Chelsea FC Women moved one step closer to securing back-to-back Barclays FA Women’s Super League titles with tonight's draw against Manchester City.
Goals from Sam Kerr and Pernille Harder helped the Blues earn a point at The Academy Stadium to keep Chelsea two points ahead of Manchester City at the top of the league standings with two WSL games remaining.
City certainly had the better start to the game, but it was Chelsea who took the lead as Kerr met a Cuthbert corner and headed in her 18th league goal of the campaign.
Our lead lasted just three minutes as Chloe Kelly got on the end of Lauren Hemp’s low cross to equalise from close-range.
Chelsea provided an instant reaction to City’s leveller and were given the opportunity to take the lead again when the referee pointed to the spot.
Kerr won the penalty after being fouled by goalkeeper Ellie Roebuck and Harder dispatched her spot-kick to give Chelsea a 2-1 lead at the interval.
City dominated large periods of the second half, and they got reward for their pressure when Hemp netted an equaliser with less than 20 minutes remaining to set up a tense finish.
Chelsea had Ann-Katrin Berger to thank as the goalkeeper produced a world-class save to deny Hemp a late winner and that stop from Berger may prove to be a title-winning moment for the Blues.
Emma Hayes’ side will now switch focus to another important game as we face Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-final.
The Blues travel to Germany this weekend ahead of the first leg against our German opponents on Sunday.
After watching our 5-0 FA Cup victory against London City Lioness from the stands on Friday evening, Ann-Katrin Berger, Millie Bright, Pernille Harder, Sam Kerr, Fran Kirby and Ji So-Yun all returned to the starting line-up for this evening’s crunch clash with Manchester City.
Magda Eriksson wasn’t included in tonight’s matchday squad after picking up a slight knock in last week’s FA Cup win which meant skipper for the night, Bright, was joined in central defence by Sophie Ingle.
Emma Hayes opted with Jess Carter at right-back with Jonna Andersson, making her 100th appearance for the club, occupying the left-back position to complete a back four ahead of goalkeeper Berger.
With Ingle dropping back into the Blues defence, Ji So-Yun partnered Melanie Leupolz in a midfield two ahead of our backline with Fran Kirby, Pernille Harder and Erin Cuthbert deployed in attacking roles behind striker Sam Kerr.
Guro Reiten returned to the Blues squad after being rested for our win against London City Lionesses and was named on a strong bench alongside Hannah Blundell, Bethany England, Jessie Fleming, Niamh Charles, Drew Spence, youngster Jorja Fox and goalkeepers Zecira Musovic and Carly Telford.
With Chelsea two points ahead of Manchester City, many would say the onus was on the hosts to come out to try and win the game and they certainly settled into the contest much quicker than the Blues.
City had the first chance of the game within the opening minute when Chloe Kelly raced into the Chelsea box but the forward couldn’t generate any power behind her low effort and Berger was able to make a comfortable save.
Minutes later Hemp picked out Sam Mewis, but the midfielder could only head over the bar from six yards out and at the other end, Harder couldn’t direct her header on target after Cuthbert found the Denmark international with an in-swinging free-kick to the far post.
Alex Greenwood cleared a Kerr header off the line as Chelsea started to slowly come into the game, but there was no City defender on the line to prevent Kerr from netting the opener just before the half hour mark.
Kerr earned Chelsea a corner following good forward play and the Australian rose highest to meet Cuthbert’s corner and head Chelsea into the lead.
That lead was short-lived though as City equalised three minutes after Kerr’s opener when Kelly poked home a low cross from Hemp.
In a space of eight minutes, this evening’s top of the table clash provided three goals and Kerr was involved once again as Chelsea restored our advantage.
The Australian won the Blues a penalty after she was brought down in the box by City goalkeeper Roebuck and Harder kept a cool head to send Roebuck the wrong way and give Chelsea a 2-1 lead on 33 minutes.
Berger, making her 50th appearance for Chelsea, denied the hosts another instant reply, when the keeper reacted well to tip a looping effort from Bronze over the bar.
It was good goalkeeping from Berger once again minutes later as Bright’s pass was short but the German international was quickly off her line to sniff out any danger and the Blues went into the half-time break with a 2-1 advantage.
The second half starting in similar fashion to the first, with City dominating the early exchanges but Chelsea defended well to restrict our opponents to few clear-cut opportunities.
Hayes made a switch just after the hour mark with Charles replacing Harder while City made a change of their own as Ellen White made way for Rose Lavelle.
Chelsea looked to hit City on the break and they did just that shortly after the changes and while Kirby wasn’t able to pick out substitute Charles with her cross, the ball came out to Kerr but the goalscorers first time effort went wide of the target.
Chelsea failed to clear the danger on two occasions and City capitalised on the Blues mistakes as Hemp reacted quickest in box and slotted the ball into the bottom corner.
Just like she did in the first half, Berger came to the rescue for the Blues when she produced a world-class save to deny Hemp another goal minutes after her leveller.
City searched for the win they desperately needed but Chelsea withheld late pressure from the hosts to earn a vital point in the race for the title.
Tonight’s draw keeps the Blues at the top of the table two points ahead of Manchester City and with two games remaining for both sides, Chelsea are in pole position to secure back-to-back league titles.
Attentions will now turn to our Champions League campaign with Bayern Munich awaiting the Blues in the last four of the competition.
Chelsea travel to Germany this weekend ahead of Sunday’s semi-final first leg before the return fixture at Kingsmeadow a week later.
Manchester City (4-3-3) Roebuck; Bronze, Dahlkemper, Greenwood, Stokes; Walsh, Mewis (Stanway 75), Weir; Kelly, Hemp, White (Lavelle 64)
Unused subs Taieb, Mannion, Davies, Park, Beckie, Morgan
Scorers Kelly 28 Hemp 74
Booked Greenwood 76
Chelsea (4-2-3-1) Berger; Carter, Bright (C), Ingle, Andersson; Leupolz, Ji (Reiten 76); Kirby (England 90), Harder (Charles 62), Cuthbert; Kerr
Unused subs Musovic, Telford, Blundell, Fleming, Spence, Fox
Scorers Kerr 25 Harder 33
Referee Rebecca Welch