Watford Ladies run in the FA Women’s Cup came to an end, as WSL1 side Chelsea showing their class, progressed with a 6-0 win.
Marija Banusic netted a hat-trick, while Ji So-Yun, Gemma Davison and Millie Bright also got on the scoresheet.
It was always going to be a tough test but everyone in a yellow shirt gave their all, with the 14 players who featured showing a fantastic work rate throughout.
The Golden Girls started the game impressively and had the first shot attempt after Megan Wynne did well to win a free-kick 25 yards out.
Emily Heaslip stepped up and took it, her effort going narrowly passed the right hand post of the Chelsea goal.
Watford defended very well in the opening stages and didn’t let the hosts have a sniff of challenging Shayla Burgess in net.
However the first chance they created after nine minutes, found its way in. A neat passing move in the final third eventually found So-Yun who fired an effort past S Burgess from the edge of the area.
The lead was doubled shortly after, Davison threaded a ball through to Banusic who calmly finished the opportunity that was presented.
Having had no chance with the opening goals, S Burgess then showed her worth, superbly denying Banusic a second with a sharp save.
Despite the setback of conceding twice, Watford continued to acquit themselves well and made things difficult for the home side.
However, after the referee adjudged Davison to have been fouled in the box, the same player stepped up and placed the penalty into the corner to make it three.
Players were understandably tiring towards the end of the half and the Blues took advantage, a looping cross found Banusic at the back post who got her second of the afternoon.
While the WSL1 side had undoubtedly been impressive, a fourth before half-time was harsh on a Watford team that had given everything.
The first 15 minutes of the second half saw John Salomon’s side on top and putting plenty of pressure on the opposition.
First, Renee Hector sent a good free-kick delivery in towards Kim Farrow but Marie Hourihan came and claimed well.
There was almost another chance for the visitors as Chelsea only just managed to clear following a scramble from Hollie Wride’s corner.
The hosts quickly countered though, Davison went through one-on-one but S Burgess superbly denied her.
Soon after, Watford were so close to a well worked team goal. A good passing move saw Wynne then beat two defenders before sending in a cross that was only just too high for Farrow.
While the Lady Hornets had been on top, Chelsea then made it five, Banusic tapping in from a matter of yards for her hat-trick.
Approaching the final ten minutes, Bright made it six, heading home from a corner, S Burgess again with no chance.
The keeper continued her impressive display in the last ten minutes, ensuring that no more would be added to the full-time score.
Watford: Shayla Burgess, Emily Heaslip, Renee Hector (Grace Gillard 73), Leighanne Robe, Hollie Wride, Kate Natkiel, Stacie Donnelly, Mollie Burgess, Josie Green, Megan Wynne (Courtney Ward-Chambers 65), Kim Farrow (Sasha Adamson 71)
Post-match comments from coach John Salomon:
While WSL1 side Chelsea proved to be a step too far in the FA Cup, the effort levels and performances from youngsters were a huge plus point.
“It was a big test for us today,” Manager John Salomon reveals. “I think the gulf between Super League 1 and Super League 2, with clubs that are full time, it was always going to be a massive challenge. We asked a lot of our squad today.”
“We weren’t happy with a few mistakes that were made that enabled them to score a couple of goals. It was a very good start by us and unfortunately we weren’t able to build on that because a couple of mistakes cost us two quick goals in the second phase of the half.”
“To the credit of the players, they picked themselves up and they had a very good second half, our shape and organisation was much better, we made better decisions on the ball in terms of how quickly we needed to play against a Super League 1 side.”
Watford ended the game with almost half of the team aged 18 or under on the pitch, yet still held their own against a team full of internationals.
Salomon was pleased with how his side stepped up against top opposition: “It’s tough when you come up against a team like Chelsea because they’ve got world class quality in every area of the pitch. I thought some of our players really raised their games today and went toe-to-toe with some of the best in the world, it’s really encouraging to see that.”
“For me, one person that stood out, not that I like to single individuals out was Mollie Burgess, she was brilliant today. We asked a lot of her because we played her in an unfamiliar position and she dealt with it really well, she put in a fantastic performance.”
“For the likes of her, Grace Gillard who came on and did really well, Sasha [Adamson], Courtnay [Ward-Chambers] and for Shayla Burgess, this is the opportunity to test themselves at such an early age against some of the world’s best players.”
“To come on and play with no fear and give the performances that they did is going to make them stronger and make them better players. They’ll really grow from this experience and I’m really proud of their performances and I know their more senior teammates are as well.”
Attention can now turn fully towards the league, with the game at Vicarage Road against Aston Villa next on the agenda. Salomon expects their opponents to be competing at the top: “We’ve come through two tough games in three days. We’ve now got six days to focus our minds on the Villa game.”
“They finished fourth last season and I absolutely think they’ll be in that bracket of clubs challenging to finish in the top two promotion spots this year. I’d definitely be surprised if they’re not up there come the end of the season.”
“We’re now looking forward to three training sessions between today and Saturday to get the players prepared for that game.”