LADIES REPORT: CHELSEA 0 BIRMINGHAM CITY 1
A late header from Rachel Williams was enough for Birmingham City Ladies to take all three points at Wheatsheaf Park.
The match was a cagey affair in the opening stages, with Birmingham registering the first real chance of the match on 16 minutes when Jodie Taylor tested Carly Telford with a powerful effort from a tight angle. The shot was held well by the Chelsea goalkeeper.
Meanwhile, Chelsea's first attempt on target came when Kate Longhurst found herself in behind the Birmingham backline, but the Chelsea forward could only fire her effort at Marie Houlihan in the Birmingham City goal.
While the opening period remained tense, both sides produced further chances as the half progressed. Karen Carney fired at Telford from 25 yards before the Chelsea 'keeper was again called upon, coming out quickly to deny Jo Potter.
At the other end, it was Houlihan's turn to deny Chelsea the opener. Firstly denying Helen Lander, who latched onto Danni Buet's precise through ball, before Dunia Susi 's incisive run created a shooting opportunity only for Houlihan to save from a tight angle.
The flurry of chances continued for both sides after the break, as a goalmouth scramble saw Claire Rafferty make an excellent goal-line clearance. Then the Chelsea left-back almost opened the scoring at the other end as the hosts looked to counter, only to drag her effort wide of the far post.
As Chelsea began a spell of pressure on the Birmingham goal, Adriana came close, firing a low effort across goal. Houlihan then made a stunning double save, first to deny Rafferty, before bravely blocking Adriana's follow-up during a frantic two-minute spell.
Despite the hosts' best efforts, the visitors would open the scoring on 78 minutes, as former Chelsea forward Eniola Aluko's cross was met by the head of Rachel Williams, with Chelsea 'keeper Telford unable to stop the effort.
As the Blues tried to rescue a point, Helen Bleazard came closest, her looping volley landing on top of the net as Birmingham took all three points.
After the game, Ladies manager Emma Hayes was disappointed to lose her first home game since her arrival at the club, but was quick to take the positives as the Blues boss begins to make her mark on her new side.
'I thought first half we created the better chances without really dominating proceedings,' said Hayes. 'All the girls are eager to prove themselves and I think they played with some anxiety levels this evening and we struggled a little bit in the second-half.
'For us, it's about playing with a playing style that we'll build on. The expectation levels are high but we're not going to achieve that overnight.'
Chelsea Ladies continue their WSL campaign with a trip to Everton on Sunday 9 September, kick off at 2pm.
Chelsea (4-4-2): Carly Telford (C); Claire Rafferty, Gemma Bonner, Kylie Davies, Dunia Susi; Sophie Ingle, Helen Bleazard, Danni Buet, Sue Lappin (Helen Lander 35); Kate Longhurst (Laura Coombs 79), Adriana Martin.
Unused subs Sarah Quantrill, Sophie Perry, Drew Spence, Sophie Gwilliam.
By Daniel Clarke