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Eniola Aluko leads Chelsea to Champions League last-16

Eniola Aluko, the younger sister of Super Eagles’ star, Sone Aluko led Chelsea ladies to the Champion League last-16 with a comprehensive away victory in Scotland on Wednesday.

The The FA Women’s Super League champions and FA Women’s Cup holders scored three on the night to secure a 4-0 aggregate victory over Glasgow City. Eni Aluko opened the scoring midway through the first half before two goals in four minutes after the restart, from Fran Kirby and Gilly Flaherty, settled the tie and saw Chelsea progress to the next round in their European campaign.

Emma Hayes made two changes from the first leg six days previously, with captain Katie Chapman and Ana Borges replacing Drew Spence and Claire Rafferty. Borges lined up at left-back, joining Niamh Fahey, Flaherty and Hannah Blundell in a back four protecting Hedvig Lindahl in goal.

Chapman partnered Millie Bright in central midfield, while Gemma Davison, Ji So-Yun and Aluko provided the attacking support for striker Kirby.

Glasgow City named an unchanged side from the one that went down to a narrow 1-0 defeat at Wheatsheaf Park last Thursday.

Eniola Aluko scores
Eniola Aluko scores

The Blues brought a one-goal advantage into the second leg at Airdrie’s Excelsior Stadium, with Hayes predicted another close and cagey contest north of the border. The opening quarter of the game played out in just that fashion, with few chances at either end and plenty of stoppages in play hindering the flow of play further.

Chapman’s effort after eight minutes was gathered comfortably at the second attempt by Glasgow goalkeeper Lee Alexander, while Kirby had a shot well blocked behind after Davison had beaten four defenders with a trademark jinking run infield from the right flank and supplied the striker with a clever reverse pass.

The hosts threatened briefly as Rachel Corsie’s hooked strike flew harmlessly over Lindahl’s crossbar, before the English champions broke the deadlock after 22 minutes. Ji initiated the attack with a lovely pass in midfield before Aluko picked the ball up on the left side of the 18-yard box, floated along the edge of the area and rifled her finish into the top corner beyond the despairing dive of Alexander.

The goal handed Hayes’s side a welcome cushion in the tie and they continued to push for further goals as Ji fired a free-kick narrowly over before Bright’s thumping effort from distance was gathered well by the goalkeeper.
The home stopper then saved routinely from Kirby and Davison, the latter at the end of a flowing Chelsea move, as the Blues ended the half in control.

Jo Love fired wide early after the restart following a short free-kick routine, before Kirby extended the Londoners’ advantage with another brilliant finish 12 minutes into the second period. The mercurial forward, who scored a wonderful winner in the first leg at Staines, cut in dangerously from the left and drilled a shot high into the roof of the net.

It was 4-0 on aggregate four minutes later as the Blues began to attack with purpose and confidence. Ji’s sublime cross from the right was perfect for Flaherty to power a header into the back of the net from close range.
Kirby’s left-footed shot flew just over before Aluko went close twice in close succession, clipping the angle of post and bar with a rising drive before being thwarted by a decent stop from Alexander.

Down the other end, Glasgow City created openings to reduce the deficit as Abbi Grant missed a glorious chance from five yards out and substitute Clare Shine’s header looped on to the roof of Lindahl’s net.
Yet that brief salvo was all the home side could muster in a game the visitors had generally dominated. The Ladies will find out their opponents for the next round in the last-16 draw, which takes place on Monday 19 October. With the domestic season already concluded, the two legs will be the team’s last action of the season. As in the men’s competition, the Women’s Champions League pauses for winter before resuming at the quarter-final stage in March.


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