It was the outcome that nobody noticed coming. Chelsea Ladies had been on a run of 33 video games unbeaten within the Barclays FA Ladies’s Tremendous League – stretching again over two years – when struggling Brighton Ladies got here to Kingsmeadow in February.
Emma Hayes’ aspect had been bulldozing each crew put in entrance of them and had been heading in the right direction for one more WSL title. Brighton, in the meantime, had not gained a sport since November and had been pulled right into a relegation battle.
Reflecting on the temper at Brighton forward of the sport, midfielder Megan Connolly completely informed Sky Sports activities: “For those who checked out our outcomes beforehand, you’d see it wasn’t the very best month. We had a variety of various groups we performed – we performed Man Metropolis, that was fairly a giant loss, then there was Bristol Metropolis.
“After Bristol, we needed to try to get a win and the following crew we had was Chelsea, which was sort of laborious.
“I believe it was at some extent in that week main up the place we had been all-time low and it was a case of needing to select ourselves up, choose our performances up as a crew and attempt to change all the pieces we’re doing, return to fundamentals and get something we are able to from that sport.
“We had been virtually pushed to get a outcome, to try to get one thing and an excellent efficiency to try to assist us return up the desk.”
Sunday February 7 was a snowy and blustery day in Kingston, and Chelsea started completely when Sam Kerr fired the hosts forward inside 5 minutes.
However three minutes later, Brighton hit again as Aileen Whelan empathically nodded dwelling from Connolly’s nook. It was the proper strategy to mark her fiftieth look for the membership
“We would gone 1-0 down fairly early and we would gone on the assault and gained a nook,” Whelan mentioned. “We all know Megan can put the ball into the field in good areas, so I simply needed to stand there and let it hit my head actually. I went to assault the ball and we acquired the purpose again in good time.
I believe that was vital for the end in that we scored inside 5 minutes of conceding. Towards Chelsea that is large, to get a purpose again that shut, and particularly at Chelsea as effectively.
“And to get a purpose in any respect, they’re probably not a crew that allows you to rating in opposition to them. Earlier than the sport, we had been at all-time low and we could not have gotten any worse. We might solely go up and that is what we meant on doing. The sport plan was proper and we went out and acquired the win.
“I did not even learn about it [the 50th appearance] till one of many women informed me earlier than kick-off, however it was a great way to rejoice it. There was nonetheless a good distance within the season to go and I might mirror on it on the finish of the season. However within the second, I simply knew we would have liked to exit and get a outcome from the sport.”
Chelsea continued to dominate – Pernille Tougher hitting the submit within the second half – however couldn’t discover a well beyond Hope Powell’s resolute aspect. Then got here Connolly’s astonishing winner with the hardly ever seen direct nook.
She defined: “We acquired a nook and the wind perhaps helped slightly to essentially get the curl in, however we needed to get the ball proper on prime of the ‘keeper after which it acquired an additional little bit of whip.
“The folks within the field did an excellent job to place her off as a result of it will have been straightforward for her to leap up, however everybody doing their position made it laborious for her to get a clear punch or catch in order that helped as effectively.
“It is the very best ever – I am going to by no means beat it. Particularly in opposition to Chelsea with the magnitude of the sport it was for the crew. It was the outcome we would have liked and wished for. Contemplating how low we had been after which how excessive – you could not have written it higher, as a crew, to get that win.
“You could not dream of it actually, getting an help and a purpose, however it was extra so what we would have liked as a crew to get that win. If it did not go the best way it did, we would not have gone on such an excellent run, as a result of it was a win in opposition to Chelsea with the efficiency and everybody placing a shift in. It was then a case of if we try this, we are able to get a outcome in opposition to anybody.”
For the primary time in over two years, Chelsea had been unable to discover a manner again in opposition to their opponents as Brighton inflicted their solely defeat of an in any other case good WSL marketing campaign. It was a well-known victory for the membership and the most important upset of the 2020/21 season.
The 2 sides play the very same fixture at Kingsmeadow this weekend, reside on Sky Sports activities, however the Brighton pair are solely trying forward and never into the previous.
“After that sport, Chelsea regarded like the very best crew within the nation and doubtless in Europe,” Connolly mirrored. “So once you look again on it, you suppose ‘wow, that was such a giant outcome’.
“At one level within the sport, they made three subs and it was Tougher, Kirby and Ji got here on and everybody mentioned ‘nothing modifications, simply proceed’ and I am considering ‘all the pieces modifications!’
“You look who they bring about on, they’ve a number of the greatest gamers on the earth and we will not be naïve and suppose ‘we gained final time’. That result’s previously, it is there within the historical past books and Saturday is one other model new problem.
“Chelsea have recruited and gotten higher and it is only for us to try to carry out, not get too forward of ourselves and never count on what occurred final time, as a result of it is by no means going to be the identical. We simply have to do our greatest, carry out effectively and the result’s in historical past now.”
Whelan added: “When it comes to the membership’s historical past, it was the primary time we have overwhelmed one of many supposedly prime 4 groups. We’re not such a brand new crew now, however we had been, and each little milestone is nice by way of recruitment season on season.
“It is helped by way of bringing in new gamers with good high quality so it was an excellent stepping stone by way of the progress we have made at the beginning of this season.
“I believe we have got to mirror on what we did effectively, going into the sport on Saturday, take the positives and work on what we might have executed higher and do extra of the identical.”
The outcome sparked a mid-season resurgence for Brighton. They went on to win 5 of their remaining WSL video games final time period, and have gained two of their opening three at the beginning of the present marketing campaign, seeing them fifth within the desk.
Nonetheless, they had been overwhelmed final weekend by Aston Villa. It proves as soon as once more how extremely aggressive the Ladies’s Tremendous League is changing into, which Brighton already demonstrated with their victory in opposition to Chelsea in February.
Whelan mentioned: “We will not be naïve concerning the groups we have performed to date and we should always have 9 factors on the board so it is factors dropped in our eyes. However there’s going to be tougher exams than what we have confronted already so it is conserving grounded and specializing in performances, which can get us the factors.
“I do not even know what number of years I have been taking part in on this league now however the distinction from the begin to now’s unimaginable. The calibre of gamers which are coming in, particularly internationally, simply proves how laborious this league is.
“But it surely’s good, it is drive, it is competitors and it pushes you as a participant to be higher as effectively. It is good for the league, good for girls’s soccer but in addition good for people and groups.
“It is extra thrilling I believe, it is not as apparent as to who’s going to be the highest three. It is extra thrilling that groups who’re ranked decrease usually are pulling off large outcomes and that is making the larger groups as a result of extra switched on.”
Connolly added: “Final weekend, there was much more we might and may have executed. Villa had been the higher crew and deserved to win. However once more, it is our efficiency, attempting to be constant so even on a foul day, we discover a strategy to win. But it surely’s solely three video games in so we preserve attempting to carry out and attempting to get outcomes.
“Even in opposition to the highest groups, you see the outcomes they’re having in opposition to one another and on any day, any outcome can occur.
“We need to be laborious to beat. Chelsea have individuals who can rating a great deal of objectives, in order that’s the most important factor, being laborious to beat and also you by no means know what can occur.”
In a WSL season the place outcomes have been laborious to foretell, one other Brighton victory at Kingsmeadow can’t be dominated out, however they’ll definitely face one other robust Chelsea aspect seeking to defend their title.