Match Report

Women's report: Chelsea 0 Manchester City 2

The Blues' Continental Tyres League Cup campaign was halted at the semi-final stage by Manchester City and two goals from Nikita Parris at Kingsmeadow.

Following a dominant first-half display by the home side, which should have seen us at least a couple of goals to the good after big chances fell to Fran Kirby, Erin Cuthbert and Bethany England, we were made to pay by the clinical visitors after the break.

Parris was both the creator and scorer of the first, earning a penalty kick from which she beat Lindahl and then, after we briefly rallied, the same player raced clear to finish with aplomb and book her side a place in the final against either Manchester United or Arsenal.

Last-four ties in this competition have not gone well for the Blues over the years, with our two previous appearances at this stage both ending in defeat at the hands of City – although we can point to three victories over our rivals in the last four of the FA Cup since 2015, with two of those triumphs followed by wins at Wembley Stadium in the final.

Emma Hayes shuffled her pack following the weekend win at Everton, with the starting line-up showing seven changes from that 2-0 triumph on Merseyside. Hedvig Lindahl, Deanna Cooper, Jess Carter, Anita Asante, Ji So-Yun, Ali Riley and Bethany England returned to the side at the expense of Ann-Katrin Berger, Hannah Blundell, Jonna Andersson, Sophie Ingle, Drew Spence, Ramona Bachmann and Karen Carney. What's more, there was a change in system, with the manager opting to go with a three-player defence for only the third time this season.

It looked a risky strategy in the first few minutes of the game, as City threatened to get in down the flanks on several occasions as the players adapted to the change of tactics, but soon the Blues got to grips with it and we began to assert ourselves on an opponent we have become extremely familiar with in recent years as we've battled it out for major honours.

Kirby had the first sight at goal, letting fly from long range to sting the palms of Karen Bardsley; with the heavens opening shortly before kick-off, it perhaps wasn't the worst strategy to test the goalkeeper's handling in these conditions.

GOALS: MAN CITY (H) CONTI CUP SEMI-FINAL 18/19

The two England internationals found themselves in direct competition once again, as Kirby was sent clear down the left by a precise through-ball by England and while Bardsley was once again equal to her effort, this time from inside the box, the rebound fell to Cuthbert and the recently crowned WSL Player of the Month for January just failed to direct her shot on target.

As is so often the case between these two sides, there was absolutely nothing to separate us for much of the half and it was often a cagey affair, as City looked to soak up the pressure before using the pace of Parris and Stanway on the break, while the Blues pressed high up the pitch in the hope of forcing a decisive turnover.

With the opening half nearing a conclusion, though, things began to open up in the attacking third and Hayes will be left wondering how her side didn't take the lead. Cuthbert was again at the heart of it, connecting sweetly with an acrobatic volley which Bardsley brilliantly tipped wide of the post. Then, Riley jinked one way and then the other down the left flank, freeing up a yard of space to deliver a cross into the danger zone which England could only direct her header wide of the target.

England heads a chance wide

We were quickly made to pay for those missed opportunities when the second half got underway, as Parris twice showed off her blistering pace in the space of a couple of minutes. The first led to a breakaway chance which Lindahl superbly kept out, but then her second foray into the area was halted illegally by Cooper. The England forward dusted herself off to fire home from the spot, although Lindahl was not far away from keeping it out.

To their credit, the visitors did an excellent job of taking the sting out of the game after getting their noses in front and the Blues had to battle hard for every opportunity which came our way. One of those fell to Kirby, who was found by a sublime pass from Cuthbert, but the City defence regrouped quickly, forcing our No14 to check back. By then, the chance had gone.

The introduction of Spence for Riley was followed by a tactical reshuffle, which saw us revert to four at the back and three in midfield and attack, albeit with Ji given freedom to roam between the lines. Both full-back positions were soon changed, too, as Carter and Cooper made way for Blundell and Andersson.

The former almost made an immediate impact, as she found space down the right to send in a cross which was smuggled behind, and then from our next attack she forced Bardsley into a save with a long-range strike.

Ji went close on several occasions

Although chances continued to come our way, with Ji twice curling shots into the arms of Bardsley, City put the game away with a clinical counter. Once again, the pace of Parris was a defining factor in the game, as she showed the defence a clean pair of heels and slid a precise finish past Lindahl and into the far corner. Despite our best efforts, that was it for our Continental Tyres League Cup campaign at the hands of Manchester City.

Now we do it all again on Sunday, this time with City hosting, as both our women's and men's teams square off against the Citizens in our respective leagues on the same afternoon. Then there is more cup action at Kingsmeadow a week later as we host Arsenal in the Women's FA Cup fifth round.

Chelsea (3-4-1-2) Lindahl; Bright (c), Cooper (Andersson 71), Eriksson; Carter (Blundell 71), Asante, Ji, Riley (Spence 64); Cuthbert; England, Kirby
Unused subs Telford, Ingle, Carney, Engman
Booked Cooper, Eriksson, Ji

Manchester City Bardsley, Stokes, Beattie, Houghton (c), Bonner, Walsh, Scott, Weir, Wullaert, Stanway, Parris
Unused subs Roebuck, Lawley, Bremer, Morgan, Hemp, Park, Emslie.
Scorer Parris (pen) 49, 81

Crowd 1,358

Referee David Rock

- Our next home league game is against Bristol City on Wednesday 20 February. Tickets are available online and all supporters will pick up a free Chelsea FC scarf on the night.

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