Ladies report: Manchester City 2 Chelsea 0
news Sun 25 Sep 2016
Chelsea Ladies' hopes of retaining the FA Women's Super League title were ended by Manchester City, who clinched the championship with victory over the Blues.
There was little to separate the sides during the opening half-hour, but the home side took control of the match when Jill Scott headed the first goal via the aid of a deflection off Katie Chapman. Toni Duggan added a penalty early in the second half to seal City's first WSL title.
After beating Reading 3-0 in our last game a fortnight ago, Emma Hayes made one change to her personnel and we switched to a 4-4-2 formation. Millie Bright, fresh from debuting for England in midweek, dropped in at left-back having played centre-midfield at Adams Park, with Claire Rafferty an enforced absentee after she was ruled out with concussion. Her replacement in the side was Jade Bailey. The other notable team news was Fran Kirby taking a place on the substitutes' bench exactly four months since her last appearance for the Blues.
With the stakes so high both sides could have been forgiven for feeling their way into the game, but it was an explosive start and Chelsea were appealing for a penalty only 90 seconds into the contest. Ji So-Yun stood up a cross at the back post which Karen Carney looked odds on to head in until Demi Stokes nudged her in mid-air. The referee, however, remained unmoved.
Becky Spencer was called upon to make the first save of the half when Jane Ross directed a header at goal which the Blues stopper did well to keep hold of, and then Chapman stopped Izzy Christiansen from getting her shot away with a perfectly timed slide tackle inside the area.
The Chelsea captain was involved at the other end, too, as she recorded our first effort on target from outside the box. She then became the first name into the referee's book for a foul on Scott and she was soon followed by Christiansen for a cynical trip on Gemma Davison.
Hayes spoke before the game of the importance of set-pieces and it was from this route that City opened the scoring. Duggan was the provider, clipping a corner-kick into a dangerous area from which Scott headed home via the aid of a deflection off Chapman.
Chelsea responded with a period of sustained pressure without troubling Karen Bardsley's goal, with the last action of the half coming from an Eniola Aluko volley which was wide of the target.
The Blues were unchanged going into the second half, but within five minutes of the restart our task had multiplied as the home side extended their advantage. Gilly Flaherty's sliding challenge brought down Lucy Bronze inside the area and the referee didn't hesitate to point to the spot. Duggan stepped up and sent Spencer the wrong way.
Hayes responded by sending on Ana Borges in place of Hannah Blundell and the Portuguese full-back was immediately in the thick of the action with a vital interception to deny City a certain goal before becoming the third name to be booked by the referee after a foul on Parris.
Chelsea's frustration continued when Chapman lost her footing when well placed inside the area and then Aluko fired in a daisy-cutter from long range which Bardsley easily dealt with. That was the No9's final action of the game as she was replaced by Beth England and the Blues switched to three at the back.
The substitution had our best chance of the match a few minutes later as she was sent through on goal by Carney's slide-rule pass. Although she got plenty behind her shot, it was straight at Bardsley.
Despite no shortage of effort and endeavour, that proved to be the closest we came to finding a way past the City defence on a frustrating afternoon at the Academy Stadium.
The WSL title may no longer be ours, but there is still plenty to play for this season, starting with a mouthwatering Champions League tie against Wolfsburg. The first leg is at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday 5 October, with kick-off at 7pm.
Tickets are priced at just £5 for adults and £3 for juniors (under 20) and seniors (over 65), so why not come along and show your support for the Blues?
Manchester City (4-3-3): Bardsley, Bronze, Beattie, Houghton (c), Stokes, Scott, Walsh (Corboz 90+2), Christiansen, Parris (Asllani 72), Ross, Duggan (Middag 84)
Unused subs: Hourihan
Scorers: Scott 34, Duggan (pen) 50
Chelsea (4-4-2): Spencer; Blundell (Borges 57), Flaherty, Fahey, Bright; Carney, Chapman (c), Bailey, Aluko (England 70); Ji (Spence 80), Davison
Unused subs: Lindahl, L Rafferty, Kirby
Booked: Chapman, Borges