The big battle at the top of the WSL1 ended in a stalemate as Chelsea Ladies and Manchester Women fought out a pulsating 0-0 draw. Although the game ended goalless, the level of performance from both squads highlighted just how far ahead these two teams are ahead of the rest of the league.
Emma Hayes reverted Chelsea back to their customary 3 at the back formation after experimenting with 4 at the weekend in their late win against Everton. Asante retained her place at centre back and was joined by Millie Bright and Magda Eriksson. Ramona Bachmann also retained her place up front with Drew Spence and Fran Kirby supporting her. Man City kept an unchanged side from the line-up that beat Chelsea in the Continental Cup Semi Final last week.
Phil Neville was in the stands to watch his first Ladies match as England manager. The opening minutes saw both teams probe for openings as the game was building into a rhythm. This rhythm was unfortunately abruptly halted when City’s keeper Karen Bardsley looked to have seriously injured herself. As she competed with Drew Spence to catch a cross, Bardsley landed awkwardly and had to be stretchered off and replaced by 18 year old back up keeper Ellie Roebuck.
The injury and long break in play seemed to knock the early promise of the half and thus there was not much goal mouth action for either team for the rest of the half. Roebuck had a few speculative efforts to deal with but she dealt with those comfortably while Hedvig Lindahl was even less involved.
The second half was much better as a spectacle however, as the end to end nature of the game meant for a great half. The opening exchanges of the second half saw City dominate as they got a succession of set pieces. Firstly from a corner, a free header was not converted. Also, Steph Houghton had a free kick that narrowly missed the target. This early spell of pressure from City seemed to spark Chelsea into action. Fran Kirby managed to get in behind the City defence, outmuscled her marker before sliding the ball past Roebuck, unfortunately the shot drifted past the far post. Drew Spence then found herself one on one with City’s young keeper after being played in by Bachmann. As Spence’s eyes lit up to finish, Roebuck stuck out a leg to stop the ball in what was a fantastic save.
Chelsea huffed and puffed for the remaining minutes of the match but couldn’t find a way past City’s defence. Ultimately, the draw leaves us nowhere closer to knowing who will win league but City will be happier knowing the next time these two teams play Chelsea will be coming to Manchester. Chelsea can take heart in the fact they matched a team that has been on a long winning run and were close to even beating them.
Player of the Match: Ellie Roebuck (Manchester City) – Having only made six appearances so far in her career for the club and signing her first professional contract last week, the 18 year old dealt with suddenly being thrown into a huge match with a confident and assured performance. Her save from Spence being a particular highlight.