After beating Benfica 5-0 in midweek, and with the second leg of that tie to come on Wednesday night, Hayes made three changes to her starting line-up. Out went Sophie Ingle, Reiten and Bethany England, to be replaced by Melanie Leupolz, Cuthbert and Kerr.
That gave us plenty of attacking options on the pitch, as Kerr led the line with support coming from the trio of Fran Kirby – who became the club’s all-time leading scorer in midweek – Harder and Cuthbert. In midfield, Ji So-Yun and Leupolz were given a controlling brief, while Hayes knew exactly what she’d be getting from a back four of Maren Mjelde, Millie Bright, Magda Eriksson and Jonna Andersson in front of keeper Berger.
For the second weekend running we were playing in front of a crowd, as Brighton were able to allow a limited number of supporters into the People’s Pension Stadium for this game, and the home fans were certainly making themselves heard in the early stages as they urged their players on in the pouring rain.
Patience was clearly going to be required against a side as well drilled as Brighton, who are coached by the former England manager Hope Powell. The closest we came to breaking the deadlock in the first 15 minutes was a looping shot from Cuthbert that was awkwardly fielded by Fiskerstrand, whose attempt to catch the ball was hampered by the crossbar and she very nearly spilled it at the feet of Kirby, who was ready to pounce upon any mistake.
It was very much one-way traffic, with Brighton clearly happy to play on the counter, but our first incisive move of the match led to a deserved breakthrough in the 21st minute. Harder drifted out to the left-hand side, where she was found by Andersson with a yard of space in which to work. The Dane, recently crowned Women’s Footballer of the Year by the Guardian newspaper, certainly made the most of it, as she whipped over a cross that was flicked across the keeper and into the far corner by Kerr, taking the Australian’s tally for the WSL season to seven.