Fran Kirby masterminded Chelsea’s 3-1 win over Brighton with three assists, for Guro Reiten, Sam Kerr and Beth England, to lift the Blues to the summit of the Women’s Super League table for the first time this season, albeit for just a few hours.
As the only team to take three points off of the champions in the league last season the Brighton players travelled back to Kingsmeadow with a target on their backs. The 2-1 defeat in February was Chelsea’s first in the league, home or away, since a 3-2 loss to Birmingham in January 2019.
That victory over the champions was the jewel in the crown of a very strong season for Hope Powell’s Brighton. Their third season in the top flight ended with a sixth-place finish, reward for the patient building work of Powell at the south-coast club.
The signature of the former Arsenal forward Danielle Carter, Brighton’s first paid-for recruit, and the opening of a new training facility for the team have signalled that there is no sign of the club’s ambitions slowing.
At a rain-drenched Kingsmeadow, Chelsea took the lead through Reiten in the 10th minute after the Norwegian raced into the box from the left to meet Kirby’s pass from the middle before firing low past the defender Victoria Williams and Megan Walsh in Brighton’s goal.
The home side were on top, with Pernille Harder driving the Chelsea attack, but looked frustrated against Powell’s organised XI. Shortly before the break they found a second, though. A swooping ball over the top from Kirby sent Kerr in a three-way chase with Walsh and the defender Felicity Gibbons, and the Brighton pair collided as Kerr rose to nod towards the empty net.
It was fitting that Brighton’s marquee signing Carter pulled her side back into the game shortly after the restart. It was the 28-year-old’s second goal since joining from Reading in the summer and, although Carter was not here for the upset last term, she is no friend of Chelsea, with four goals in her first seven WSL games against the Blues plus the goal that gave Arsenal the FA Cup in 2016 against their London rivals.
Carter could have had a second almost instantly, beating Jess Carter to the ball in the middle and launching an attack that eventually led to her taking a shot that deflected out for a corner.
Three minutes after her introduction England re-established her team’s two goal lead, latching on to Kirby’s teasing pass across the box before lashing in.
Chelsea’s spell at the top will be short-lived, as unbeaten Arsenal and Aston Villa meet later on Saturday with one of them sure to have more points by the final whistle. While not at their free-flowing best, though, this was another important three points in the league before Wednesday’s arrival of Wolfsburg for the team’s first Champions League group game.