Emma Hayes praised “special” Maren Mjelde after the right-back made her long-awaited return to action during Chelsea’s thumping 7-0 defeat of Swiss side Servette in the Women’s Champions League.
Mjelde entered the fray in the 66th minute with Chelsea already seven up, making her first appearance for Chelsea since suffering an ACL injury in March during the League Cup final. The win means Chelsea are top of Group A after Wolfsburg’s trip to Juventus ended in a 2-2 draw.
“The work she’s done, and what the medical team and technical team have done with her – the effort that’s been put in, it was an emotional moment for her. She’s a Rolls-Royce of a footballer,” said Hayes.
The head coach of the Swiss champions, Éric Sévérac, had described facing Chelsea as going “up against a mountain” but the reality was even worse. The Servette players were not only held back by their own limitations; this mountain delivered landslide after landslide to make the task greater and greater with every step.
Chelsea were ruthless, relentless and delivered a performance that both stunned the more than 12,000 fans that had descended on the Stade de Genève and left them purring at the elite talent on show.
It was not as straightforward as it looked though, according to player of the match Sam Kerr, who scored twice. “It was hard work, even if we made it look a bit easy,” she said. “Goals don’t come easy but it was a real team effort, which is the nicest thing.”
The Servette players are semi-professional and train in the evenings. There can be little shame in suffering such an emphatic defeat to a team that has been helping to drive standards across Europe in recent years and reached last season’s final.
Sévérac had hoped his team would hold Chelsea at bay for at least some time. “Chelsea are one of the best teams in Europe,” he said. “We are going to try to hold on as long as we can.”
Within three minutes they had their first warning, a slip at the base of the mountain, as a cutback to Fran Kirby was parried by goalkeeper Inês Pereira straight back into the path of the England international only for Kirby to hammer the rebound against the bar. Five minutes later and German international Melanie Leupolz sent a thundering left-footed strike in at the far post. Then the mountain crumbled beneath Swiss feet.
Within the space of eight minutes Chelsea scored four. First Kerr flicked Drew Spence’s pass to the feet of Kirby who slotted in, then Leupolz knocked down Guro Reiten’s cross for Kerr who side-footed in from close range. For the fourth goal, Kirby sent a ball in from the left which Kerr took down and prodded past Pereira, then Kerr sprung the offside trap and squared to Kirby to tap home.
The sixth was added seven minutes before the break, with the Olympic gold medallist, Jessie Fleming, squeezing the ball between the keeper and post from a tight angle.
After the break the visiting team picked up where they left off as Kirby left Kerr’s cross from the right for incoming Reiten to power in.
It can be difficult to watch teams be beaten so comprehensively, round after round. However, with the new group stage ensuring all 16 teams competing take away €400,000 (compared to the €80,000 they collected at the same stage, a single tie played over two legs, last season) – and solidarity payments going to teams in the domestic leagues of those teams competing at this stage – there is a real financial boost to just being a part of the show. That can have a real impact on the development of the sport.