Chelsea Relinquish a Two Goal Lead as the Title Race Remains Wide Open

An incredible strike from Georgia Stanway meant the top two could not be separated after an enthralling 2-2 draw at Manchester City’s Academy Stadium. Chelsea Ladies will rue the fact that they couldn’t extend their lead at the top to four points after a dominant first half display but will sleep well knowing that they have negotiated their hardest remaining game of the season without weakening their position.

As expected, Emma Hayes made ten changes from the side that beat Yeovil in midweek after she made ten changes for that match in the first place. The only player who kept her place in the side was Maren Mjelde. Chelsea’s vast squad depth was further emphasised by the fact City were only able to make a couple of changes from the side that looked very tired chasing a deficit into the final minutes of their defeat away at Birmingham.

That freshness was clear for all to see in the opening minutes of the contest as Chelsea’s tempo was proving difficult for City to deal with. Fran Kirby, who had scored five goals in her last four games, nearly found an opening within seconds of the match beginning after she raced onto a long ball and got to it before City’s keeper. Unfortunately for her, the angle was too tight and she couldn’t finish the chance.

Chelsea’s persistence couldn’t be subdued and after six minutes, City failed to properly clear a Chelsea corner. Ji hit a speculative shot from the edge of the box into the sea of players and after a few ricochets the ball fell to Anita Asante who showed great composure to lay the ball off to fellow centre back Millie Bright who lashed the ball into the roof of the net.

The early goal only increased the confidence flowing in the Chelsea side, they were controlling possession and playing with great intensity; pressing and winning the ball back within seconds. Their patient passing play led to them doubling their lead. A long spell of possession saw Chelsea keeping the ball patiently around the City penalty area. The ball made its way to Dunn on the left wing and she got to the by-line and pulled it back for Ji So-Yun to finish clinically.

Conceding the second goal seemed to wake Manchester City up and they finally had their first spell of pressure. However, Lindahl comfortably dealt with anything that was aimed at her goal. The only effort that beat her was an effort from Jill Scott which was narrowly deflected wide.

A team talk of epic proportions was needed from Nick Cushing and his side responded four minutes into the second half. Demi Stokes whipped in a fantastic cross from the left and Nikita Parris went in bravely at the far post to head it in. With Chelsea’s lead reduced to one, Man City were in the ascendancy and should have been level. Again, a cross from Demi Stokes’ magical left foot found Parris at the back post again. This time she had enough time to bring the ball down but she somehow lost all composure and skewed her left footed effort wide.

As time wound down, City committed more players forward and Chelsea should have capitalised on the newly appearing space. Somehow substitute Erin Cuthbert wasn’t able to convert when through on goal and Chelsea were made to pay; with three minutes left to play, Jill Scott laid the ball off to the edge of the area for Georgia Stanway to score an absolute screamer, Lindahl had no chance. The match ended with Manchester City being the happier of two teams after coming back from two goals and managing to keep the title race close and within their reach.

Player of the Match: Millie Bright (Chelsea) – Did her defensive duties with composure and thorough care, even managing to contribute at the other end with a well-taken goal