LADIES REPORT: CHELSEA 1 BRISTOL ACADEMY 3
Three goals in the first half give Bristol an unassailable lead and although Rosella Ayane pulled one back, it was not enough for Chelsea. With the win the visitors kept their title hopes alive.
Both sides had chances to open the scoring in an open first few minutes, with Alex Windell almost netting from close range for Bristol before Helen Ward's effort for the hosts.
Bristol went in front nine minutes in when Harding capitalised on slack defending to loop a brilliant lob over Marie Hourihan.
The home team were controlling possession but midway through the first half, the excellent Natasha Harding turned provider. The Welsh international created space with some fine footwork and then floated a teasing cross for Pablos Sanchon to head home.
Chelsea were creating chances - and Siobhan Chamberlain breathed a sigh of relief when Ayane could not capitalise on her weak clearance.
Harding, a danger all match, then launched a long throw into the box and Windell was on hand to tuck home the loose ball to deepen the gloom for Chelsea.
Emma Hayes' side responded well after the break and Ayane's effort hit the post and went in to reduce the arrears. The youngster was outstanding on debut for the Blues.
Substitute Karin Muya was lively once introduced off the bench and went close with a good run and cross in to the box. Dani Buet fired over from a free kick on the edge of the box.
Harding was denied her second when her bullet header was brilliantly turned round the post by Hourihan, while Eniola Aluko fired agonisingly wide as Chelsea failed to find a way back.
Chelsea: Marie Hourihan; Danielle Buet, Sophie Ingle, Kylie Davies, Hannah Blundell; Laura Coombs (Laura Rafferty 80mins), Jodie Brett (Karin Muya 70mins), Drew Spence, Eniola Aluko, Helen Ward (Helen Bleazard 79mins), Rosella Ayane
Substitutes not used: Carly Telford, Katie Holtham, Anne Meiwald
Referee - Graeme Ions
Attendance - 279