A hat-trick from Sam Kerr guided Chelsea to a 4-1 victory over a stubborn Paris FC at Stamford Bridge. The striker opened the scoring in the first half before the visitors levelled through Théa Gréboval. Two second-half goals in seven minutes from the Australian, however, ensured Chelsea earned a crucial three points.
It was a display of clinical finishing from Kerr on an evening when she took the armband for her club. She has been struggling with a recurring calf injury since the World Cup in the summer but found her form under the lights. “I fancied her to score a hat-trick tonight,” her manager, Emma Hayes, said. “I felt like she doesn’t get credit for all the other bits she does. While she’s not, by her standards, at top level yet, I don’t know anyone who puts the ball away like she does. She’s so alert and decisive with her movement.”
Chelsea produced a gritty yet mature performance as they continued their fight to reach the knockout stages of the competition. “We have a history of [winning when not at their best],” Hayes continued. “I think the thing I enjoyed the most was … the adaptability. The players are tactically flexible.”
The Blues were aiming to kickstart their Champions League campaign on home soil after a frustrating 2-2 draw in Madrid. Being hosts in the Champions League has been a source of encouragement in recent seasons and Hayes’s side are starting to look comfortable at Stamford Bridge. They returned to west London for the second time in a week after beating Liverpool 5-1 last Saturday.
Hayes made two changes to the side that drew with Madrid. With Millie Bright ruled out with a knee injury, Kadeisha Buchanan came in to partner Jess Carter at centre-back. Lauren James, fresh from her hat-trick at the weekend, replaced Fran Kirby to restore the partnership that has been flourishing with Niamh Charles.
While Chelsea were the favourites on paper, there will have been plenty of consternation about the threat of Paris FC. Sandrine Soubeyrand is building an exciting project that is starting to challenge the status quo. They are second in Division 1 Féminine and caused shockwaves around Europe when they knocked out Arsenal and Wolfsburg, last season’s semi-finalists and runners-up respectively, in qualifying.
They did, however, suffer disappointment in their debut at this stage of the competition, losing 2-1 to the Swedish side Häcken last week. Soubeyrand made only one change from that game with Teninsoun Sissoko replacing Célina Ould Hocine in defence.
The game got off to an uneventful start with both sides tentative. Paris are known for their courageous football, strong in transition with particular power in the wide areas. They tried to exploit this early with Clara Matéo finding space down the right while their captain, Gaëtane Thiney, pulled the strings from midfield. Her deft touch set through Mathilde Bourdieu for their first chance, but her low shot was stopped by Ann-Katrin Berger.
As has so often been the case this season, Chelsea’s threat came from the left and, as the game settled, Charles and James began to secure a foothold. James was presented with a perfect opportunity but her finishing was wayward when one-on-one with Chiamaka Nnadozie. She made amends minutes later, however, when she beat Daphné Corboz before dinking a pass for Kerr to turn home.
The hosts should have had a second soon after only for Johanna Rytting Kaneryd to be denied by Nnadozie’s alert goalkeeping. It was the spark Paris needed to find a way back into the game, absorbing the pressure and taking their opportunity. With half-time looming, they were awarded a corner that was delivered expertly to the far post by Thiney. Gréboval leapt high to loop a header goalwards, dipping it over the helpless Jess Carter.
Chelsea returned with clear determination not to repeat the mistakes of last week and put the game to bed. Kirby was introduced for the quiet Jessie Fleming to add creativity.
Within 10 minutes of the restart, the hosts had secured themselves a two-goal cushion as Kerr rounded off her hat-trick in style.
Her second of the evening was an instinctive finish, holding her run perfectly to turn home Rytting Kaneryd’s well-placed cross. Her third was route-one football at its best. Breaking on to Berger’s launched ball, she used all her experience to hold off two defenders before dinking her shot perfectly over the backpedalling Nnadozie. The Nigeria goalkeeper got a hand to it but there was nothing she could do to keep it from its destination.
It was a goal that took the wind out of Paris’s resistance as Chelsea closed out the victory with a late strike by Sophie Ingle. It was a result that ensured they remain unbeaten, taking four points from two difficult encounters. They host Häcken, the leaders of Group D in the next round of fixtures in December.