BY PAUL LAGAN
Chelsea made hard work of their 3-1 victory over Brighton & Hove Albion in the first group match of the Continental Tyres Cup at Kingsmeadow this afternoon.
Goals from Drew Spence, a tap-in by Fran Kirby and a bullet diving header by substitute Bethany England was enough to see off the plucky Seagulls who scored from the head of Aileen Whelan.
This was not a comfortable afternoon for the Blues, who looked sluggish for most of the game without ever looking in danger of losing the match.
Maria Thorisdottir had the first effort on goal, on six minutes, heading inches wide from a Fran Kirby left wing cross.
A shot from Jonna Andersson, again from a Kirby pass, took a slight deflection and went for a corner as the Blues intensified the pressure on the visitors.
Karen Carney had a great chance on 35 minutes but her scooped left-footed effort after Erin Cuthbert dislodged the ball from the Brighton defence went over Sophie Harris’s goal.
An excellent run and left byline cross by Carnet was met by Cuthbert’s head, but the glanced header inched over the Brighton goal.
The visitors had a great chance just before the break but Kayleigh Green sliced her low, right-footed effort wide.
Deep into added time the deadlock was broken and Drew Spence smashed home from 10 yards.
There were no changes for the Blues at half-time, but the dominance continued from the first.
Kirby tried a curler with her left-foot on 55 minutes but her finishing boots must have been left in the changing room.
A pinger from Carney went over the Brighton crossbar as the Blues created chances but failed to put them away. Cuthbert was next up with a shot from the edge of the penalty area, but it was easily snaffled by Harris.
A terrific save by Harris to thwart Spence on 62 minutes saw the goalkeeper get down low to her left to parry away a venomous left-footer. That was the last action for the striker as Emma Hayes replaced her with Ramona Bachman, while Jess Carter was also replaced by Adelina Engman.
Bachman’s first contribution saw the Blues double the lead when the Switzerland striker crashed in a left-footer, Harris could only knock the ball on and Kirby was quickest to react to tap the ball over the goal line from close range.
The third substitution saw Cuthbert replaced by Bethany England on 72 minutes.
England should have added to the tally but her volley was hacked off the line with 15 minutes to go.
Brighton, completely against the run of play got a goal back when Aileen Whelan produced a powerful header to zip the ball past a prone Hedvig Lindahl, who up to that point had being almost a tourist.
England had another effort, from long range well saved by Harris.
She finally got what she deserved with four minutes on the clock. Anderson’s left-wing cross was met powerfully on the head by England who smashed the ball past Harris from close range.
Teams: Lindahl, Thorisdottir, Bright, Ingle, Carter, Carney, Kirby, Mjelde, Andersson, Cuthbert, Spence
Subs: Durack, England, Engman, Cooper, Bachman, Jade Bailey
Brighton: Harris, Roe, Gibbons, Burt, Rafferty, Whelan, Natkiel, Nilden, Green, Williams, Simpkins
Subs: Gillett, Whelan, Umotong, Legg, Perry, Brett
Referee: Jack Packman