the side-netting.

Cuthbert lashed an effort wide before the away side did notch again just before the half-hour mark.

Some mercurial combination play between Chelsea’s attack saw Reiten released on the wing. Her inch-perfect back-post delivery was crashed home by England’s header.

To add injury to insult, Leicester’s captain, Plumptre collided with the post. As a result of a concussion, the skipper left the field minutes later.

Bright attempted to add her name to the scoresheet multiple times. Firstly, her ambitious effort from the right-wing nearly deceived Lambourne. The stopper did well to read it and deflect it for a corner. The resulting delivery found Bright unmarked, but her header looped over.

The final minute of five addes in the first half compounded Leicester’s misery. Ji released Reiten on the wing once again.

Once more, the Norwegian lofted a teasing ball into the box. This time, it deceived everyone to nestle into the goal. The wide grin suggested Reiten did indeed mean this impudence.

HT: Leicester 0-6 Chelsea

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Second Half

If Leicester hoped Chelsea would give them an easy start to the second half, they were much mistaken. Although Chelsea Ji was replaced by Jessie Fleming due to the former picking up a knock, it didn’t alter the flow of the game. Fleming’s first action was to arrow the ball to England on the 47th minute. The English centre-forward perfectly picked out Sam Kerr unmarked in the box. Kerr’s header found the corner to make it seven.

It should have been eight moments later as Leicester floundered but England missed an excellent chance for her hat-trick.

Carter’s cross also found Charles, but she inexplicably side-footed over. Chelsea made a raft of changes shortly after, with Carter and Nouwen both departing for Magda Eriksson and Maren Mjelde.

England had another hat-trick chance saved, before she, Ingle and Reiten made way. Jonna Andersson, James and Drew Spence coming on highlighted Chelsea’s squad depth. Leicester also made changes as the game settled into a slight lull. Monique Robinson replaced Molly Pike as the latter was injured. Additionally, Elysia Boddy took the place of the ineffective O’Brien.

Cuthbert nearly scored directly from a corner, but the game’s pace slowed with the result decided.

Lauren James scores her first

Chelsea had to wait until the 86th minute to strike again. It was a memorable moment, however.

Charles tormented and teased Leicester’s defence, firing in a low cross. It found James who stabbed home. The ensuing celebrations showed how much her first goal in Blue meant to her and her teammates.

The goal rejuvenated Chelsea who pushed on for further gloss on an already emphatic scoreline. A terrific passing move involving Fleming, James and Spence ended with the latter’s backheel teeing up the Canuck on the edge of the box. She drove home past Lambourne into the bottom corner. Leicester 0-9 Chelsea.

With mere minutes left to get into double figures, there was action at both ends. First, another corner nearly allowed Chelsea to grab the record-equalling strike. The ball just clipped the bar and went over. Then Elysia Boddy’s clever pass over the top released Flint. The striker had been feeding off scraps all game, but bore down on Musovic’s goal. The Swede advanced on her, Flint panicked and could only clip her effort wide.

The final whistle blew moments later — a day to forget for the Foxes as Chelsea ran riot.

Final Thoughts

The manner of Chelsea’s victory was a marker. With just five games to go, the WSL race is as tight as ever. Hayes’ side not only went top, they also gave their goal difference a healthy boost on Arsenal.

Chelsea’s next match will see them host Reading next, before entering the final three games of the season.

As for Leicester, Bedford will read the riot act after a dismal showing but will need to rally the troops ahead of a tough run-in to ensure they finish the season with pride.

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