Chelsea 3-1 West Ham: 3 takeaways as Chels swim into FA Cup fifth round

It wasn't exactly the smoothest of rides without Sam Kerr, Millie Bright, and Niamh Charles, but at the end of the day, Chelsea Women ousted West Ham out of the FA Cup in extra time.
Chelsea Women v West Ham United Women - Adobe Women's FA Cup Fourth Round
Chelsea Women v West Ham United Women - Adobe Women's FA Cup Fourth Round / West Ham United FC/GettyImages
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Riko Ueki, Erin Cuthbert
Chelsea Women v West Ham United Women - Adobe Women's FA Cup Fourth Round / West Ham United FC/GettyImages

2. Erin Cuthbert wore the armband with pride, picking up right where she left off in December

She may be nicknamed the "Wee Scot", but her influence of winning football is surely not small. It's giant.

We're watching Player of the Season-type displays from the Scottish midfielder. Somehow, someway, it still feels like Erin Cuthbert is underrated. Mind-blowing stuff, to say the least. Maybe we'll have to wait for Scotland to qualify for its second World Cup, but until then, No. 22 in blue continues to string together brilliant club performances.

It was more than just the goal. One ultimately meaningless play stood out. Still down by one in the 66', CFCW just lost possession. Instead of letting WHU piece some passes together out of the back, Cuthbert counter-pressed hard. The Scot forced it all the way back to the goalkeeper, laying out for a block which forced the veteran into a failed clearance turned corner for the Blues. It was real captain's work.

At this point, it seems like Cuthbert is trying to out due her last performance. No. 22 has now scored four goals in her last four contests, and while all of them were crucial, Sunday's was a finish that pretty much summarizes her game. With three defenders in her vicinity, the Scot sprung the highest at 5-foot-4, letting Shannon Cooke know it nobody's ball but hers. The Blues' manager summed up what the entire viewing audience was thinking as clock inched closer to the 120-minute mark.

"Erin was brilliant, she was the leader. I thought she was the Player of the Match. It was an absolutely brilliant performance. I thought she dragged the team. Even when we went 1-0 down I thought it was her who got hold of the team and I told her that at the end. I thought she was brilliant today."

1. Melanie Leupolz made quite an impression in her return off the bench

The German midfielder, Melanie Leupolz had not stepped foot in a football match since her 90 minutes against West Ham on October 14. It in no way looked like it was that long given how clean No. 8 was with the ball in the middle of the park in her return to action.

Leupolz was out there picking the pocket of Honoka Hayashi, lofting balls over the top of backlines, and finding Fishel with a crisp pass on multiple occasions. That dime to Aggie Beever-Jones---my goodness. Silky smooth. Some didn't expect her to even get a minute, never mind be one of the key difference-makers in pushing her side into the hat for the fifth round. Slotting her into the starting XI next Sunday is not expected given this was her first kick in a competitive contest for quite some time.

Reinserting her back into the that starting group potentially for that Real Madrid fixture the Wednesday after the Manchester United encounter could be a possibility. Leupolz is such a composed presence in the backline, and while she's absent from time to time, you sure know when she's out there.

Chelsea Women return to Stamford Bridge next Sunday afternoon against fourth place Manchester United. Kick-off is at 12:30 GMT. Click the link to buy general admission tickets.