Crystal Palace captain Freya Holdaway felt her side acquitted themselves well in their 4-0 defeat to Chelsea in the FA Women’s Continental Tyres League Cup on Sunday.
The Eagles, new to the FA Women’s Championship, worked hard to keep the scoreline down but the Super League champions’ extra quality proved too much for them in the second half.
It took Chelsea 10 minutes to break through, as Bethany England drove into space through the middle before putting the ball through for Adelina Engman, who finished comfortably past Megan Lynch.
Crystal Palace had a chance to equalise when the ball ran through to Chloe Burr, who was denied by an excellent Lizzie Durack stop.
Fran Kirby’s first big opportunity came in first-half stoppage time, when she was played through by Sophie Ingle, but the England forward surprisingly shot wide.
Lynch continued to keep the Eagles in the contest early in the second half when she did superbly to push Erin Cuthbert’s 25-yard rasper around the post.
Chelsea made it 2-0 in the 56th minute, as Kirby slid through a lovely pass for England, who passed the ball first-time into the bottom corner.
Kirby was the provider again for the Blues’ third, with her flick sending Drew Spence clear and although the skipper struck the inside of the post with her first effort, she easily tapped in the rebound.
The visitors scored their third goal in eight minutes when Kirby’s backheel sent England through to bag her second of the afternoon.
Holdaway said: “We knew they were going to be quality and class because there are some of the best players in the world in that team.
“We maybe had a 10-minute spell when we weren’t as alert and focused as we wanted to be, they took advantage of it and that’s something that will happen when you’re up against that standard.
“All in all, I don’t think we’ve done too badly, losing 4-0 against Chelsea, but we’ve got things to work on and we’ve got a big week ahead of us.
“Obviously, when you’re playing against a team like this fitness really starts to kick in after about 70-odd minutes and that’s where it showed with them.
“But the first half was good, we were positive and we were really pleased going in just 1-0 down. We could have potentially gone in at 1-1 and I couldn’t have asked for any more of the girls.”
West Ham claimed a 4-0 win over Millwall Lionesses in the same competition.
The hosts raced into a 3-0 lead inside the opening 15 minutes thanks to goals from Esmee de Graaf, Brianna Visalli and Rosie Kmita, before de Graaf wrapped up victory with her second late on.
Millwall captain Evie Clarke said: “We started the game really slow. We just weren’t good enough in the first half. We showed a lot of courage in the second half to come back and keep the score at 3-0 for a long time.
“We did well to only concede the one goal in the second half. I’m disappointed we conceded it though, we completely switched off for that free-kick.
“It was a learning curve for us. We have a young team. Every game like this is more experience. The second half was much better. We just need to work out how to start the game quicker.”
Lionesses are back in action tomorrow in the Championship – with a game at London Bees. The game is an 8pm kick off at The Hive.
Clarke said: “We need to be more threatening going forward. We only had one shot on target on Sunday and that isn’t good enough.
“We really need to recover now, because we have three games in the space of a week.
“It will be a lot to ask from our players, but we are looking forward to it and want to improve with each game that comes.
“The league is our main focus now. We want to win as many games as we can and really compete.”
Charlton Women kick off their Championship campaign on Wednesday night at home to Aston Villa Ladies. The fixture, at VCD Athletic, is a 7.45pmkick off.
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Photographs by Keith Gillard