HomeUKChelsea in control of group after Ingle and Cuthbert sink Real Madrid

Chelsea in control of group after Ingle and Cuthbert sink Real Madrid

Erin Cuthbert had said “people say I only score bangers and it’s actually annoying. I want to score tap-ins as well. I want to be known as a goalscorer,” after her stunning strike against Tottenham at the weekend. However, the Scottish forward, who signed a new contract with Chelsea last week, would fire in from wide to ensure Chelsea extended their lead at the top of Group A in the Champions League with a 2-0 defeat of Real Madrid and enhance her reputation for stylish goals.

There were three changes to the Chelsea side that beat Tottenham 3-0 on Sunday at Stamford Bridge, with Niamh Charles on in place of France’s Ève Pérriset, Canada’s Olympic gold medal winner Jessie Fleming shifted to the bench to make way for Fran Kirby, and Johanna Rytting Kaneryd favoured over Lauren James.

The biggest blow came on Tuesday, though, with the news that the influential forward Pernille Harder had undergone surgery following a hamstring injury picked up on international duty.

For Real, Athenea del Castillo – the goalscorer in their 1-0 away win at Sporting Huelva – was on the bench, Misa Rodríguez returned in goal in place of France’s Méline Gérard, while Maite Oroz, Freya Olofsson, Naomie Feller and Esther González all started after sitting out at the weekend.

In Emma Hayes’s first game at Kingsmeadow after her emergency hysterectomy following a lengthy struggle with endometriosis, Chelsea started brightly, and – after some nice work from Sam Kerr – Kirby collected and forced a save from the Real goalkeeper Rodríguez in the fourth minute. The Blues dominated for much of the first half, but could only muster three attempts on goal for their efforts.

Real arrived at Kingsmeadow having played English opposition, Manchester City, three times and avoided defeat each time.

Despite the quick start, there was little to separate the two sides, neither of which had conceded a goal in Group A.

Sophie Ingle heads home to give Chelsea the lead after Erin Cuthbert’s corner was flicked on by Millie Bright. Photograph: Andrew Couldridge/Reuters

A win would give Chelsea a chance to stretch five points clear of Real and Paris Saint-Germain at the group’s midway point, while the Albanian side Vllaznia sit bottom, without a goal or a point, after a 5-0 defeat against PSG in the early kick-off.

Yet, despite the chance to really take control of the group, Hayes’s side struggled to create clear goalscoring opportunities.

The Real Madrid manager, Alberto Toril, said prior to kick-off that his team were “going to fight and make life difficult” and they did just that, stifling service to Kerr, Kirby and the subdued Rytting Kaneryd.

The latter would be substituted in place of James, while Kirby would make way for Fleming around the hour mark as Hayes’ attempted to inject some energy into an increasingly soul-sucking half of football.

It was also a quiet return to Kingsmeadow for Real Madrid’s Caroline Weir, who scored against her former team, Manchester City, in qualifying to enable Real’s progression to the group stage.

Chelsea would be forced to rely on a set piece to break through in the 68th minute, with Cuthbert’s corner from the right headed on at the near post by Millie Bright and turned in by the head of Ingle at the back. It was a rocket the crowd and players sorely needed.

Like buses, the first was swiftly followed by the second and it was also Cuthbert’s second screamer in two games. Her cross-cum-shot flew into the far side netting from the right to give her team a two-goal cushion in the tight encounter.

In the end it was simple, but the game was far from pretty. That is what is so effective about Hayes’s Chelsea, though, regardless of how they play or how long it takes, the players get results.

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