Battling against terrible weather conditions and a rain-drenched pitch, Chelsea Ladies managed to overcome the elements as well as their opponents Birmingham City Ladies as they delivered a fine 2-0 victory over their opponents from the Midlands. Goals in either half meant that Chelsea have now won three of their last four games and not conceded in those four as they look to have bounced back to form after a difficult and unconvincing start to the year.
The side lined up much differently to the team that destroyed London Bees last weekend; in fact, there were only two changes from the side that drew with Manchester City in the league 10 days ago. Instead of Magdalena Eriksson, Maria Thorisdottir slotted into the back three and captain Katie Chapman took her place in central midfield after her fantastic performance in the FA Cup.
Birmingham manager Marc Skinner wanted his side to squeeze Chelsea and they played a very high line, unfortunately for them that plan looked to be a bad one from the early exchanges. With Kirby timing her runs extremely well, it was only luck keeping her from finding the net. On one occasion, Thorisdottir played a ball in behind the Birmingham defence for Kirby and it was only a last-ditch challenge that allowed City to escape. As the half wore on, Birmingham tried to open up and be more expansive but that only poked the bear and suddenly Chelsea had scored. The home side had just created their best opening which was dealt with by Hedvig Lindhal before Chelsea and Crystal Dunn went down the other end. Dunn cut in from the left and had her effort blocked by a Birmingham defender but Fran Kirby was on hand to tap in from the rebound.
The last moments of the half saw Birmingham persist with their high line and it wasn’t doing them any favours, both Kirby and Bachmann were finding a lot of room and it was a surprise that Chelsea only went in at the break 1-0 up.
The second half continued in much of the same vein but while Chelsea were only one goal up, there was always the risk that the home side would be able to put a threatening attack together. Midway through the half Birmingham had their best chance when a misplaced pace was seized upon by Elen White who was so unlucky to see her shot dribble just past the post. She then had another effort which went straight at Lindhal. Just as Birmingham were in the ascendency, Chelsea clinically put the game to bed; Dunn was involved again as her cross found its way to the edge of the box where Ji So-Yun was waiting to carefully curl the ball into the bottom corner on her weaker left foot.
That goal sucker punched the hosts and Chelsea were allowed to see out the remainder of the match comfortably and left Birmingham with the three points and at least one night as leaders of the WSL 1 table.
Player of the Match: Fran Kirby (Chelsea) – Was asking questions of Birmingham’s back line for the full 90 minutes and got in behind on a number of occasions. Her 14th goal of the season was well deserved and should have scored even more.