Aileen Whelan and Megan Connolly relive Brighton’s famous victory over Chelsea in the Women’s Super League | Football news


It was the result that no one had seen coming. Chelsea Women were on a 33-game unbeaten streak in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League – dating back over two years – when the struggling Brighton Women arrived at Kingsmeadow in February.

Emma Hayes’ side bulldozed all the teams in front of them and were on their way to another WSL title. Brighton, meanwhile, hadn’t won a game since November and had been drawn into a relegation battle.

Reflecting on the mood in Brighton ahead of the match, midfielder Megan Connolly said exclusively Air sports: “If you looked at our results ahead of time you would see it wasn’t the best month. We played against different teams – we played against Man City, it was a big loss, then there was Bristol City.

“After Bristol we wanted to try to win and the next team we had was Chelsea which was quite difficult.

“I think it was at a point in the week before where we were at our lowest and we had to get back up and improve our performance as a team and try to change everything we do, get back to basics and get everything we do. we can of this game.

“We were almost determined to get a result, to try to get something and a good performance to try and help us move up the standings.”

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Aileen Whelan nodded from Megan Connolly’s corner to equalize against Chelsea

Sunday February 7 was a snowy and windy day in Kingston, and Chelsea started off perfectly when Sam Kerr sacked the hosts in five minutes.

But three minutes later Brighton fired back as Aileen Whelan nodded empathetically from Connolly’s corner. It was the perfect way to mark his 50th appearance for the club

“We lost 1-0 pretty early on and attacked and won a corner,” said Whelan. “We know Megan can put the ball in the box in good areas, so I just had to stand there and let it really hit me on the head. I went to attack the ball and we got the goal back on time.

I think it was important for the result because we scored within five minutes. Against Chelsea, it’s huge, to recover a goal so close, and especially at Chelsea too.

Megan Connolly on Brighton’s quick equalizer against Chelsea

“And to score a goal, it’s not really a team that allows you to score against them. Before the game we were at our lowest and we couldn’t have done any worse. We could only go up and that ‘ was what We intended to do, the game plan was good and we went out and won.

“I didn’t even know about it [the 50th appearance] until one of the girls told me before kickoff, but it was a good way to celebrate it. There was still a long way to go in the season and I could think about it at the end of the season. But at the time I knew we had to go out and get a result of the game. “

Chelsea continued to dominate – Pernille Harder hit the post in the second half – but couldn’t find a way to get past Hope Powell’s steadfast side. Then came Connolly’s astonishing winner with the rarely seen direct turn.

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She explained: “We had a corner kick and the wind maybe helped a bit to really put the loop, but we wanted to put the ball right over the keeper and then he had a little more whip.

“The people in the box did a good job of dissuading her because it would have been easy for her to jump, but everyone playing her part made it difficult for her to get a clean punch or catch, this which also helped.

“He’s the best ever – I’ll never beat him. Especially against Chelsea with the magnitude of the game it was for the team. It was the result we needed and wanted. Considering how low we were and then how bad – you could. I didn’t write it better, as a team, to get this victory.

“You couldn’t really dream of it, getting an assist and a goal, but it was more what we needed as a team to get that win. If it hadn’t been like that, we wouldn’t. wouldn’t have gone on such a great race, because it was a win against Chelsea with the performance and everyone made a change, then it was about doing that, we can get a result against anyone. “

Megan Connolly celebrates with Brighton manager Hope Powell after her winning goal
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Connolly celebrates with Brighton manager Hope Powell after his game-winning goal

For the first time in more than two years, Chelsea have been unable to find a way to come back against their opponents as Brighton inflicted their only loss of an otherwise perfect WSL campaign. It was a famous win for the club and the biggest upheaval of the 2020/21 season.

Both teams are playing the exact same game at Kingsmeadow this weekend, live on Sky Sports, but the Brighton pair are only looking to the future, not the past.

“After this game, Chelsea looked like the best team in the country and possibly in Europe,” said Connolly. “So when you think about it, you’re like ‘wow, that was such a big result.’

“At one point in the game they did three submarines and it was more difficult, Kirby and Ji came in and everyone said ‘nothing changes, keep going’ and I think ‘everything changes! “

Megan Connolly (right) highlighted the strength of the Chelsea bench
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Connolly (right) highlighted the strength of the Chelsea bench

“You look at who they bring in, they have some of the best players in the world and we can’t be naive and think ‘we won last time.’ That result is a thing of the past, it’s there in the history books and on Saturday is yet a whole new challenge.

“Chelsea have recruited and improved and it’s just for us to try to perform, not to get too far ahead and not expect what happened last time around, because that We will never be the same again. We just have to do our best, perform well and the result is in history now. “

Whelan added: “In terms of club history, this was the first time we’ve beaten any of the four supposedly better teams. We’re not such a new team now, but we were, and every little one. milestone is good in terms of recruiting season over season.

“It has helped attract new, good quality players so it was a good stepping stone for the progress we have made at the start of this season.

Whelan
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Whelan celebrates after equalizing at Kingsmeadow in February

“I think we have to think about what we did well, get into Saturday’s game, take the positives and work on what we could have done better and done more of the same.”

The result sparked a mid-season resurgence for Brighton. They won five of their last WSL games last season and have won two of their first three games at the start of the current campaign, placing them fifth in the standings.

However, they were beaten last weekend by Aston Villa. This proves once again how incredibly competitive the Women’s Super League is becoming, something Brighton already demonstrated with their win over Chelsea in February.

Brighton

Whelan said: “We can’t be naive about the teams we’ve played with so far and we should have nine points on the board so those are lost points for us. But there are going to be more tests. difficult than those we have already faced, so it’s to keep our feet on the ground and focus on performance, which will earn us points.

“I don’t even know how many years I have been playing in this league now, but the difference between the start and now is incredible. The caliber of the players coming in, especially at the international level, proves how difficult this league is. .

“But it’s good, it’s motivation, it’s competition and it pushes you as a player to be better too. It’s good for the league, good for women’s football but also good for individuals. and the teams.

“It’s more exciting, I think, it’s not as obvious who is going to be the top three. It’s more exciting that the teams that are ranked lower normally get big results and that makes the teams higher. big because they are more active. “

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Highlights from the Women’s Super League match between Brighton and Aston Villa

Connolly added: “Last weekend we could and should have done a lot more. Villa were the best team and deserved to win. way to win. But there are only three games left, so we keep trying to perform and try to get results.

“Even against the best teams you see the results they get against each other and any day any result can happen.

“We want to be tough to beat. Chelsea have people who can score a lot of goals, so that’s the most important thing, to be tough to beat and you never know what can happen.”

In a WSL season where results have been difficult to predict, another Brighton victory at Kingsmeadow cannot be ruled out, but they will certainly face another strong Chelsea side looking to defend their title.

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