By Paul Lagan at Chigwell Construction Stadium
West Ham United 1 v Chelsea 4
Pernille Harder hit a brace and Niamh Charles and Sam Kerr notched a goal apiece as clinical- finishing Chelsea saw off resolute but limited West Ham United 4-1 at the Chigwell Construction Stadium tonight.
The Hammers goal, seconds into the second half, by Dagny Brynjarsdottir briefly suggested they could force an unlikely comeback. Already down 3-0 by that time, they failed to capitalise on a period of sustained pressure and Kerr’s predatory strike to make it four killed off any serious resistance.
WSL champions Chelsea needed to win to keep them on track of overhauling leaders Arsenal, who having played two games more the the west Londoners are just five points ahead.
Millie Bright hit the woodwork in the first minute with a header. But the ball was cleared giving the hosts a bit of breathing space to get their act together.
Beth England, restored to the side in the absence of unwell Fran Kirby, had a good chance on 17 minutes but failed to scoop the ball accurately enough from close range and goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold simply snatched the ball.
West Ham increased their share of possession without troubling the Chelsea back four.
On 21 minutes, the Blues took full advantage of a wayward pass from centre-back Lucy Parker. Harder produced a wonderful left footer to zip the ball past Mackenzie Arnold.
Two minutes later and Arnold was taking the ball out of her net when Niamh Charles doubled the score when her blistering shot, from the edge of the Hammers’ penalty area nestled in the back of the goal, having taken a slight deflection.
Tameka Yallop almost brought the score back to one, but stand-in stopper Zecira Musovic, topped her effort over the crossbar.
Goal number three was a well worked move on 32 minutes. Kerr raced to a long ball. Cut the ball back and it was plonked dead centre by Ji to in-running Harder, who like Martin Peters of old, had ghosted into six-yard box and guided the ball past Arnold.
After Jess Carter lost the ball on the left, it was sent deep to the Chelsea far post but Katrina Svitkova could only head wide of goal on 44 minutes.
There were no substitution by either side at half-time.
But within two minutes the home side had scored. A loose ball by Kerr saw the Hammers take control of the play, and the ball dropped invitingly to Brynjarsdottir to smash home from close range.
That was the fillip the Hammers needed to put extra pace in their step and force the the west Londoners to retreat.
But the Blues did not panic and did their best to ride out the pressure.
Musovic and Carter exchanged words after the goalkeeper needlessly kicked the ball out of play on 59 minutes suggesting all was not a cohesive at the back as in the first half.
Svitkova out jumped a rather static Charles on 61 minutes but her header although on target, was weak, allowing Musovic the confidence-booster of an easy save.
Chelsea showed their clinical nature on 62 minutes, a quick break by Harder and Andersson saw the Hammers defence allow the ball to drop to Sam Kerr who thumped home the ball to restore the three-goal advantage.
Chelsea head coach decided to replace Beth England with Drew Spence on 67 minutes with Guro Reiten also replacing JI.
They were soon followed by Russian defender Alsu Abdullina who replaced Andersson.
And then on came Lauren James for Harder with 12 minutes left on the clock.
The Hammers re away to Birmingham on Sunday, while the Blues take on Aston Villa at Kingsmeadow.
Teams: West Ham, Mackenzie Arnold, Zaneta Wyne, Gilly Flaherty, Claudia Walker, Katerina Svitkova, Kate Longhurst, Tameka Yallop, Yun Hasegawa, Lucy Parker, Hawa Cissoko, Dagny Brynjardottir
Subs: Anna Leat, Abbey-Leigh Stringer, Lisa Evans, Emma Snerle, Mel Filis, Adriana Leon, Lois Joel, Brooke Cairns, Halle Houssein
Chelsea: Musovic, Nouwen, Bright, Ingle, Carter, England, Ji, Kerr, Charles, Harder, Andersson
Subs, Berger, Reiten, Mjelde, James, Spence, Abdullina
Referee: Carl Brooks