Sam Kerr was at her magical best to score a fine hat-trick as Chelsea saw off Paris FC 4-1 at Stamford Bridge in the Women’s Champions League.
Blues boss Emma Hayes praised the Australian’s performance despite her being “80 per cent fit” as she continues to return to full fitness after missing most of the World Cup with injury.
“I fancied her to score a hat-trick tonight,” said Hayes in her post-match press conference. “I said it in the dressing room before the game. She doesn’t get credit for all the other little bits she does.
“By her standards she’s not on top, top [fitness] yet, but I don’t know anyone who puts the ball away like she does. She’s so alert and decisive with her movement. Brilliant centre-forward play.
“If that’s her at 80 per cent, I’ll take that. That’s not bad. I can’t wait for the 100 per cent to come.”
Chelsea were not always as impressive as the scoreline suggested but Kerr was in unstoppable form, and notched the 30th-minute opener from a perfectly timed run to meet Lauren James’ inviting cross.
The Blues’ lead lasted only eight minutes and Paris FC’s equaliser owed a lot to the hosts’ own poor defending. A corner was met by Thea Greboval 12 yards out, with Ann-Katrin Berger caught out from her looping header and Jess Carter unable to keep it out on the line.
Hayes sent her side back out early after half-time and whatever she said at the interval had the desired effect. Johanna Kaneryd burst into the box with a driving run before squaring for an off-balance Kerr, who wasn’t going to let that stop her notching her second of the night (48).
Two soon became three for the sparking Australian, with her hat-trick strike the pick of the bunch. A superb 20-yard lob left the out-of-position Chiamaka Nnadozie feeling just as foolish as her opposite number when the back-peddling goalkeeper could only palm her effort into her own net (55).
Paris huffed in their search of a comeback but never looked likely to dent Chelsea’s two-goal lead, which then became three in added time when substitute Sophie Ingle finished off a corner to seal a comprehensive win.
Chelsea: Berger (5), Lawrence (7), Buchanan (5), Carter (6), Kaneryd (8), Nusken (6), Cuthbert (6), Charles (6), James (8), Fleming (6), Kerr (9).
Subs: Kirby (7), Ingle (7), Fishel (6), Perisset (6), Mjelde (n/a).
Player of the match: Sam Kerr.
How in-Kerr-edible Sam sees Chelsea to victory
Chelsea inevitably still had a sense of injustice on their minds from last week’s Champions League draw in Real Madrid, but showed no sign of seeking retribution in an opening dominated by the visitors.
The momentum the French side were building was punctured in an instant by Kerr, though, when the sharpshooter ghosted in behind Greboval and provided the perfect finish to James’ superb curling delivery from deep on the left.
That should have been Chelsea’s wake-up call. It wasn’t. Instead, Paris defender Greboval made up for her error for the opener with a goal of her own, looping a header from 12 yards out over the hapless Berger.
The Blues finally did begin to show their class from the start of the second period, and restored their lead three minutes after the interval when Kaneryd showed impressive awareness to look up and spot Kerr at the end of a powerful run, finding her captain with a square ball she was never going to pass up.
From there on, the hosts were in full control. Kerr added her third only seven minutes later, eventually latching onto Berger’s long ball to lift a lob over Nnadozie, who should still have recovered to keep out what instead would be come her hat-trick strike.
Paris FC never looked likely to mount a meaningful comeback and instead history-maker Ingle, introduced from the bench late on, swept home a fourth in added time to provide some additional sparkle to Kerr’s magic and move Chelsea three points clear of third place in Group D.
Hayes: We dug in despite looking leggy
Chelsea manager Emma Hayes to DAZN:
“First of all, you know how hard it is to play back-to-back-to-back. I didn’t think we looked super fresh. I felt like we lacked a player closer to Sam Kerr in the first half so I brought on Fran Kirby and I felt that worked really well. Fran’s little bit of quality gave us what we needed.
“I thought we looked leggy generally. It was a quiet changing room at half-time. Credit to my team, they dug in despite us looking sloppy at times. They are a good team, don’t take anything away from them. To score four goals, and dig in, that is why I was impressed with my team.
“I didn’t feel concerned. I just knew at half-time if I could adjust a few things and get some control in the central pocket, I always feel like there’s goals in us. It was just a night where we needed to dig a little bit deep.”
Chelsea return to Women’s Super League action on Sunday as they host Leicester City at the Kingsmeadow Stadium. Their next Champions League group game is on Thursday December 14 at home to BK Hacken.
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