Emma Hayes rung the changes from last weeks side at home to Reading, with Magda Erikkson, Maren Mjelde and new signing Sam Kerr rested before a busy week of action. It only took a few minutes into kickoff before it became immediately clear that their presence was not to be particularly missed, with Chelsea in the ascendancy, led by the probing innovation of Ji So Yun and powerful running of Beth England. A beautiful Hannah Blundell corner was powered handsomely wide by England, before a goal-bound Ji arrow was deflected out of play, much to the relief of Loren Dykes and her backline.
Another superb teasing ball in behind from found the grateful England who manufactured another half chance for herself, and agonisingly drove wide. She was left to rue her early missed opportunities after, against the run of play, Ebony Salmon found herself in acres of space on the edge of the box and drove a left-footed strike past the stranded Berger in net. A hush descended over Kingsmeadow. Surely not? Bristol City, of 11th place, to upset currently unbeaten title-chasers Chelsea?
Erin Cuthbert down the right-hand side sought to inspire an early fight back, with her directness and trickery creating some issues for Poppy Pattinson and her partners beside her.
With Chelsea searching for that elusive leveller, the onus fell on who else but Beth England of course, the international striker picking up her customary WSL goal, bravely stealing in behind the Bristol backline to nod home a floated Sophie Ingle delivery. ‘Are you watching Phil Neville?’ cried out the Chelsea faithful, as Chelsea began to find their mojo again.
Some further indecision at the back, however, managed to provide Bristol forward Salmon with another opportunity to add to her goal-scoring tally, yet her tame attempt was comfortably dealt with by Berger.
With 5 minutes to go before the break, Hannah Blundell cut inside onto her left foot and sent a rasping deflected effort goal bound to leave Sophie Baggaley helpless.
How much difference a goal can make, hey? A goalmouth scramble right on the stroke of half time was poked willingly home by Jess Carter in what was her first Chelsea goal since her arrival from Birmingham. Breathing space at last for the Blues and the fun wasn’t to relent.
Before fans could catch their breath, Ji So Yun made it 4, a piledriver from the edge of the box which ended the flurry of late goals and a first-half which had once looked so positive and promising for Bristol.
There was to be no respite for the travelling side. The arrival of Sam Kerr at half time did little to enthuse the Bristol travelling support, and it was not long before she made her presence felt. Her second backheel in as many weeks set up Guro Reiten whose perfect delivery could simply not elude a second arriving player, with Ji merely easing home to claim her second and Chelsea’s fifth of the afternoon.
And the onslaught did not stop there. Blundell, almost sympathetically, cannoned a strike against the right-hand post to spare Baggaley from a sixth. Further signs of ever-growing telepathy between the Matildas captain Kerr and strike partner England culminated in another gilt-edged opportunity for the Blues’s number 9, who could only fire straight at the keeper.
A last gasp defensive clearance from the stoic Jas Matthews and a late offside flag managed to prevent Kerr from grabbing her first goal in Chelsea blue. However, her counterpart England could only miss a few more chances before an inevitable second came. It was to be England’s head once again, and the floodgates had well and truly opened. Six of the very best!
Had it not been for Chelsea’s first-half profligacy and Matthews’s commendable defensive efforts, it could have been 10 in truth. Yet you suspect Hayes will be pleased with Chelsea’s emphatic reaction in the first half, and their desire not to settle at any number of goals.
Now for the small matter of league leaders Arsenal next week...
Chelsea caught out again
This is not the first time Emma Hayes’s side have found themselves 1-0 down this season. Make no mistake, Salmon’s goal was one of high class but Erin Cuthbert should not be losing the ball in those sort of areas, and the Chelsea manager asserted post-game that it was a performance once again marred by some sloppy defensive work.
Kerr's time will come
With pressure and that sort of profile comes lofty expectations, perhaps rather unfair. Kerr has gone a second game without scoring and whilst this may seem a surprise to some, her 45-minute cameo was certainly one of exciting promise. Her interplay with Beth England continues to draw admiration from the Kingsmeadow crowd, and her trademark flicks frequently excite. Spending her second week with her new teammates in completely unfamiliar territories, she requires patience and a goal most certainly beckons.
Bristol fail to inspire
The away team couldn’t summon the energy and fight from last week against Manchester United in what remains their only win of the season. Granted, this was a firing Chelsea side that have yet to be defeated this season, whilst Salmon looked lively occupying Blundell. To be frank, it must be said that it could easily have been 10 or more for Chelsea had they not been so wasteful in front of goal. For Tanya Oxtoby and the Robins, it looks rather bleak and they could do with some points sooner rather than later. United was a start and they need to capitalise on some easier fixtures ahead, beginning with those below them in Liverpool next week.
Standout player - Ji So-Yun
The South Korean international was in wonderous form today, dictating proceedings at will and managing to get herself on the scoresheet twice. She could perhaps consider herself unlucky to not have got a few more assists to her name, regularly combining with England down the right channel to create some fantastic openings for her team. Her two finishes, one a low drive from 20 yards out and the other a tap in, capped another superb performance in which her influence was undoubtedly felt.