Chelsea Women 2-1 Manchester United Women – Kirby sends the Blues top!

Chelsea went top of the Women’s Super League after beating Manchester United Women at Kingsmeadow today. A first half goal from Pernille Harder was cancelled out by Lauren James’s superb strike, but Fran Kirby’s opportunism ensured it ended Chelsea Women 2-1 Manchester United Women.

Chelsea Women 2-1 Manchester United Women Final Score Edit
Edit by @ketherinantoni

Pre Game

After making some enforced changes last week due to injuries and illness, Emma Hayes reverted back to a more familiar lineup today. Captain Magda Eriksson returned along with record transfer Pernille Harder. She formed a fierce attack with Cuthbert, 4-goal hero Fran Kirby and Sam Kerr.

First Half

The champions vs. the challengers had a predictably frenetic start. United started with a high press and nearly caught Chelsea out. AKB’s poor distribution was straight to Hanson, but Eriksson did well to clear. On the break, the Blues tested the United backline for the first time as Sam Kerr rampaged through off Ji’s well-weighted pass. However, Mary Earps blocked well with her foot to deny the Australian.

The fast start continued with neither side settling into a precise passing rhythm. When Chelsea did pass precisely, they created chances. Cuthbert slipped Kerr into the box following some midfield interplay, but Kerr’s cross was ahead of Kirby. Moments later, Kirby linked up with Kerr again, but her effort was deflected wide by Amy Turner.

With quarter of an hour gone, Chelsea had the clearest opening. Kirby fizzed a stunning pass through the lines to find Kerr. The Australian had time and space to pick her spot, but could only fire into the side-netting. It was a poor miss considering the quality of the player.

This signalled the first lull in the match. United were pressing high to force mistakes, but every time Chelsea broke this press, they looked dangerous. Christen Press missed United’s clearest opening as a cross dropped kindly for her, but she poked wide.

Another spell of Chelsea pressure followed. Mjelde slipped in Kirby down the right, but her near-post effort was blocked well by Earps again. However, the resulting corner led to the opener.

It was a succession of chances. First, Millie Bright’s header was cleared off the line by Turner. Then Kirby’s follow-up crashed off the post. The loose ball came to Pernille Harder six yards out, who made no mistake. The World Record transfer has sometimes struggled in Chelsea’s system, but has looked very good in recent weeks.

Chelsea Women 1-0 Manchester United Women!

To United’s credit, they responded well. Hanson drove past Mjelde and cut the ball back. Ella Toone was steaming onto the loose ball, but Bright blocked brilliantly. The loose ball spun to Press who saw her effort smothered by AKB. However, the flag did go up.

Minutes later, the flag benefitted the Blues again. Toone was once more involved. She collected a pass from Press and drove towards the Chelsea backline. A slipped pass through to Hanson saw the Scot round the keeper and finish calmly into an empty net. However, Sian Massey-Ellis raised her flag and replays showed it was a brilliant, although extremely tight call.

Chelsea had the final chance before half-time. Pernille Harder drove forward from midfield following good interplay with Ji. The Dane dribbled past two players before driving a left-footed effort. Although the strike seemed comfortably, keeper Earps nearly took her eye off it to fumble it into the empty net.

In barely a blink, it was half-time.

HT: Chelsea Women 1-0 Manchester United Women

Second Half

As if often the case, the second half did not start with the same intensity as the first. Casey Stoney did seem to make some tactical tweaks at half-time to try and nullify Chelsea’s speed of attacking. Despite this, the Blues had the first half-chance.

Pernille Harder’s early strike was deflected wide and from the resulting corner, it looked like she’d get a second chance. However, Ella Toone threw herself in front of the ball to desperately block. Toone had a chance at the other end moments later, but sliced wide. However, United did level moments later.

It was a substitute having the intended impact. Lauren James – sister of Reece – did brilliantly to jink past Leupolz and Mjelde to make space. The young star drove to the edge of the box and unleashed a brilliant curling effort that sailed into the far corner.

Chelsea Women 1-1 Manchester United Women.

The goal was coming and it woke Chelsea up. From the kick-off, they almost retook the lead. Ji picked up the loose ball and dribbled towards the box. Her strike was well-blocked, dropping to Sam Kerr. The Australian did get her effort on target, but it curled too close to Mary Earps who palmed it away.

They did retake the lead a few minutes later though. On the 65th minute, Ann Katrin-Berger cleared her lines. The innocuous goal-kick bounced once 30 yards from goal. The Turner centre-back pairing left it which allowed Fran Kirby to sneak in. The angle was tightened by Mary Earps spreading herself. Despite this, Kirby finished confidently.

Chelsea Women 2-1 Manchester United Women!

The goal was at best soft, and at worst, a terrible defensive lapse. As Emma Hayes celebrated, Casey Stoney was no doubt very frustrated on the touchline. Sensing a need to calm the match, Hayes made changes. Kerr and Harder were replaced by England and Ingle.

The substitutions initially did not settle the game down as hoped. United had a fantastic chance as Galton found Lauren James who took on Mjelde. Her well-struck effort whistled past the post and actually went a long way wide.

With just under 20 minutes left, a flurry of changes from both sides broke the match up. Cuthbert was tigerish all match as she ensured United never had a moment of peace. The final big chance actually fell to the Blues. Ingle played a fantastic pass behind for the ever-energetic Kirby. She was able to turn and play the ball back to the Welsh midfielder who usually strikes well from range. In this case, her radar was off and she sliced it wide.

United had a few late set pieces, but Chelsea hung on well as it ended Chelsea Women 2-1 Manchester United Women. The result sends the Blues top of the WSL with a game in hand on their opponents. It also means that we match the WSL record for most matches unbeaten – a record we can set next weekend.

FULL TIME: Chelsea Women 2-1 Manchester United Women

Written and edited by Rob Pratley (@rjpjournalism)

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