Ladies report: Chelsea 0 Manchester City 2

Manchester City Ladies scored late in the first half and early in the second to hand Chelsea Ladies a first FA Women's Super League defeat of the season.

The stakes were high going into the game, with both sides vying for top spot in the WSL standings, and there was little to separate the sides until Demi Stokes burst clear in the 44th minute to put City ahead.

Jennifer Beattie's header three minutes into the second half gave Chelsea a mountain to climb, but the Blues fought hard without finding a way past Karen Bardsley, with the 2-0 defeat leaving us six points behind the visitors in the WSL standings.

After 90 gruelling minutes at Wembley on Saturday, Emma Hayes opted to make four changes to the team which started the Women's FA Cup final defeat against Arsenal as Ana Borges, Karen Carney, Gemma Davison and Ji So-Yun all dropped to the substitutes' bench.

Niamh Fahey, who made her comeback from injury as a half-time substitute at the weekend, returned to partner Gilly Flaherty at centre-half, with Claire Rafferty, another absentee on Saturday, coming in at left-back. Hannah Blundell completed the back four and Hedvig Lindahl retained her place between the posts.

In midfield, Millie Bright moved up from defence to play alongside Katie Chapman and the attacking-midfield trio comprised Drew Spence, Eniola Aluko and Bethany England, the latter two restored to the starting line-up. Fran Kirby, who broke City hearts with her last-gasp winner in the Women's FA Cup semi-final last month, started up front.

As one might expect from a game with huge implications for the top of the WSL standings, neither side was giving an inch in the early exchanges. Indeed, both teams were pressing high up the pitch and a scrappy affair played out over the course of the opening 20 minutes.

City had the first two efforts of the game as defenders Bronze and Houghton both tried their luck either side of Spence going into the referee's notebook, while Chelsea's opening attempt came after 10 minutes through Kirby, who let fly with a half-volley which sailed harmlessly wide.

The Blues' pressing was being led by Bright, who was in the thick of the action from the first minute and winning just about everything in the air. She even tried her luck with one half volley, but Bardsley still hadn't been tested by a Chelsea player, although that changed shortly after Lindahl made a spectacular save to deny Duggan.

Spence went close to breaking the deadlock twice in as many minutes. Her first effort was all her own making as she showed great strength to burst through two challenges and bear down on Bardsley's goal; her early finish was low and hard, but the keeper did well to keep it out. Then, after good work from Aluko and Kirby, Spence was teed up again. This time, she didn't threaten the target.

Just as the two sides looked to be heading into half-time all-square, City took the lead through Stokes. The goal came after Chapman had lost possession in her own half, and a perfectly weighted pass sent the left-back through on goal to tuck a tidy finish past Lindahl.

The Blues knew a big 45 minutes was awaiting them, but their task was made even tougher just three minutes into the second half when Manchester City doubled their lead. After Rafferty had brilliantly recovered to challenge Parris, the Blues switched off from the resulting corner to allow Beattie to head home the vistitors' second goal.

Hayes wasted little time in rolling the dice, introducing Ji and Davison in place of Bright and England. The move almost paid immediate dividends as the latter jinked her way past Stokes down the right and pulled the ball back for Ji, who rattled a fierce shot off the underside of the bar. The ball eventually broke to Blundell, who drilled a low, left-footed effort which Bardsley did well to hold on to.

Davison continued to look a threat every time she ran at Stokes, who simply couldn't handle the quick feet of Chelsea's No7, but the centre of City's defence remained firm and so Hayes opted to make her final change: Carney on for Spence, a clear sign it was time to go for broke.

Despite plenty of pressure in midfield and around the City box, chances remained hard to come by. One run by Aluko resulted in the ball being played all the way across goal to her opposite winger, Davison, who took a touch before curling in a low strike which was deflected agonisingly over.

Carney came even closer a few minutes later, curling a sumptuous effort just wide of the target after being found by Ji at the end of a patient move. When Chapman's powerful header in stoppage time was kept out by Bardsley, that effort summed up a frustrating evening for the Blues, who are back in action on Wednesday night at home to Sunderland before the WSL enters its mid-season break.

Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Lindahl; Blundell, Fahey, Flaherty, C Rafferty; Bright (Ji 52), Chapman (c); Aluko, Spence (Carney 63), England (Davison 52); Kirby
Unused subs: Spencer, L Rafferty, Bailey, Borges
Booked: Spence, Bright

Manchester City (4-3-3): Bardsley; Bronze, Houghton (c), McManus, Stokes; Scott, Beattie, Asllani (Christiansen 61); Parris, Ross (Stanway 88), Duggan (Corboz 81)
Unused subs: Hourihan, Campbell, Tynan
Goal: Stokes 44, Beattie 48

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