- Albion still searching for their first league win after a 2-0 defeat at Chelsea
- Fran Kirby and Erin Cuthbert with the goals for the hosts
- Ini Umotong and Victoria Williams go close for Albion
- Everton are the next opponents in two weeks’ time
It was a tough afternoon in London for Brighton & Hove Albion, who lost 2-0 to Chelsea in the FA Women’s Super League this afternoon.
Hope Powell made four changes from the last league match against Liverpool, with Marie Hourihan playing her first match of the season in goal, while Fern Whelan made her first start of the season.
It was expected to be a tough match for Albion, who came up against the current WSL and Women’s FA Cup holders, and the hosts' quality showed from the start.
After just six minutes Chelsea’s So-Yun Ji managed to slide a ball through the Albion defence to release England international Fran Kirby one-on-one with Hourihan, but the Seagulls stopper pulled off a smart save to deny her.
Kirby was central to all of Chelsea’s good play in the first-half and regularly found space. After 12 minutes she managed to pick out Ramona Bachmann, who was only six yards out but the combined efforts of Danielle Buet and Fliss Gibbons were able to keep the ball out of the net.
Hourihan was called into action again, denying Erin Cuthbert twice in the space of two minutes, but there was nothing she could do about the hosts’ first goal.
On 32 minutes, Magdalena Eriksson swung in a cross from the left and found Kirby in the middle of the box, whose deft touch took the ball past Hourihan in the Albion goal.
Chelsea then compounded the disappointment for the Seagulls, as just four minutes later Bachmann crossed in from the right to find an unmarked Cuthbert, who couldn’t miss from six yards out.
Albion started to improve before half-time, but were unable to find the final pass to create a chance on goal.
Encouraged by Hope Powell’s words at the break, Albion started to pose a threat on the Chelsea goal at the start for the second-half.
Firstly, Aileen Whelan did superbly to win the ball back in central midfield and her pass set Ini Umotong through on goal. The Nigeria international held off two Chelsea defenders but was unable to find a way past Carly Telford, who did very well to get her fingertips to the ball.
Umotong was in the thick of it once again just minutes later, but her effort from 20 yards went wide of the goal.
The chances kept coming for Albion, with the ball almost finding the net twice in the matter of seconds just after the hour mark.
Firstly, Buet’s dangerous in-swinging corner found Fern Whelan in the penalty area, but Telford was equal to her effort. Then from the resulting play, a dipping 25-yard effort from Victoria Williams had Telford scrambling back to her goal line, but she ultimately managed to tip it over the bar.
With ten minutes remaining, Umotong found herself in front of goal once more after a powerful run from the right, but once again Telford was equal to her efforts.
The game evened out as the match was drawing to a close with both sides having half-chances, but nothing clear cut, leaving Albion searching for their first WSL points of the season.
Albion will now look to regroup ahead of their next WSL match away at Everton on Sunday 14th October.
ALBION: Hourihan; Barton, Rafferty, Williams, Gibbons; A. Whelan, Buet, F. Whelan, Brazil; Green; Umotong
SUBS NOT USED: Gillett (GK), Natkiel, Nilden, Peplow, Legg, Perry, Brett
Hope Powell took the positives from today’s 2-0 FA Women’s Super League defeat to Chelsea, in an encouraging display at Kingsmeadow.
Albion found themselves 2-0 down at half-time, but came out fighting in the secondhalf and had a number of chances to pull the game back.
She said: “We’re very aware of what we are up against in this league, against this team full of international talent.
“We set up to be hard to beat and I think we competed very well. The secondhalf from us was much better, we pushed the players to be more on the front foot.
“Whilst we were very good after half-time, the disappointing thing is we didn’t get anything for it.
“Despite it all, I am pleased with the way we conducted ourselves.”
The manager was also encouraged by the improvement the team has shown from when they first played the Blues in the FA Continental Tyres Cup.
“If I compare this game to the one we played against them in the Continental Tyres Cup, where we lost 3-1, I think we are getting better.
“We’re improving that little bit more in every game we’ve played, and hopefully that will be enough to see us through the season.
“We have to be hard to beat and we can’t leave ourselves exposed at the back, which is what we’ve been working on.
“Despite the defeat I’m happy defensively, it’s in the final third where we need to work on because we’re creating the chances.”
“I think the good thing is we are learning in each game, our performances are getting better and the fact we created a number of chances today shows that we are on the right track.
Powell also explained what she said at half-time to keep the players motivated, and went onto praise Ini Umotong for another tireless display.
“I said that the game today will not define our season or whether we will stay up or not. It’s about character, resilience and the need to play more on the front foot.
“I wanted them to show a spirited performance and I think they showed that, which I’m very pleased with.
“Ini was an example of that. Her physicality is a strong part of her game. She is able to hold defenders off and give herself the best chance.
“All she needs to do now is put the ball in the back of the net. But I’m pleased for Ini, I’ve given her a lot of encouragement to do the basic things well and she’s learning in every game.”
The manager will now look to take the confidence from the second-half performance into their next match against Everton, in two weeks’ time.
“The stats will say that Chelsea had the most possession, but we had a good go and the performance will help us going forward.
“I think we’ve got enough about us to stay in the league. Every game we are learning, so I think the break for us until the next match comes at a good time.
“We had a few injuries at the beginning of the season, but players are now starting to come back.
“Fern [Whelan] was one of them today and think she did a really good job in the middle. It’s just about trying to be more consistent in our performances.”