Off the back of an extended hiatus without three regular starters, Chelsea Women looked as one would probably guess. Not a well-oiled machine. The machine was frankly rusty. It was almost like the women's team was trying to do its best impression of the men's display in the first 45 minutes of its last FA Cup clash against Preston North End.
Rehanne Skinner's West Ham United pieced together a valiant effort in south west London, pushing the three-time defending FA Cup champions to extra time away from home. Despite a dreadful first half defined by sloppiness from the home side, Emma Hayes made changes which sparked the Blues to equalize and later to go on and tie the knot on a two-goal win in the added 30 minutes. It was all accompanied by a spirited Erin Cuthbert. Her class, leadership, and sheer heart were key reasons why this turnaround was able to come to fruition.
For the second time in the last four seasons, the east Londoners are out of the FA Cup prior to the fifth round. Chelsea escape an early scare, awaiting for its next opponent with much anticipation.
West Ham had never led CFCW at the half before, in any competition. It's been all even on a few occasions, but the Irons never actually had the lead going back into the dressing room. That changed on Sunday afternoon. Some incredibly poor defending by Kadeisha Buchanan allowed a hopeful through ball by Mackenzie Arnold to break the backline entirely. Viviane Asseyi took full advantage.
Hayes was forced to make two changes from the last match in the UEFA Women's Champions League due to injury and suspension. Lauren James slotted in at the No. 9 up top with Fran Kirby behind, and Eve Perisset on her less preferred side of the pitch. The system had no juice to it as Kirby struggled to make any sort of influence on the match.
In the 58', Hayes made three alterations, all of which shifted the fixture back into the home side's favor. Nathalie Björn was solid in her debut as the left-sided center back. Melanie Leupolz was efficient in the middle of the pitch. Mia Fishel, well she did what she was born to do---ripple the back of the net.
Every cup journey has its ebbs and flows. As a wise man once said, "if you find a path without any obstacles, it probably does not lead anywhere." Onto the next round. Here are our takeaways from the 120 minutes of football in Norbiton yesterday afternoon.