Five-star Portsmouth Women's stunning season start despite heavily disrupted pre-season
Pompey Women's manager Jay Sadler saluted a near perfect way to start the new National League Southern Premier Division South season.
Debutant Cherelle Khassal, signed from Championship outfit Crystal Palace in the summer, struck an incredible four times after the restart while Shannon Albuery put the Blues on their way to a thumping 5-1 opening day-triumph over 10-player Plymouth Ladies.
Argyle had to play out nearly the whole of the second half with a player less following Olivia Ramsey's straight red card on 48 minutes.
Yet, after falling behind to Albuery's strike on the hour mark, Plymouth levelled through Rebecca Dandridge before Khassal's four-some show on debut.
Boss Sadler, who included debutants Khassal, Evie Gane, Dani Lane, Emma Jones and Jaime Gotch in the victory, said the only way the opening-day triumph could have been bettered was by keeping a clean sheet.
Still, the Pompey Women's manager was delighted with his side's five-start to the season - particularly after what proved to be a testing pre-season.
Sadler said: ‘We didn’t have the best pre-season because we had a bit of a breakout (of Covid) in the squad and we had five girls come down with it or coming back from it.
‘We’ve had to kind of manage ourselves and other teams who we were meant to be playing in pre-season got it so it affected game-time.
‘The relief when we were finally able to get out on the pitch and play, the manner in which we played, I was really happy with it.
‘To kick-start your campaign at home with three points, five goals, some fantastic individual and a team performance. Now, obviously, where we can use all five substitutes we were able to get 16 players out on the pitch, five debutants, all-in-all it was a very pleasing day.’
After a goalless opening 45 minutes, the game sprung into life after the restart with six goals and a sending off all arriving.
Plymouth had Ramsey dismissed after she pulled back Republic of Ireland international Khassal on the edge of the area just four minutes after the break.
Albuery then fired Pompey in front a minute before the hour, although they were immediately pegged back as Dandridge's free-kick found the net.
All things pointed to a tense finale, yet Khassal sprung into life with a superb four-goal burst in the closing stages.
She fired home her first Blues goal 19 minutes from time to restore the hosts' advantage.
Khassal then struck from the penalty spot eight minutes later prior to completing a 17-minute hat-trick.
There was still time for the international ace to strike her fourth in stoppage-time as Pompey came away 5-1 victors.