Chelsea edged closer to qualifying for the quarter finals of the Champions League with a hard fought 2-0 victory over Real Madrid on Wednesday evening.
Second half goals from Sophie Ingle and Erin Cuthbert proved to be the difference in a tight Kingsmeadow encounter.
The first half was a close affair of very few chances. Fran Kirby drew a stretching save from Misa Rodriguez inside three minutes after some trademark linkup play with Sam Kerr as Chelsea started in the accedency. But Real grew into the game, Caroline Weir seeing a goal-bound effort blocked by Kadeisha Buchanan as the opening 45 finished goalless.
Having finished the first half strongly, Real carried on from where they left off at the beginning of the second, testing Ann-Katrin Berger with a Naomie Feller cross after the winger had burst past Magdalena Eriksson.
Jessie Fleming and Lauren James were introduced early in the second period, and the pair breathed new life into the Chelsea team with their energy and flair.
Having hardly threatened since the opening exchanges, a set piece was required for Chelsea to take the lead in the 68th minute. Erin Cuthbert’s corner was flicked on by Millie Bright, and Ingle headed home.
Real went in search of a leveller, with the right flank continuing to be a source of danger for the visitors. Kenti Robles provided a teasing delivery for Esther to latch onto, but again Buchanan was on hand to make an important intervention.
Moments later, Chelsea doubled their advantage – and in fortuitous circumstances, as Cuthbert’s attempted cross from the right inadvertently flew into the top corner.
Niamh Charles fired into the side netting as the clocked ticked down after being magnificently found by James, as Chelsea ultimately ran out deserved winners.
GK: Ann-Katrin Berger – 6/10 – Got an important touch to a dangerous Feller cross in the second half and had a couple of comfortable saves to make, but was up to the task.
RB: Niamh Charles – 7/10 – Looked lively and was constantly up and down, seeing an over hit cross almost catch out Misa as it landed on the roof of the net in the first half, and seeing another effort hit the side netting in the second after another foray forward.
CB: Kadeisha Buchanan – 8/10 – Produced an important block to keep out a goal bound Weir effort in the first half, and another to deny Esther in the second.
CB: Millie Bright – 8/10 – Cut out pass after pass for the Blues at the back. Won the flick on to set up Ingle for Chelsea’s opener.
LB: Magdalena Eriksson – 5/10 – Beaten for pace by Feller in the second half as Real created one of their most dangerous openings of the match, with Real often carrying their biggest threat down the Chelsea left.
CM: Sophie Ingle – 7/10 – Great determination to get her head to the ball first and put Chelsea 1-0 up. Typically tidy and composed.
CM: Erin Cuthbert – 7/10 – Provided the curling set piece delivery from which Chelsea opened the scoring, before getting on the score sheet with a cross-come-shot.
RW: Johanna Rytting Kaneryd – 5/10 – Not quite able to bring the ball under control during a promising Chelsea attack in the first half. Showed glimpses of her magical feet, but replaced before the hour after failing to ever really get the better of the Real backline.
AM: Fran Kirby – 5/10 – Back into the starting XI after a spell out with illness. Tested Misa inside three minutes with a low effort after working the angle herself, but this would be her brightest moment, as she struggled to have a telling impact on proceedings.
LW: Guro Reiten – 6/10 – Tracked back well on a few occasions to help out defensively.
ST: Sam Kerr – 6/10 – Combined well with Kirby to create Chelsea’s best first half opening. Put in a big defensive shift and ran her socks off.
SUB: Lauren James (55′ for Rytting Kaneryd) – 7/10
SUB: Jessie Fleming (55′ for Kirby) – 6/10
SUB: Jess Carter (79′ for Reiten) – 6/10
GK: Misa Rodríguez – 6/10 – Tipped a Kirby effort around the post inside three minutes with an impressive stretching save.
RB: Kenti Robles – 6/10 – Got forward frequently as Real’s right flank carried their biggest threat in the first half. Provided a teasing cross from which Esther came close to getting on the scoresheet in the second half.
CB: Kathellen – 6/10 – Prevented Chelsea netting a third by impressively scrambling the ball off the line.
CB: Ivana Andrés – 5/10 – Lost track of marker Ingle as the Chelsea midfielder headed the Blues into the lead from a corner.
LB: Olga Carmona – 5/10 – Kept Rytting Kaneryd relatively quiet, but struggled more against James in the second half.
CM: Claudia Zornoza – 6/10 – Shielded the back four impressively, but not able to prevent Cuthbert sending in the cross from which Chelsea doubled their lead.
CM: Freja Olofsson – 5/10 – Offered protection for the back four, allowing the Real front four to surge forward with freedom. Lost out in the air to Bright in the build up to the Chelsea opener.
RW: Naomie Feller – 7/10 – Carried a big attacking threat, burning past Eriksson in the second half to create one of Real’s most dangerous openings. Surprisingly replaced just after the hour, having arguably been her side’s most dangerous forward player.
AM: Caroline Weir – 6/10 – Good on the ball, saw a goal bound effort blocked by Buchanan, but tended to drift in and out of the game and faded in the second half.
LW: Maite Oroz – 5/10 – Kept really quiet and unable to have much of an attacking impact on the game.
ST: Esther (86′ for Moller) – 5/10 – Saw her only sighting of goal sniffed out by Buchanan and largely left to feed off scraps.
SUB: Sofie Svava (62′ for Feller) – 5/10
SUB: Rocío Gálvez (80′ for Olofsson) – 5/10
SUB: Nahikari García (80′ for Carmona) – 5/10
SUB: Sandie Toletti (86′ for Zornoza) – N/A
SUB: Caroline Moller (86′ for Esther) N/A