Aston Villa’s problems deepened significantly as they sunk to a 6-0 defeat against Chelsea on a miserable afternoon in Walsall. First half strikes from Millie Bright and Fran Kirby set the current champions on their way. Johanna Rytting Kaneryd, Ashley Lawrence, Aggie Beever-Jones and Niamh Charles added goals in the second to secure an emphatic victory.

There was a boost for Villa with Kirsty Hanson available for the first time since the opening day after serving her suspension. Kenza Dali’s long-awaited return, however, had to wait another week with the French international not fit enough to make the bench. Carla Ward made four changes to the side that had fallen to Tottenham. Sarah Mayling, Alisha Lehmann, Hanson and Maz Pacheco came in with Rachel Daly taking the armband.

Emma Hayes, meanwhile, was hampered in her selection by the late finishing of the international break. With Sam Kerr on the bench after a long trip back from Australia, there was a starting place for Mia Fishel, Johanna Rytting Kaneryd, Jessie Fleming and Erin Cuthbert.

Ward had called for her side to build on what proved so successful last season and they started brightly enough. Jordan Nobbs and Daly provided their trademark energy as the hosts looked to disrupt Chelsea with their press. They were finding space down the flanks with Hanson and Lehmann, but the accuracy of the deliveries was lacking.

Chelsea meanwhile were working their way through the gears, blowing away the cobwebs and re-connecting the relationships that had been on pause over the international break. At the heart of every attack was the talismanic Kirby, her vision and movement a step above many of her peers. Early on, she spotted the run of Rytting Kaneryd with a pinpoint through pass that forced an angled stop from Van Domselaar. Minutes later, she almost took the lead herself with a beautiful curling effort that clipped the top of the woodwork.

 

Fran Kirby, Aston Villa v Chelsea, WSL

 

As Villa sat deeper, Hayes’ side grew in confidence and a breakthrough was inevitable. Lackadaisical defending from Lehmann allowed Chelsea a corner. The initial header from Fishel was cleared brilliantly off the line by Daly but with Villa’s defence static, Bright was on hand at the far post. It was the perfect way to mark her 250th appearance in a Blues’ shirt.

Chelsea’s second followed not long after with Kirby finally adding her name to the score sheet. Her initial shot was blocked off the line by Danielle Turner but came straight back to her to squeeze home. She almost had another just before the break, only to be denied by Van Domselaar once more.

Villa had a mountain to climb after being out possessed and out created, and their problems deepened significantly in the second half.

The danger of chasing a game is that one is always left susceptible at the back, especially with the pace of Chelsea’s forwards. With Turner losing possession in the middle, Rytting Kaneryd took off from the halfway line, leaving the defence in her wake, and made no mistake with her finish.

Hayes rang the changes, but it had no disruption on the visitors’ flow. A turnover of possession once again saw Fleming find Lawrence to tap home for her first Chelsea goal. Another substitute, Academy graduate Beever-Jones, produced a cool finish for the visitors’ fifth before the brilliant Charles rounded off the scoring.

It was a victory that returned Chelsea to the top of the table ahead of the rest of the weekend’s fixtures. For Villa, however, huge questions remain, not only on how they recover from this poor run of form but also whether their manager Ward can survive.

 

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Aston Villa (4-3-3): Van Domselaar; Mayling, Patten, Turner, Pacheco; Nobbs, Staniforth, Blindkilde Brown; Lehmann, Daly, Hanson

Subs: Leat, Corsie, McLoughlin, Salmon, Mullett, Leon

 

Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Berger; Perisset, Bright, Carter, Charles; Cuthbert, Nusken; Kaneryd, Kirby, Fleming; Fishel

Subs: Musovic, Nouwen, Ingle, Lawrence, Mjelde, Kerr, Buchanan, Cankovic, Beever-Jones

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