Sunderland 0 Chelsea 5: Black Cats need to stay in WSL1 as well as Premier League
Sunderland's determination and desperation to stay in the Premier League was obvious .
With a £100 million payday beckoning, thanks to the new TV deal, relegation was not an option for the Black Cats.
There are no such riches associated with the Women’s Super League but, hopefully, Sunderland Ladies will attack their own survival mission with the same resolve the men did under Big Sam.
And it would be nice if the club backed Carlton Fairweather with some cash to spend in the last hours of the women’s transfer window.
Clubs like Man City, Chelsea and Arsenal have shown they are serious about their female sides and Sunderland need to follow suit. Chelsea demonstrated the size of the gulf in class last night at Eppleton CW where they completed the double over their hosts.
Sunderland did not lack effort, but they lacked quality and that’s what Chelsea had in abundance.
Such was the difference in the squads, Chelsea could afford to name World Cup player Eni Aluko on the bench.
The Blues controlled the ball, the tempo, the territory – everything in fact.
Two goals at the end of the first half gave the reigning WSL1 champions an unassailable 3-0 interval lead and two goals in the second period added some deserved gloss to the scoreline.
It left Sunderland just three points above the relegation zone after reaching the mid-point of the programme without a win to their name.
Doncaster Rovers, the only team below them in the table, have four games in hand, meaning Sunderland face the task of probably needing to beat the Belles home and away if they are to survive.
The first match against their relegation rivals is the next fixture at the Hetton Centre, on Saturday, July 9.
Sunderland can score an early blow at the Belles by ousting them from the Continental Cup this Sunday.
And, thankfully, they will not be facing players of the calibre of Chelsea possessed.
Sunderland held out until the 29th minute, but, with Karen Carney pulling the strings, a goal was inevitable.
It was the England star who delivered the perfect cross from the right which international team-mate Claire Rafferty volleyed in from six yards.
Sunderland’s Beth Mead almost made a goal out of nothing six minutes from the break with some good skill in the area, only to fire over Hedvig Lindahl’s bar.
Young prospect Maddie Hill then shot wide after a promising 41st-minute move.
Alas, Chelsea went up the other end of the field to score, Gemma Davison’s lightning pace opening up the defence with the rebound to her strong, low shot being converted by Rafferty for her second goal.
Sunderland then conceded a third just before the break, with Davison rewarded for her display by poking home from Ji So Yun’s assist.
At 3-0 down, it was a case of game over, but, having conceded five at Arsenal, it was vital for their goal difference that they did not let it become a cricket score.
The Blues added two more, defender Millie Bright’s low right-foot shot from outside the box beating Rachael Laws into her bottom right corner in the 72nd minute.
A fifth followed inside five minutes, So Yun showing neat footwork followed by a crisp low shot with her left boot into Laws’s bottom left corner.
Sunderland never stopped trying and Rachel Furness went wide with her weaker right foot after a good run, but the effort was highlighted at the back where good work by Tori Williams and Hayley Sharp at the death ensured Chelsea did not add to their tally.
Sunderland: Laws, Brown, Bannon, Sharp, Williams, Joice (Holmes 77), Furness, Chaplen, Hill, Mead (Potts 79), Roche (Ramshaw 46). Unused Subs: Olsen, McDougall
Chelsea: Lindahl, Fahey, Bright, Bailey (Flaherty 66), Rafferty (England 73), Borges, Chapman, Spence (Aluko 70), Carney, Davison, Ji So Yun.
Goals: Rafferty 29, 42, Davison 44, Bright 72, So Yun 77
Referee: Andrew Miller. Att: 536