Failing to capitalise of their best chances Montpellier succumbed to Chelsea at home, Ji So-Yun and Erin Cuthbert's goals were enough to give the Blues the edge in their UEFA Women’s Champions League quarter final tie.
Chances for both
Keen to dominate the ball and rule midfield, Chelsea looked to have the early edge, the hosts finding their rhythm in the fifth minute to open up a game of cat and mouse. Marion Torrent’s ball in found a wall of Chelsea white, Katrine Veje’s effort bounced against the same bodies before Sofia Jakobsson forced a corner off of countrymate, Hedvig Lindahl. The chance served to settle the hosts who still looked to resemble the away team.
Another foray forward brought about a heart-in-mouth moment for the small section of travelling Chelsea fans as Virginia Torrecilla swept a header against the inside of the post, the ball bouncing between the woodwork and Lindahl’s gloves as the stable Swede pounced. A clear ball sent forward by Hannah Blundell released Ramona Bachmann, the Swiss international creating the Blues’ first chance as she chanced her arm from a tight angle, Casey Murphy’s parry swiftly cleared from the box. The recent signing called back into action minutes later at the next Chelsea attack, Drew Spence’s tame effort pushed clear as the home defence began to look rocky.
A cheap foul by Jakobsson saw another chance for the visitors, Magda Eriksson’s ball in emphatically punched clear for a Montpellier counter. The lack of good decision making from the hosts still undoing them, the short-pass to a crowded player favoured over switching the play to Janice Cayman, who always seemed to be in space.
The ball slingshotted from one end of the pitch to the other, one attack leading to a fast counter. Neat footwork from Fran Kirby with white shirts flooding the box saw dogged defending from the hosts to deny and block before launching their own assault on Lindahl’s goal. More sterling work from Maren Mjelde, Millie Bright and Eriksson enough to keep the hosts out.
Ji breaks the deadlock
Taking advantage of a sleepy backline, Ji So-Yun slipped in behind to latch onto a Kirby through-ball, her touch light to send the ball spinning past Murphy and into the bottom corner. Looking for instant parity, Sandi Toletti fed a free kick into the box, only to see it fail to beat the first line of bodies. A slipped pass from Torrecilla played Jakobsson in though her finish alluded her, the Swede back in the fray moments later one-on-one with Lindahl. Dithering on the ball, the attacker gave Mjelde more time to recover, the chance gone by the time she pulled the trigger, Lindahl gratefully blocking the shot.
The match remained wide open, the next best chance falling to Chelsea, Bachmann’s shot cannoned against the upright as white shirts flocked forwards once more, Blundell’s follow up well blocked by Murphy. The traffic wasn’t all one-way however and the Blues soon found themselves testing their luck as Jakobsson got the better of Lindahl, the goalkeeper pulled well out of her box by the attacker. Jakobsson’s ball in headed just wide by Laetitia Tonazzi, her last involvement of the match before being substituted for Stina Blackstenius as the hosts looked to force the issue.
The pressure mounted as the agony in the stands grew, the hosts tantalisingly close to parity, the visiting defence under masses of pressure. A loud groan going up when Veje slipped the ball square against the post in the afters of a Torrecilla free kick, the goal staunchly refusing to come for Montpellier.
Matching the substation with their own, Erin Cuthbert entered the fray for Chelsea, her first touch enough to send the ball just the wrong side of the post as the hosts were caught napping again. The young Scot needing just one more touch to double the advantage, her flying header at a poorly-defended corner, clinically finding the bottom corner as Murphy was beaten at full stretch.
Two down and looking like they already had more than one foot out of the competition with an away leg still to come, the hosts began to flag, still looking to attack it was clear the bite had left their game. Everything and the kitchen sink thrown at Chelsea, nothing wanted to stick for the hosts, Lindahl’s clean sheet preserved as the Blues headed home with the advantage.