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CHELSEA manager Emma Hayes was “happy to be home” today as her side thrashed Bristol City 9-0 in the first home game of their title defence, with each goal scored by a different player.
There were a number of debut goals for the Blues, but it was familiar face Fran Kirby who started the hosts’ onslaught in the 15th minute.
Kirby endured a difficult 2019-20 campaign, but Hayes said: “I think Fran is at a level above already. She doesn’t have to carry anyone on her shoulders in this team like she might have done a few years ago.”
It was this strength in depth and team spirit that seemed to please Hayes the most.
Maren Mjelde scored a penalty in the 32nd minute and new signing Melanie Leupolz headed Chelsea’s third after 35 minutes – the first of the debut goals.
Erin Cuthbert and Millie Bright rounded off the first-half goals as Chelsea showed that they mean business after their disappointing draw with Manchester United last week.
Current PFA player of the year Beth England opened the post-break scoring in the 64th minute and Chelsea showed their depth when record signing Pernille Harder came on to replace her just a minute later.
Harder enjoyed a successful home debut with a hand in the last three goals, immediately setting up fellow substitute and summer signing Niamh Charles to tap home.
Charles repaid the favour in the 73rd minute, squaring for Harder to finish a slick Chelsea move and Sam Kerr eventually got her goal in the 86th minute when Harder played her through.
“The fact that there were nine different goalscorers shows the diverse players that we have in our group,” Hayes said. “When it becomes about an individual at any point, you compromise on the biggest prizes.”
Being able to use all five of her substitutes played into Hayes’s hands on a hot afternoon when Chelsea rarely took their foot off the gas.
When asked about the gulf in class between her team and bottom-of-the-table Bristol City, Hayes conceded that the league will take time to grow.
“I’m hoping what happens at the top will trickle down,” she said.
“Might there have to be some teething pains to get to that level? Yes. And is there a gap? Yes. But I want to focus on all the great things that women’s football does in this country and build on that in the hope we take it even further.”
An influx of new signings to the WSL has seen the top of the table looks as competitive as it has ever been, and Hayes added: “Talent wins games, but teams win championships. They have the experience of knowing that and it’s my job to point them to that on a regular basis.”
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