The decision to rest Sam Kerr for the Matildas' recent friendlies against Canada hasn't paid off, after Chelsea were thrashed 4-1 by Arsenal on Sunday. Kerr made her return in the Women's Super League clash after sitting out the Matildas' back-to-back losses in Canada earlier this month.
The decision was made by Chelsea to rest Kerr from the international matches due to her recent workload and a number of injury niggles she's been carrying. The hope was that she'd be fully-fit and raring to go for the blockbuster showdown with Arsenal - but the move backfired spectacularly on Sunday.
'DISGUSTING': Ange Postecoglou targeted in vicious character attack
Kerr had little impact as fellow Matildas players Steph Catley, Caitlin Foord and Kyra Cooney-Cross celebrated a record-breaking day for the Gunners. In front of a crowd of 59,042 at the Emirates Stadium - a new record for a Women's Super League match in England - Arsenal gave Chelsea a rare thrashing as England World Cup star Alessia Russo scored a double.
Chelsea were off the pace from the get-go, and Kerr had one of her worst games during her time at the English giants as she struggled to get into the game. In contrast, Foord was a lively presence in the Arsenal attack that took advantage of Chelsea's shaky defence in the absence of England star Millie Bright due to a knee injury.
Foord was involved in the build-up to the first Chelsea goal as England forward Beth Mead fired in after just eight minutes. Chelsea responded quickly against the run of play to level through Johanna Rytting Kaneryd, who evaded Catley to fire home left-footed to make it 1-1.
But Chelsea keeper Ann-Katrin Berger then made a mess of trying to collect a Catley corner, allowing Amanda Ilestedt to peel off and head home Arsenal's second goal. Russo struck again within the space of three minutes, and notched her second from the penalty spot in the second half.
Kerr finally getting her first and only real chance of the day late in the game, but it only resulted in a tame header straight to the keeper. Cooney-Cross came on as a substitute and got a brief cameo at the end of the match.
Chelsea manager explains decision to rest Sam Kerr
Before the game, Chelsea manager Emma Hayes had explained why Kerr needed a break from last week's international duties in Canada. "People need to understand that Sam played through the World Cup with a significant calf injury and came back injured and has been carrying that injury throughout, plus an issue within her foot," she told the BBC.
"What she's done for her club and country over the past four, five years is nothing short of remarkable - but her body couldn't withstand much more. So she's needed the time to get herself right, because she hasn't been 100 per cent."
Sam Kerr reminding Arsenal fans that we’ve won 4 WSL titles in a row pic.twitter.com/zBgIWTzkMj
— Chelsea Women (@CFC__Women) December 10, 2023
The Matildas lost 5-0 and 1-0 without Kerr in worrying scenes ahead of the Olympics play-off in February. Matildas coach Tony Gustavsson said his side struggled to create attacking chances without their captain.
"What concerns me a little bit now is the lack of pacy options up front in the four front positions - No.7, No.11, No.9 and No.10," he said. "With (Holly) McNamara getting injured again and then (Cortnee) Vine being out and Sam out, that's something we need to look into how to handle that going forward. Because we had a very clear idea of how to do that in the World Cup and we managed to play without Sam in a very, very good way to win at the World Cup which I'm impressed that the team handled well."
Sign up to our newsletter and score the biggest sport stories of the week.