Ladies report: Man City 1 Chelsea 0

Despite a strong second-half showing, the Blues slipped to a first defeat of the Spring Series thanks to a moment of magic from Toni Duggan.

There was little to separate the sides across a pulsating 90 minutes, but a superb effort by Duggan in the first half proved to be the telling moment in a game which opened up after the break. Chelsea had plenty of opportunities to fashion an equaliser, but there was no way past Karen Bardsley on a frustrating evening for the Blues.

Emma Hayes continued to rotate her players for this busy Spring Series schedule. Millie Bright, Hannah Blundell, Katie Chapman, Drew Spence, Ramona Bachmann and Crystal Dunn all returned to the starting line-up, with Niamh Fahey, Gemma Davison, Ji So-Yun, Karen Carney, Erin Cuthbert and Eniola Aluko making way. Other than the injured Aluko, the replaced players all took their place on the substitutes' bench.

Given the magnitude of the match between the top two sides in the Women's Super League over the past two seasons, there was little surprise it was a cagey opening to the contest. Both pressing games were coming out on top and space, along with chances, were at a premium.

A long-distance effort from a Maren Mjelde set-piece was the only noteworthy effort at goal in the opening 10 minutes, but then the home side enjoyed a period of sustained pressure which resulted in Nikita Parris testing Carly Telford, with the keeper called upon to make a good save with her feet.

At the other end, Beth England stung the palms of Karen Bardsley with a rasping volley at the back post, but then City took the lead completely out of the blue. There seemed to be little on for Toni Duggan when she received the ball 30 yards from goal, but she wriggled away from two Chelsea defenders before drilling a low shot past Telford from the edge of the box.

The Blues responded well, though, and we almost claimed an equaliser moments after falling behind. Spence won possession high up the pitch and Dunn was the beneficiary, driving at the City defence before laying the ball back to the the Chelsea No24. With six goals in six games going into the game, she'd have fancied her chances of beating Bardsley, but the shot was narrowly off target.

There was one final scare for the Blues just before half-time when Steph Houghton tried her luck from a free-kick and found the top of the crossbar with her strike, but it was 1-0 at the break.

Set-pieces had played a big part in the first half and it almost provided us a route to goal at the start of the second period. Mjelde's delivery around the box is exceptional and this one was no different, curled onto the right foot of England only for her hooked volley to fly over the bar.

Our left wing-back was desperately unlucky not to get us back on level terms from our very next attack, which was brilliantly carved out by Bachmann and only a block on the line from Lucy Bronze denied us the equaliser. The Manchester City right-back knew very little about it, but it was a telling intervention nonetheless.

The opening 15 minutes of the second half was the first period of sustained pressure from the Blues and Spence drew a fine save out of Bardsley just before the hour mark. She carved the opportunity herself with a combination of tenacity and technical ability, and her left-footed curler looked destined for the bottom corner only for the keeper to palm it past the post.

City responded with a shot of their own from Parris, who was a constant threat down the right, which Telford was forced to push wide, and both sides prepared themselves for an intense closing half-hour with a change apiece. Fran Kirby was brought on for Chelsea in place of Bachmann, while Christiansen made way for Asllani for the home side, and Karen Carney was introduced soon after in place of England. In between the changes there was a vicious half-volley by Bright which narrowly missed the top corner.

There was a brief moment of controversy when a Campbell long throw found its way into the back of the net, but City's celebrations were cut short when the referee and linesman correctly adjudged that there had been no touch by any player.

Hayes immediately rolled the dice for the final time in the match, introducing Davison in place of Blundell and two chances fell Spence's way in quick succession; the first flew over the bar and the second was just too close to Bardsley to really trouble the City keeper.

Despite our dominance in the second half there was to be no equaliser, but the Blues have a chance to get back to winning ways when we host Liverpool at Wheatsheaf Park on Sunday.

Manchester City: Bardsley, Stokes, Campbell, Houghton (c), Bronze, Walsh, Christiansen (Asllani 62), Scott, Lawley (Stanway 71), Parris, Duggan
Unused subs: Hourihan, Ross, McManus
Scorer: Duggan 28

Chelsea (3-4-2-1): Telford; Flaherty, Cooper, Bright; Blundell (Davison 71), Mjelde, Chapman (c), England (Carney 68); Spence, Bachmann (Kirby 62); Dunn
Unused subs: Kitching, Fahey, Ji, Cuthbert