Chelsea deliver right reaction against Brighton after League Cup final defeat
Emma Hayes had implored her Chelsea team to give her a reaction, after wilting in the League Cup final to Arsenal on Sunday. She even made seven changes to her starting XI for this Brighton game, such was her angst to shake her side into form.
But the first real reaction she got on Wednesday night was from referee Abigail Byrne. After a mere 11 minutes, Byrne awarded a penalty to offside Sam Kerr, who slipped in the area after a solid challenge. When Guro Reiten duly converted from the spot a minute later, thus began a predictable bounce-back performance for Chelsea, beating relegation battlers Brighton 3-1 with relative ease.
"You have to get over disappointment really quickly," an upbeat Hayes said post-match. "By our own standards [on Sunday] we let ourselves down, but we’ve dealt with that and moved on from that. What an amazing dressing room I’ve got. How many teams are going to make [seven] changes like that and still perform and produce results?"
Brighton felt hard done by over the penalty decision, and rightly so, but truthfully referee Byrne only started what Chelsea had been likely to get done even without the gimme opener.
Chelsea have picked apart most opponents this campaign, their loss to Arsenal a few days ago was only their second in all competitions. Meanwhile, Brighton have been leaking goals, with the worst defensive record in the league. Reiten's penalty was the 40th goal they had conceded in 12 matches, and it only got worse.
Within 21 minutes Jess Carter doubled Chelsea's lead from a corner, the ball taking a heavy deflection, and Brighton failed to take a single shot in the entire first half.
They were desperate for a bounce-back result too. It was their first outing since head coach Jens Scheuer left the club after just two months in charge on Monday, his sudden departure thought to be amid growing concerns over his management style.
For Brighton, such coaching turmoil was considered completely alien ahead of this season, as Hope Powell had guided a steady ship for five years. But blowout losses have put them in the danger zone, with former assistant Amy Merricks the latest to take interim charge. They will have to battle to stay up - currently at 11th, just two points above the relegation zone.
They improved in the second half, and substitute Danielle Carter jumped on a loose ball to thump one back in the 87th minute, but it came all too late, as Johanna Rytting Kaneryd had already rolled in Chelsea's third.
A real test awaits Chelsea on Sunday against league leaders Manchester United who they trail by one point with a game in hand.
Hayes capped off International Women's Day by paying tribute to the Lionesses, who successfully lobbied the government to commit to providing equal access to sport in schools. "I have to place on record how very proud I am of [defender] Lotte Wubben-Moy to have that foresight, I think along with [captain] Leah Williamson, to push the government.
"It all starts with the government and their directives and minimum financial package to not just change the narrative, but to create opportunity. [We] don’t know what that impact will be but it’s definitely in the right direction.”