Chelsea Women 1-0 Crystal Palace: 3 takeaways, Ramirez plays hero

Laura Kaminski's Eagles stood strong, but in the final 10 minutes, the south Londoners finally cracked as Mayra Ramirez scored her first Chelsea goal to push the three-time defending FA Cup champions into the quarterfinals.
Chelsea Women v Crystal Palace Women - Adobe Women's FA Cup Fifth Round
Chelsea Women v Crystal Palace Women - Adobe Women's FA Cup Fifth Round / Warren Little/GettyImages

The minute Mayra Ramirez came to Chelsea Football Club, it is difficult to believe she thought her first goal for the club would be what occurred in reality. Captained by a brilliant flick just in front of the net by the Colombian, Emma Hayes' crew edged a gritty Crystal Palace side to advance to the FA Cup quarterfinals for the 11th campaign running. The match marked Hayes' 250th triumph in her No. 350 overall fixture at the helm of the current queens of England.

It took until the 81' for the home side to break Demi Lambourne and Palace's defense. Laura Kaminski's Eagles were physical, and persistent in the back, holding an extremely organized backline that frustrated the Blues throughout the entire 90 minutes. 76 percent of the possession. Just three shots on target. It was the fewest shots on net Hayes' side was able to muster in any competition this season.

Hayes made 10 changes from the Sunderland fixture as Fran Kirby moved into the lineup late for Lauren James who reportedly went home due to an illness. The CFCW leader expressed that LJ was sick a bit on Saturday, and it just felt like too much of a risk to throw her out there. The hope is that she'll be ready to go Friday night in a match that the Blues will no doubt need their dynamic English attacker.

It was not what football fans expected, especially after the five-goal trouncing of a second-tier club in the mid-week. That's the FA Cup for you, though. Unpredictable. Hayes agreed. For teams outside the WSL, it is a chance like no other. Palace showed off its discipline, and why Kaminski could be an up-and-coming manager to keep an eye on in the world of women's football. Some will be concerned about the performance, but in reality, it's more about the fact that the job got done than the manner in which it happened.

In her post-game interview, the Chels' sideline leader tried to sum it all up.

"It's a cup match. Sometimes people think we’re in a different league so it’s going to be a pushover. They’ve given us a tougher game than some WSL teams this year," Hayes explained. "It was very frustrating to watch and I’m sure it was frustrating for the players to play in. They knew they weren’t at their best level."

Palace kept the west Londoners wide, forcing them to circle it back to Jess Carter, and Nathalie Björn as the two center backs. You could argue that the Blues were too hesitant with the ball at their feet, but most of the credit for that has to go to the Eagles' defense. The west London outfit has the potential to draw seven other WSL clubs in the quarters as no other top-flight team remaining was ousted from England's most historic tournament this past weekend.

The draw for the quarterfinals is slated for tonight at 7:20 in the UK on 'The One Show' on BBC1. Before the next opponent becomes known, let's examine some takeaways from yesterday's subpar display from the Blues on home soil.

3 takeaways from a far from routine day out at Kingsmeadow on Sunday afternoon

3. Mayra Ramirez proved exactly why she was worth the price tag

It was not just her goal that stood out. It was everything in between as well. No. 35 in blue made runs in behind, held the ball up well, and looked like the most likely to find the back of the net on Sunday. A flick to help her side progress to the next round of the FA Cup is one way to get the fans to serenade you from the stands following the match.

If you haven't watched the backheel goal at least 100 times by now, you're doing something wrong. That's the quality Chelsea paid for. There are only a handful of strikers in the world that would even attempt that with the game all knotted up at the time. Fara Williams can cast all the doubt she wants on Ramirez not being the "ideal replacement" for Sam Kerr, but you can't argue with the Colombian's work rate and class in the final third.

Hayes gave take on the brilliant finish we all witnessed.

"I’m delighted for Mayra to score such a world-class goal. When you’re playing teams that leave a lot of bodies low it’s a lot harder, there’s not a lot of space," the Blues' manager stated. "Let’s see what happens when teams don’t close that same sort of space. She stayed focused to get her goal and what a goal it was. She should have got one just before when she hit the bar, but the goal was a world-class finish."

2. Credit Crystal Palace, who may very well be a WSL outfit soon for taking advantage of a lackluster Chelsea

Kaminski's Eagles have had a sensational campaign up to this point. Now, with the kind of display it pieced together this past weekend, the group is far more forward-facing. Just three points behind the second-tier leaders in Charlton Athletic with a game in hand, Palace has a legitimate shot at securing a place in the top flight for next season. This was a performance that should be used by the entire club as a launchpad into the final stretch of the league season. Looking at the other side of it, an extra day off in the mid-week for an extended pool of players may have not prepped the club mentally for what was to come on Sunday.

"The number of games we’ve had, I could see that there may have been freshness in our legs but maybe not in our brains today," Hayes stated. "We’ve had a lot of football and I don’t think that was our best performance by any means."

What a hiring Kaminksi was by the Eagles. Most of the west Londoners' dysfunction in the frontline was due to the resistance of Kaminski's well-designed low block. BK Hacken was the last team to hold the Blues under two goals in a 90-minute match before this weekend. It seemed like a 5-4-1 formation was deployed by Palace, completely shutting down all avenues of creativity.

1. The run of clean sheets continues, important to backline's confidence ahead of Man City

Expect for on a few occasions, Hannah Hampton was merely a spectator. It felt like Palace was competing for extra time and even penalties with the amount of bodies it dedicated to put behind the ball. Sunday marked the fifth consecutive clean sheet across all competitions. Prior to this run of form in the back, the longest streak without conceding this season was just two fixtures. Before that Brighton and Hove Albion match, the Blues had let in eight goals over the course of seven games.

Not all the credit should go to her, but it has to be said that since Bjorn joined the west Londoners on January 10, the club has outscored its opponents 24-3. Along with Jess Carter, the Swedish international has been a rock. Palace hardly challenged the defense, but just having that zero next to the opponent's logo in the box score has to maintain some sort of self-assurance, something that cannot go under the radar with Manchester City on tap next.

Chelsea Women return to Kingsmeadow for the final time this month to take on Manchester City in a top-of-the-table Women's Super League clash. General sale tickets are sold out on February 5.