BY PAUL LAGAN
Chelsea cruised to a 3-0 win over tough but unimaginative Everton at Kingsmeadow this afternoon to cement third place in the WSL1, which resumed after the festive break.
Goals from Bethany England, Drew Spence and Hannah Blundell saw off the Toffeewomen who had goalkeeper Kirsty Levell to thank for preventing a rout, such was her agility and lightening reflexes.
The Blues will have eyes on denting table-topping Arsenal next Sunday at the north Londoners Meadow Park ground. Nine consecutive wins for the Blues in all competitions should provide all they confidence they need to avenge the 5-0 thrashing they suffered at the hands of the Gooners in October.
Emma Hayes kept faith with the players who finished 2018 on a high. New goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger was left in the stands while Fran Kirby, fit after resting an injury was on the bench.
After two minutes a long kick saw So Yun Ji sweep through on goal, only for Gabby George to make a last-ditch tackle to thwart the South Korean.
Six minutes in and the first strike on goal saw the Londoners take the lead. Good pressure saw Erin Cuthbert pass to Bethany England, racing clear inside the Everton penalty area. She drove a low, angle left-footer wide of Kirsty Levell and into the net.
Drew Spence was next to test the goalkeeper – another left-footer saw Levell do well to dive to her right to snaffle the effort on 11 minutes. This was quickly followed by skipper Karen Carney’s effort, again well saved by the goalkeeper.
Levell was already becoming the top candidate for woman of the match when she parried away a Hannah Blundell blaster on on 15 minutes for a corner.
A thunderous 35 yarder by Millie Bright, on 25 minutes, saw Levell get a finger-tip to the ball which then rattled the crossbar before being cleared for a corner.
Levell was at it again four minutes before the break, diving, low to her right, tipping a long-ranger from Erin Cuthbert onto her post. The ball zipped across the goal line before being hacked away.
There were no changes by either side at half-time.
But the travel of traffic was, just like the first half, all going towards Everton’s goal.
Bright tried another blockbuster of a 20-yarder on 47 minutes, but who else but Levell stopped the goal-bound net-buster, with a fine diving save to her right.
On 59 minutes, the pressure finally paid off – a simple corner by Carney was met by Bright and Spence was on hand to tuck the ball home from close range.
Cuthbert saw an angled right-footer, a minutes later inch wide of goal, as the Blues went in search of a third.
That came on 66 minutes with a fine right-footer by Hannah Blundell.
Fran Kirby entered the fray for Cuthbert and Jonna Andersson, was replaced by Ali Riley.
It was Kirby’s first match since early November when the Blues played West Ham United.
Chelsea’s third change saw Anita Asante come on for Spence on 73 minutes.
The Blues are back at home on Wednesday when they face Reading at 7pm in the Continental Tyres Cup quarter-final before facing Arsenal, away on Sunday with a 12.30pm kick-off.
Team: Chelsea, Lindahl, Blundell, Bright, Ingle, Carney, Ji, England, Eriksson, Anderson, Cuthbert, Spence
Subs: Telford, Asante, Carter, Riley, Kirby, Engman, Cooper
Everton: levell, Turner, Brougham, George, Boyle-Hlorkah, Magill, Kelly, James, Hinds, Finnigamn, Hughes
Subs: Flaherty, Worm, Kaagman, Stringer, Bruinenberg
Referee: Lee Brennan