Match Report: Chelsea 3-1 Manchester City

Chelsea gained a deserved victory in the battle of two of the Barclays FA Women’s Super League big guns by having too much for Manchester City at Kingsmeadow this afternoon.
 
The two sides’ respective strength in depth showed with a brief glance of the teamsheets. When players such as Sophie Ingle, Beth England, Guru Reiten, Jill Scott, Georgia Stanway, Janine Beckie and Rose Lavelle are on the bench you know there’s two seriously powerful teams going head to head.
 
For City, it was notable that 18 year old Jess Park, who started her footballing journey at York City first FAWSL start.
There was a high-intensity opening to the game, within the opening three minutes, Sam Kerr found Erin Cuthbert on the left. The Scot cut inside but her ball to Melanie Leupolz was cleared. Cuthbert regained possession and played a pass towards Pernille Harder, but the danger was cleared.
 

Manchester City’s response came on five minutes when Chloe Kelly broke through the middle and found Ellen White. Blues skipper Magda Eriksson intercepted, but could only find Kelly who fired a shot over.

Chelsea had the next effort on goal two minutes later when Lucy Bronze gave the ball away to Ji, with the South Korean magician feeding Jonna Andersson. The cross found Fran Kirby who laid a ball back to Leupolz, but the effort went wide of the left hand post. Within five minutes, a delightful build up found Harder unmarked towards just inside the box, but she couldn’t get a shot away.

The home side continued to create with Cuthbert combining well again with Andersson. The Swede’s ball found Harder just inside the ‘D’, but Gemma Bonner deflected her shot out. Maren Mjelde’s corner found its way to Kerr near the back post. Under immense pressure from Bronze, the Matildas star’s half volley went over.

City came close on 24 minutes when Keira Walsh played a pass to Sam Mewis. Holding off Cuthbert, the American hit a curler than cannoned off of the bottom of the left hand post.

As the visitors built a head of steam, Jess Park showed that she was far from intimidated. She offered some great runs and passes that belied her tender age and lack of FAWSL experience.

 
An error from Keira Walsh allowed Leupolz to win the ball and drive a pass towards Kerr but it was deflected out for a corner which eventually found Erin Cuthbert who drove a shot in which at first viewing looked to have come off the arm of Demi Stokes and a penalty was awarded, although it was Ellen White who was erroneously given the yellow card for handball by Rebecca Welch. Up stepped Maren Mjelde, in her fiftieth FAWSL game, to dispatch the penalty and the champions were in front.
 
Cuthbert created another chance when she rounded Park and crossed. Walsh smashed it out for a corner which resulted in a playground style goalmouth scramble which City finally cleared. Immediately, Bronze galloped down the pitch and drove an effort wide with White coming fast in at the back post.
 
In stoppage time, Ji combined well with Harder and got the ball back to play a cross in, but Kerr’s header lacked the power to stretch Ellie Roebuck in the City goal. Chelsea went in ahead at the break which just about reflected the respective amount of chances created in the opening period.
 
The first opportunity in the second half fell Chelsea’s way. Under immense pressure, Demi Stokes gave possession away to Fran Kirby who in turn found Ji in the middle. Ji played in Sam Kerr with the ball then travelling to Erin Cuthbert, with the Scot’s effort going wide.
 
Caroline Weir was then robbed by Pernille Harder, who offloaded Cuthbert. She in turn found Kirby whose cross was met by a powerful header from Kerr which went over.
 
More Chelsea pressure led to another great opportunity. Harder combined with Kirby down the right. Her cross was met with a miss kick by Kerr.
 
City were their own worst enemy once more when Bronze dilly-dallied on the ball allowing Cuthbert in, but the Scot’s effort flew over.
 
Fran Kirby was creating mayhem down the right and it was her cross after 57 minutes, having been played in by Ji that found Kerr in the middle of the box. The Australian side footed the ball home first time for her third goal in four FAWSL games this season.
 
City responded with a double substitution as Rose Lavelle and Georgia Stanway were introduced. Shortly afterwards, Sam Mewis earned a corner when her cross shot deflected off Millie Bright but the resulting kick was cleared with ease.
The visitors were offered a life-line when Lavelle’s cross came off the back of Millie Bright’s arm on seventy-three minutes and a penalty was awarded. Chloe Kelly, with her idiosyncratic step up routine sent it crashing past Berger and it was 2-1.
 
Any hope that City had of getting anything from the game was extinguished just six minutes later when Leupolz laid a perfect ball through to Kirby. Ellie Roebuck came rushing out of goal and became stranded outside her area with no hope of getting the ball, allowing Kirby to dispatch the ball into the net expertly.
 
It could have got worse for the Sky Blues as Ji found Kirby who hit an effort towards goal which Bronze put out for a corner.
 
As the game moved towards its conclusion, City fashioned one last opportunity when Georgia Stanway was played through and hit an effort which was deflected into the path by Millie Bright into the path of Rose Lavelle who couldn’t finish.
 
It was a deserved victory for Chelsea who offered far more creativity in attack and solidity in defence than their opponents. Emma Hayes’ side dominated City in the Community Shield and did similarly at Kingsmeadow today. Whilst a win in a league game played in October doesn’t decide anything, it has certainly emphasised the fact that the challengers will find it exceptionally tough to prize Chelsea’s fingers from the FA Women’s Super League trophy.
 
Chelsea: Berger, Mjelde, Bright, Eriksson, Andersson, Ji, Leupolz, Cuthbert, Kerr, Kirby, Harder.
Substitutes: Telford (GK), Thorisdottir, Ingle (used), England (used), Reiten, J. Fleming, Charles (used), C. Fleming.
 
Manchester City: Roebuck, Stokes, Bonner, Houghton, Kelly, Park, White, Weir, Bronze, Mewis, Walsh. Substitutes: Bardsley (GK), Taieo (GK), Coombs, Scott (used), Stanway (used), Beckie, Morgan, Lavelle (used), Greenwood.
 
Referee: Rebecca Welch

Photo: @ChelseaFCW