Chelsea found the free-flowing rhythm that has previously eluded defeat of Albanian champions Vllaznia in the Champions League.
Four goals from Sam Kerr, three from Pernille Harder, one from the substitute Katerina Svitkova and four assists from Guro Reiten on her 100th Chelsea appearance, helped the Blues take control of Group A with Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain having drawn 0-0 in the earlier fixture.
Kerr has only scored one goal in the WSL this season but general manager Paul Green, again standing in for the absent Emma Hayes, said there has never been a worry about that. “She She’s won the golden boot two seasons in a row and we’ve never had any doubts she she would score this season,” he said.
Kerr said: “Obviously I’m paid to score goals but I also think I bring a lot to the team when I’m not scoring too, so it’s just about being patient, getting in my groove, and I did tonight and I can again against Villa [on Sunday]”
Vllaznia were well supported on a crisp evening at Kingsmeadow, with 420 tickets sold officially to traveling fans but far more of London’s Albanian community showing up to watch their team take on the WSL champions.
The home side naturally dominated from the off: Vllaznia are unlikely to trouble either Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain or Real Madrid in Group A. At times the Chelsea players were queuing up to punish the Albanian side and although it only took 10 minutes for the home team to take the lead, it felt like they could already have been four or five up.
The opening goal was sublime, Danish forward Harder playing in Kerr and the Australia international lifting it over the goalkeeper Kaylin Conner Williams-Mosier, one of six Americans in the away team’s squad. The floodgates were open, but Vllaznia had fleeting moments of positive play, with Megi Doci, who scored 66 league goals last season and was playing on the left wing, their brightest outlet.
There was never any doubt which way the game would go though, and Chelsea hit two in two minutes to extend their lead and improve their goal difference in a group that could prove to be tight. First, Reiten breezed past the right-back Aleksandra Popovic and delivered for Kerr who fired in from close range. Then Reiten provided again from the left, this time for Harder to turn in.
Vllaznia had only got past qualifying once in 11 attempts before this season, and the draw delivered the glamor ties many of their players had been dreaming of. Lexie Knox, who played college football alongside the Manchester City forward Khadija Shaw in the US, told Goal that playing against Sam Kerr “would be an honor”.
At times you could be forgiven for thinking the Vllaznia players just wanted to stand back and watch their heroes, but that would be harsh: they just couldn’t keep up. There were two changes at half-time, with Popovic one of those hooked, saved from any more embarrassment at the hands, or feet, of Reiten.
Just before the hour mark it was three for Kerr, with the forward rising highest to meet Reiten’s corner to head in. Three minutes later and she had a fourth, with Reiten cutting back from the left and Kerr firing in before celebrating with a backflip. Then it was six, with Harder poking over the line.
The seventh was as easy as the preceding six, with Svitkova sending each fellow substitute Alsu Abdullina’s cross in with a powerful header for her first Chelsea goal.
The visiting Albanian fans remained paused in fine voice, with play late on as the flares which accompanied their constant chanting were thrown on to the pitch, shrouding the Chelsea goal in mist. Unfortunately for the visiting fans this was the most dramatic action Chelsea’s goalkeeper Zecira Musovic would see all night.
“Maybe they got a little bit carried away throwing things on to the pitch but in the main they added to a great atmosphere,” said Green.
There was time for one more thrust forward and Harder got her hat-trick from it, tapping in a loose ball from close range. Chelsea needed this emphatic win, regardless of the opponent. It was a reminder of what they can do, a reminder for the fans and for themselves.