West Ham edged out by high flying Chelsea

Cho So-Hyun

West Ham United lost 3-1 to Chelsea in the Women’s Super League on a disappointing Sunday afternoon at Rush Green Stadium.

Adriana Leon’s strike moments after entering the field from the bench had put the Hammers in front with half-an-hour remaining, but Chelsea managed to find the net three times in the last 20 minutes.

The loss sees West Ham slip to seventh in the WSL table, with six points from their first five fixtures.

2,122 supporters packed into the Rush Green Stadium, the highest total for a game at the Hammers’ home ground so far this season.

West Ham made a slow start in east London, and they found themselves under pressure from the off, goalkeeper Courtney Brosnan being called into action in the opening exchanges to save well from Mjelde.

Chelsea midfielder Ramona Bachmann was the next Chelsea player to be thwarted, this time by Gilly Flaherty, the captain timing her tackle immaculately to deny a goalscoring chance.

West Ham’s first opportunity of the afternoon came after 16 minutes. Kenza Dali threaded a ball through the Chelsea defence leaving Martha Thomas one-on-one from a narrowing angle. The forward, however, could only sting the palms of Berger in the Chelsea goal.

Chelsea were almost in front shortly after, a long ball from Andersson finding Bethany England who was well-positioned on the penalty spot, her deflected effort rattling the bar with Brosnan beaten.

The Hammers grew into the game more as the half wore on and manager Matt Beard will have been impressed with the astute defending of his side.

On the stroke of half-time West Ham had their best chance of the period, Martha Thomas beating an advancing Chelsea defender on the left-hand side of the area before firing a dangerous cross to Alisha Lehmann. The Swiss forward had the goal gaping but could only fire narrowly over.

The second half started slowly with neither side able to fashion a chance. West Ham kept the ball well and continued to frustrate Chelsea who were unable to sustain possession.

West Ham took the lead in the 59th minute through Adriana Leon. The forward, who was subbed on mere seconds before, reacted quickest to a parried strike by Martha Thomas and drove home, to the delight of jubilant home crowd.

The visitors were denied by the woodwork once again midway through the second period. West Ham failed to clear a corner and the ball fell to Millie Bright, and the defender’s half-volley grazed the top of the bar.

West Ham began to drop deeper and deeper in defence and the hosts were under relentless pressure after going in front.

The pressure finally told in the 70th minute, a slick passing move from Chelsea was finished calmly by Sophie Ingle and the visitors were back level.

Just seconds later and West Ham were behind, So-Hyun Ji finding herself with too much time on the edge of the box. The South Korean international curled a sublime effort past Brosnan to send Chelsea into the lead for the first-time.

As time began to wind down West Ham committed more and more bodies into the box. Martha Thomas was picked out at the front post by Lehmann, but she couldn’t direct her header on target.

Searching for the equaliser ended up being costly for the Irons, as they lost the ball needlessly late on, and Chelsea were able to counter at pace through Fran Kirby. 

Kirby was able to play in Drew Spence, who added a third for Chelsea in added time with what proved to be the last kick of the game.

West Ham United: Brosnan; Hendrix (Longhurst 76), Flaherty, Vetterlein, Baunach, Dali, Cho, Middag, Lehmann, Galabadaarachchi (Leon 59), Thomas

Subs not used: Moorhouse, Kvamme 

Goals: Leon 59

Chelsea: Berger; Bright, Ingle, England, Ji (Carter 90), Reiten, Eriksson, Mjelde, Andersson, Cuthbert (Kirby 62), Bachmann (Spence 84)

Subs not used: Carter, Cooper, Telford, Fleming

Goals: Ingle 70, Ji 72, Spence 90+3

Attendance: 2,122