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Benfica 0-5 Chelsea: Fran Kirby shines in Women’s Champions League

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Fran Kirby in action for Chelsea Women
Fran Kirby joined Chelsea from Reading in 2015

Fran Kirby scored twice to overtake Eni Aluko and become Chelsea’s record scorer as the Blues thrashed Benfica 5-0 in the first leg of their Women’s Champions League last-32 tie in Lisbon.

Kirby, who now has 69 Chelsea goals, set her side on their way with a close-range strike inside two minutes.

Millie Bright headed in to make it 2-0 and Kirby smashed in the third.

Pernille Harder and Beth England goals sealed victory against a demoralised side, who had Christy Ucheibe sent off.

The teenage Benfica midfielder was the most impressive performer for the competition debutants, but her frustration at being part of such a comprehensive defeat saw her receive a second yellow card for a studs-up challenge on substitute Erin Cuthbert.

The unseeded Portuguese side had no answer for the pace, movement and quality shown by an attack boasting Kirby, Guro Reiten, England and Harder and could easily have been facing an even greater deficit for the return leg next Wednesday.

Classy Kirby takes centre stage

Blues boss Emma Hayes had spoken of 27-year-old Kirby being in the form of her life in the build up to the game in Lisbon, and that claim was demonstrated within a couple of minutes as the England forward’s attacking instincts saw her drift in from the right and slot home Harder’s low cross to draw level with Aluko’s haul of 68 goals.

And the record was broken when Kirby seized on Reiten’s delightful pass to fire in Chelsea’s third.

Kirby’s awareness and creativity has been to the fore playing out wide in recent weeks, notably in setting up two of Sam Kerr’s three goals in the Women’s Super League victory over West Ham on Sunday.

But although she remained on the right, with England the main striker, Kirby took centre-stage in a ruthless Chelsea win on the two-time semi-finalists’ return to the Champions League following a one-season absence.

Reiten’s creative talents also stood out, the Norwegian laying on the next three goals, supplying a far-post free-kick for Bright’s header and an inviting corner for Harder’s header just before the interval either side of Kirby’s record-breaking strike.

The tempo slowed after England deservedly got among the goals early in the second half, but Benfica still barely threatened until Chelsea keeper Ann-Katrin Berger had to make a couple of fine late stops.

Kirby hails Aluko’s ‘unmatched’ support

After breaking Aluko’s record, Kirby, who joined Chelsea from Reading in 2015, paid tribute to her former team-mate.

“People will ask me why one of the reasons I joined Chelsea, and this amazing woman was definitely one of them,” Kirby wrote on Instagram.

“To overtake not just a Chelsea but a women’s football legend is extremely special. The support Eni Aluko has given me throughout my career goes unmatched.

“I’m humbled to become the record all-time goal scorer, and I’m privileged to play with the players I have.

“Thanks you to all my team-mates for making this possible.”

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