WSL: Chelsea Women 3-1 Manchester City Women – Super Fran Kirby!

Chelsea put down a massive marker in the Women’s Super League by beating closest rivals Manchester City at Kingsmeadow after an incredible performance from Fran Kirby.

A controversial penalty was dispatched by Maren Mjelde on the 36th minute, before Sam Kerr doubled the lead in the 57th minute following sensational work from Ji So-Yun and Fran Kirby. Chelsea had to weather a short City storm after Chloe Kelly dispatched a penalty herself to bring the game back into the balance, before Fran Kirby capped off a superb team move by rounding Roebuck.

Pre-Game

Emma Hayes made some surprising changes from the mid-week victory over Arsenal. Two-goal star Guro Reiten returned to the bench with Sam Kerr once again getting the nod up front, whilst Beth England who also scored in that game found herself on the bench again.

The biggest surprise was the absence of Sophie Ingle, who also found herself on the bench as Chelsea plumped for an attacking line-up with Leupolz, Ji, Cuthbert, Kirby, Kerr and Harder all offering attacking potency.

First Half

The game as expected started at a frenetic pace, with both sides keen to show their attacking prowess. Chloe Kelly had the first effort of the match for the Citizens, smashing a strike over the crossbar, before Melanie Leupolz also shot wide for the Blues. The magnitude of the match clearly got to some players, with nervy touches and misplaced passes rife in the opening quarter.

Chelsea did start to get into their forward groove, and twice had excellent chances to test Roebuck. A sweeping move involving Cuthbert, Ji and Sam Kerr on the break eventually saw a low cross find Pernille Harder, but the Danish superstar was crowded out well by Lucy Bronze. Just ten minutes later, City went close too, as Sam Mewis slalomed past the Chelsea midfield and struck a slow but precise effort against the post, with Berger scrambling to get across in time.

On the 35th minute, Chelsea were presented a golden opportunity to take the lead from fortunate and controversial circumstance. A long-range effort from Erin Cuthbert struck a combination of Ellen White and Demi Stokes, and the former dropped to the ground. With fierce protestations from Chelsea players, referee Rebecca Welsh pointed to the spot.

On reflection, it was a very harsh decision, but Chelsea were not going to complain. The reliable Maren Mjelde stepped up and calmly stroked the penalty home, sending Roebuck the wrong way. Chelsea gained confidence from this and they could have doubled their lead right before half-time.

Maren Mjelde scores the opener.
Calm, composed, collected. Image Credit: Harriet Lander/Chelsea FC Via Getty Images.

Again, the impressive Ji was involved as she found herself on the left-wing following good work from Cuthbert. The South Korean crossed towards Sam Kerr, but she was unable to get enough power on the header to guide it past Roebuck.

Second Half

The second half started more evenly with both teams trying to regain the upper-hand. On the 51st minute, Chelsea should have doubled the lead as Erin Cuthbert – the Scottish Messi – played a brilliant 1-2 with Fran Kirby – the English Messi – and Kirby’s cross was superbly weighted towards Sam Kerr. Inexplicably, she completely fluffed her lines, missing her kick.

Just two minutes later, there was another great chance, again orchestrated by Fran Kirby. Latching onto a neat through-ball from Ji, she found Pernille Harder. Surprisingly, the record-signing hesitated to shoot and played it back to the South Korean midfielder. The ball was frustratingly snuffed out.

With City struggling with Chelsea’s intensity, the Blues attacked again. This time, Harder was involved in the build-up as her pass found Fran Kirby. Again the English international’s cross was on the money and again, Kerr could not take advantage.

Chelsea’s issue with profligacy in front of goal has been well-documented for both the men and women, and it was threatening to rear the ugly head again. However, Emma Hayes’ team finally made their dominance count.

Again, it was Ji and Kirby at the heart of the move. On the 57th minute, a sensational half-volley pass from Ji found Fran Kirby who burned Demi Stokes for pace and rolled another great cross into the box. This time, Kerr simply couldn’t miss and stroked home from four-yards out.

Sam Kerr scores Chelsea's second goal from a Fran Kirby cross.
Sam Kerr doubles the lead. Image Credit: Harriet Lander/Chelsea FC Via Getty Images.

The second goal seemed to rouse City into life and they had several decent chances through Mewis, Kelly and substitutes Rose Lavelle and Georgia Stanway. It was the latter who did contribute to City getting on the scoresheet, albeit in somewhat fortuitous circumstance. The ball deflected back to Stanway as she drove towards the byline and her cross hit Millie Bright’s trailing arm.

City’s red-hot striker Chloe Kelly stepped up and despite a bizarre run-up, she converted brilliantly into the top corner. City continued to press and had a few half-chances to bring the game back to parity, but Chelsea stood fast. Beth England replaced Harder in the aftermath of City’s goal to give Hayes a presence upfront.

Despite the away side’s pressure, the next goal went to Chelsea. It was superb. A pass back to goalkeeper Berger saw her turn Rose Lavelle and pass out to Mjelde. The full-back played a neat ball inside to Leupolz who played the ball first-time to Erin Cuthbert. The Scot turned and played an incisive, defence-splitting 35-yard pass along the floor to Fran Kirby, who had dropped into the forward space. Despite Roebuck steaming out of her goal, Fran Kirby easily rounded her to roll the ball calmly into the empty net.

Fran Kirby celebrates the third goal.
Fran Kirby celebrates the 3rd. Image Credit: Harriet Lander/Chelsea FC Via Getty Images.

Ji So-Yun was shortly replaced by surprise absentee Sophie Ingle. It was another super performance from the midfielder, who has now been at Chelsea for seven years. There was one final chance of note as Georgia Stanway – impressive as a substitute herself – saw her cross deflect to Rose Lavelle. However, excellent pressure from Bright put the American off and her tame effort was caught by Berger.

The final five minutes passed without note as Fran Kirby received the official Player of the Match award for her imperious display. It was a monumental display from the attacker who looks back to her best after her illness last season. More importantly, it was a huge 3 points for Emma Hayes’ Blues who remain unbeaten in the WSL.

Fran Kirby celebrates with Ji So-Yun.
How Chelsea fans feel tonight! Image Credit: Harriet Lander/Chelsea FC Via Getty Images.

Written and edited by Rob Pratley


Leave a Reply