Fran Kirby became Chelsea’s record goalscorer

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Fran Kirby became Chelsea’s record goalscorer as the Blues produced a clinical performance to open our 2020/21 Champions League campaign.
After a season away from Europe’s elite, Emma Hayes’s side wasted no time establishing ourselves in the competition on our return, and we were in front after only 80 seconds thanks to a milestone goal from Kirby.

Chelsea’s No.14 turned home a low cross from Pernille Harder to take her tally for the club to 69, which surpassed the previous record, which she shared with Eniola Aluko. Few will have been more straightforward than this finish, which she simply could not miss.

Although Benfica briefly offered up a firmer defence, once we’d breached their backline for a second time the floodgates opened. Millie Bright was the scorer, heading home a Guro Reiten free-kick, and by the time the opening 45 minutes were up our lead was four.

Reiten was double the supplier, the first for Kirby to clinically space home and the second a corner kick which Harder headed past the attendant, and when the official blew for half-time it was clear the game was over as an important challenge.

Bethany England made it 5-0 soon after the stretch, certainly terminating in her first Champions League objective subsequent to being sent through by Ji So-Yun and, with a bustling timetable not too far off, Hayes accepted the open door to roll out discount improvements inside the initial 15 minutes of the half.

In spite of the fact that there were no further increases to the scoresheet, it had been a more than acceptable first European trip this term and the Blues will be front-runners to make sure about our position in the last 16 when we invite Benfica to Kingsmeadow for the second leg next Wednesday.

This present evening’s down was our first in the Champions League since April 2019, when we took on Lyon in the semi-finals, and eight of the players who began that game were additionally chosen by Hayes for this excursion to rivalry newcomers Benfica, who rolled out three improvements to the side that crushed West Ham United at the end of the week.

Maria Thorisdottir, Melanie Leupolz and Sam Kerr were the players to clear a path, as Bright, Sophie Ingle and Reiten came into the group. That implied our standard back four of Maren Mjelde, Bright, Magda Eriksson – showing up for the club – and Jonna Andersson was reestablished before Ann-Katrin Berger. An assaulting midfield group of four of Kirby, Ingle, Ji and Reiten would offer a lot of help to England and Harder in assault.

It didn’t take long for that to happen, as just 80 seconds had slipped by when Kirby put the Blues in front with a memorable objective, as she turned into the club’s driving scorer in the WSL time. Harder was the maker with a raging overview the left and a low cross that by one way or another made it right through to our No14, who wasn’t going to leave behind the chance. It was her 69th for Chelsea in all rivalries, outperforming the imprint set by Aluko, and 11 of them have come in the Champions League, which is additionally a Chelsea best count.

Benfica attendant Vilao needed to get down intelligently to deny England, who terminated in an incredible low strike on the half-volley that was kicked away, however in any case there was little to isolate the sides in the initial 20 minutes following Kirby’s initial opening. The home side had all the earmarks of being efficient protectively and they were sufficiently certain to leave two assailants up the field while the Blues had the ball, which implied there were no simple spells ownership to be had for our safeguards. What they weren’t offering was a hostile danger, be that as it may, as Berger stayed a virtual onlooker.

The equivalent absolutely couldn’t be said about the Blues, as we before long multiplied our favorable position with the most straightforward of objectives. Benfica’s guarded association departed for good when Reiten ventured up to take a free-show from out by the left touchline, as Bright was left totally plain at the back post to control home a header.

Now Hayes’s side were flying, and in the blink of an eye our lead was suddenly three and we already had one foot in the next round. Reiten was involved once again, slipping the ball through to Kirby. With just the keeper to beat, our new record scorer confidently slotted the ball across Vilao and into the bottom corner.

Another set-piece proved to be Benfica’s undoing again on the stroke of half-time, and once more it was trusted left foot of Reiten that did all the damage. The Norwegian completed a hat-trick of assists in the first half, this time from a corner kick as she whipped a teasing cross into the danger zone and Harder got up above her marker to nod the ball home.

Chelsea had barely even got out of first gear, yet our lead after 45 minutes was four and we had never looked in danger of conceding. Hayes surely couldn’t have envisaged a more straightforward start to the contest.

The manager made one change for the second half, bringing on Jess Carter for Andersson to play left-back, which is one of the few roles our versatile No7 isn’t overly familiar with. She approached it just as one might have expected – head on – and within five minutes of her introduction she’d already embarked on a couple of barnstorming runs. One such foray into opposition territory led to a gilt-edged chance for Harder, via a touch from England, which the Dane smashed over the bar.

We didn’t have to wait much longer for our fifth, however, as England got herself on the scoresheet with a clinical left-footed finish after Ji had slid a pass through the heart of the Benfica rearguard. Despite her prolific form domestically, that was England’s maiden strike in Europe’s premier club competition.

What followed was definitely another Chelsea Women initial: a fourfold replacement. With the match serenely dominated, this was an occasion to flaunt the profundity in her crew, so Hayes welcomed on Maria Thorisdottir, Jessie Fleming, Erin Cuthbert and Niamh Charles, supplanting Eriksson, Mjelde, Kirby and Ji.

Cuthbert looked the most splendid off the seat, however the Scot was the casualty of a wild test by Ucheibe, who went over the ball and stepped down on her. Notwithstanding the two players requiring treatment, the arbitrator wasn’t tricked – a subsequent yellow card was appeared to the Benfica midfielder and she was shipped off.

Notwithstanding our mathematical favorable position, we were content with our part – and, at 5-0 up away from home, is there any valid reason why we wouldn’t be – and the nearest either side came to scoring was a quick counter-assault that saw Lacasse test Berger unexpectedly. She was more than capable, but making a somewhat unusual spare with her face, however it was sufficient to safeguard the perfect sheet.

The tie will finish up with the second leg at Kingsmeadow next Wednesday, yet the Blues will be in real life again before then when we travel to the People’s Pension Stadium to take on Brighton and Hove Albion. That game commences at 2pm and you can watch it live on the FA Player application.

Chelsea (4-4-2): Berger; Mjelde (J Fleming 61), Bright, Eriksson (c) (Thorisdottir 61), Andersson (Carter h/t); Kirby (Cuthbert 61), Ingle, Ji (Charles 61), Reiten; England, Harder

Unused subs Telford, Orman, Blundell, Spence, Kerr

Scorers Kirby 2, 33, Bright 29, Harder 45, England 54

Booked Cuthbert 77

Benfica (4-3-3): Vilao; Amado, Costa, Rebelo (c), Seica; Ucheibe, Pauleta, Vitoria; Faria (Cameirao 40), Raysla (Nazareth 82), Lacasse

Unused subs Dani Neuhaus, Fidalgo, Amani, Mariana Alberto, Carlota Cristo

Booked Ucheibe 28

Shipped off Ucheibe 76 (two appointments)

Ref Esther Staubli (Switzerland)

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