A single goal was enough to put Emma Hayes’s side within reach of the title. At a sodden St Andrews’s stadium, the defending Champions triumphed thanks to Pernille Harder’s penalty. The Blues can now seal the title next weekend after it finished Birmingham 0-1 Chelsea in the late kick-off.
After the difficult midweek victory over Tottenham, Emma Hayes made a couple of changes. Ann-Katrin Berger replaced Zecira Musovic in goal. Millie Bright, Jess Carter and Magda Eriksson started in defence in the 3-5-2 formation. Niamh Charles and Guro Reiten started at wingback.
Sophie Ingle screened the defence with Jessie Fleming and Pernille Harder playing in free roles. This left in-form Sam Kerr and Beth England upfront.
A strong Chelsea bench included Erin Cuthbert, Jonna Andersson and Aniek Nouwen.
The away side knew they needed to respond after Arsenal’s victory earlier in the day. They started strongly and should have been ahead in the opening minutes. Ingle played in Harder, but she dragged her effort wide. Moments later, Sam Kerr was unable to turn in Guro Reiten’s cross.
The Australian continued to threatened and her effort from inside the box walloped the crossbar with Emily Ramsey beaten. As the rain started to pour down, it seemed only a matter of time before Chelsea took the lead.Embed from Getty Images
In reality, it was very different. Birmingham slowed the game down, committing a number of cheap fouls to slow breaks. Both Abi Cowie and Lisa Robertson picked up bookings for poor fouls. It was a far-cry from the previous match against Brum.
As the rain poured down, half-time came with the score still tied at 0-0.
Chelsea made a single half-time change with Erin Cuthbert replacing Beth England. The Scot drove wide before Magda Eriksson missed several half chances and Cuthbert was denied by a brilliant block from Louise Quinn.Embed from Getty Images
Two more chances came and went. First Pernille Harder snuck in behind but her effort was repelled by Ramsey. Then Sam Kerr found a pocket of space but dragged her effort wide. Two more changes saw Jonna Andersson and Lauren James replace Ingle and Carter.
The breakthrough came on the 70th minute. A deep corner found Niamh Charles, however, her header was blocked by Lisa Robertson. It was in fact illegally blocked by her arm and referee Emily Heaslip pointed to the spot instantly. Pernille Harder stepped up and rolled the penalty home with ease. Birmingham 0-1 Chelsea.Embed from Getty Images
With the lead secured, Chelsea set about protecting it. Drew Spence and Maren Mkelde replaced Kerr and Harder. Veatriki Sarri’s deep cross nearly deceived Ann-Katrin Berger who looked shaky throughout. Spence saw a strong penalty shout turned down, before a late flurry of Birmingham pressure. A late corner found Lucy Whipp but her volley was tipped over by Berger.
Resultantly, it ended Birmingham 0-1 Chelsea.
Full Time: Birmingham 0-1 ChelseaEmbed from Getty Images
Final Thoughts: Birmingham 0-1 Chelsea
One step away. Birmingham 0-1 Chelsea was not a vintage performance. The heavy rain made it difficult and Birmingham ensured they made it difficult. Although the Blues started well, they struggled to make the early dominance count. However, they remained calm and eventually got the breakthrough. In truth, they never looked like losing. Emma Hayes’s side now have destiny in their hands, ahead of the final match of the season.
It all comes down to this. Manchester United visit Kingsmeadow next Sunday. Win and Chelsea will retain the Women’s Super League for an unprecedented third year running.