Pernille Harder scores twice as West Ham Women fell to defeat against Chelsea on Thursday evening.
While the footballing world discussed the fallout of the UK government’s sanctions on Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich on Thursday evening, Emma Hayes’ team did their talking on the pitch.
West Ham were blown away by a devastating first half-performance from Chelsea as the Blues raced into a three-goal lead inside 32 minutes. The Hammers though, regrouped at half time and scored a goal of their own when Dagny Brynjarsdottir continued her good form in front of goal with a fine finish in the 48th minute. As the second half progressed, Chelsea were happy to lean on their two-goal lead as they defended deep and played on the counter-attack.
Despite West Ham’s dominance of possession, it felt as if they were walking into Chelsea’s trap, and so it proved when the visitors sprung a quick counter-attack that ended with Sam Kerr firing a low shot past Mackenzie Arnold in the 63rd minute to put the result beyond doubt.
Speaking to whufc.com after the final whistle, West Ham manager, Olli Harder, spoke of his pride at The Hammers’ second half performance.
"“I think we saw a much livelier performance from us after the break, we got closer to Chelsea and made it difficult for them at times. Arguably, I thought we were the better team in the second half – we certainly looked a lot more dangerous and created some good chances.”"
There were four changes to the West Ham team that beat Reading in the FA Cup as
Hawa Cissoko, Dagny Bryjarsdottir, Zaneta Wyne and Claudia Walker came into the side. Olli Harder was without defender Grace Fisk who missed the match through injury.
Emma Hayes made two changes to the team that lost the League Cup final to Manchester City last weekend as Zecira Musovic and Bethany England came in to the starting eleven in place of Ann-Katrin Berger and Guro Reiten.
Chelsea were almost in front in the first minute of the match when Joanna Anderson’s corner found Pernille Harder in the West Ham Women penalty area, but her header cannoned back off the post. The ball rebounded to Sam Kerr but the Chelsea forward was unable to direct her effort past Mackenzie Arnold.
The deadlock was broken in the 21st minute by a wonderful goal from Pernille Harder. Joanna Anderson pounced on a loose pass from Lucy Parker in the West Ham half and rolled the ball to Harder on the edge of the box. Harder took just two touches to put her team in front. The Norwegian international initially looked as if she would shoot first time with her right foot but instead shifted the ball quickly to her left to avoid two West Ham Women defenders and curled the ball into the far corner of the goal.
Chelsea’s second arrived just two minutes later when Niamh Charles’ half-volley flew into the roof of the net via a slight deflection from Gilly Flaherty. Pernille Harder was involved again as she battled with the West Ham defenders in the penalty area before nodding the ball back for Charles to strike the ball, first time, from around 25 yards out.
The outstanding Pernille Harder scored her second and Chelsea’s third after 32 minutes when she met Ji So-Yun’s pinpoint cross to head the ball past the onrushing Mackenzie. Ji caught out the West Ham defence as they tried to push up when the ball was played back to Ji by Sam Kerr. Harder beat the offside trap as she ghosted behind the backline to put last season’s WSL champions three goals up before half time.
Olli Harder’s half time team talk clearly had the desired effect as The Hammers scored just three minutes after the interval. Dagny Brynjarsdottir scored her third goal in as many matches as she volleyed Kate Longhurst’s cross into the bottom left corner to give the home fans something to cheer about.
West Ham had a greater share of possession in the second half and managed to create a couple of chances for Katerina Svitkova. The Czech midfielder had the Chelsea goalkeeper scrambling when her long-range effort flew just over the crossbar. A short time later, Svitkova then found space in the Chelsea penalty area but was unable to beat goalkeeper Zecira Musovic with her headed effort.
West Ham were made to pay for their missed opportunities just after the hour mark when a Chelsea counterattack ended with Sam Kerr firing the ball into the bottom corner of the goal. The attack began with Pernille Harder driving forward with the ball before she released Joanna Anderson down the Chelsea left, her cross hit Gilly Flaherty and fell to the feet of Lucy Parker who’s attempted clearance was intercepted by Kerr in the six yard box. The Australian international made no mistake with her finish as she scored her 10th league goal to move level with Arsenal striker Vivianne Miedema at the top of the WSL’s scoring charts.
Olli Harder’s team continued to search for a way back into the game, but Chelsea’s defence held firm as the visitors took all three points to move within five points of league leaders Arsenal.
Next up for West Ham is a trip to St Andrews to take on a Birmingham City side that is battling against relegation from the WSL.