Manchester City 3 Chelsea 3
Beth England’s wonder strike helped maintain Chelsea’s slender advantage in the Women’s Super League title race as they held leaders Manchester City to an exciting draw.
The result means Chelsea remain a point behind City but crucially have a game in hand, a fact the home head coach Alan Mahon acknowledged after the game. “That result probably suits Chelsea better. It keeps it in their hands, so we’ll keep taking it one game at a time,” Mahon said.
The first surprise of the game came before kick-off, with Mahon opting to start without Pauline Bremer, City’s top scorer. Mindful of the visitor’s attacking firepower, City’s new head coach opted for a more conservative 4-4-2 formation and it was the home side who had the better of the early exchanges.
Ellen White came close with a header and Caroline Weir fired a volley over from close range.
Their pressure finally told after 22 minutes. Patient play down the right allowed room for Janine Beckie to fizz in a low cross which White latched on to and swept in at the near post.
With six minutes left in the half, Chelsea levelled things up. Ji So-yun controlled a clearing header 25 yards out and lashed it back on the volley, with a fortunate deflection carrying the ball past Ellie Roebuck in the City goal.
After the break England forced a fine save from Roebuck while Erin Cuthbert flashed a header wide from a corner. However, the league leaders retook the lead on the hour mark, with a rapid counter-attack.
Lauren Hemp slid the ball to Georgia Stanway, in behind Maren Mjelde who had tried to step up, and the City striker ran in and smashed it past Ann-Katrin Berger.
Chelsea responded soon after when Joanna Andersson whipped in a cross from the left which was flicked on by England and Magdalena Eriksson headed home.
Just 90 seconds later, Chelsea’s Sophie Ingle gave away a penalty as she upended Weir but Berger produced a wonderful save to deny Stanway. England then put Chelsea ahead for the first time, lashing home a wonderful strike from 25 yards out.
Yet moments later, City hit back. Hemp drifted in behind Mjelde and was played in by Weir before poking the equaliser past Berger.
Despite a late miss by England, Chelsea’s Emma Hayes was the happier of the two managers, saying: “It was more of a basketball match than a chess match. It was amazing, end-to-end stuff.”
Manchester City (4-4-2): Roebuck (Benameur 90 9); Stanway, Houghton Bonner, Stokes; Scott, Walsh, Weir Hemp; Beckie, White (Bremner 78).
Substitutes not used: Coombs, Toland,Park, Wullaert, Veiga Santiago Fidalgo.
Goals: White 22, Stanway 60, Hemp 76
Chelsea (4-3-3): Berger; Mjelde, Bright, Eriksson, Andersson; Ingle, Cuthbert, Reiten (Bachmann 72); Ji (Thorisdottir 77), England, Kerr (Spence 90 1).
Substitutes not used: Blundell, Carter, Engman, Telford.
Goals: Ji 39, Eriksson 68, England 74.
Referee: Rebecca Welch.