Chelsea have moved to the top of the WSL table after grinding out a 1-0 win over title rivals Manchester United at Kingsmeadow on Sunday. Emma Hayes side are now firm favourites in the remaining title race, with a two-point lead and a game in hand.
Sam Kerr scored the only goal of a game, the biggest of the WSL so far this season, which had fallen victim to the stripped back BBC coverage that has dominated headlines since Friday.
In the words of Marc Skinner, United didn’t turn up for the first 70 minutes and 2-0 down in the reverse meeting in November. But there was a clear bite in some early challenges as they tried to right that wrong and dominated the ball throughout.
Chelsea’s ruthlessness was a threat even early on. Twice in quick succession, Kerr was put through on goal by searching balls forward – Mary Earps was equal to it both times, with the latter of the saves an outstanding stop from FIFA’s Best.
The third time the Blues hit that long ball to Kerr, she made it count. Lauren James got the assist against her former club, finding the space between centre-backs Millie Turner and Maya Le Tissier. Kerr did the rest, lifting the ball over the reach or Earps into the far corner.
United back to life a little more around the half hour mark. First, Nikita Parris was adamant she should have had a penalty after it appeared she was clipped by Kadeisha Buchanan as she entered the box. Shortly after, Alessia had their first meaningful but hit it straight at Ann-Katrin Berger. Yet Chelsea were always dangerous and Earps was soon scrambling as Jessie Fleming’s speculative cross from deep ended up striking the outside of the post and bouncing wide.
Another long ball for Kerr to chase down the left gave Chelsea the first chance of the second half. The Australian eased Le Tissier out of the way and looked certain to double her team’s lead, only to then send the ball the wrong side of the far post.
Chelsea’s creativity had flattened by the hour mark as United came more into the game again, working the ball through, via Russo and Ella Toone, to Leah Galton for a half chance. But Eve Perisset tracked her all the way across and snuffed it out.
Katie Zelem had Turner to thank for keeping Kerr at bay with a last-ditch, with the United captain having cheaply given the ball away in a dangerous position. By then, the visitors were still dominating possession but the game had turned scrappy, which suited Chelsea more.
As the game entered the final stages, Zelem had…
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