Chelsea FCW hosted Manchester United WFC on Sunday afternoon with first place in the WSL on the line. The match lived up to the hype, with both sides giving performances worthy of title contenders.
Chelsea began the match in the ascendancy, with Fran Kirby picking up where she left of against Reading, threatening United’s backline from the off. The pace of the match began to settle a bit, but it was a Chelsea set piece that broke the deadlock. United couldn’t clear the Blues initial corner and Fran Kirby walloped a shot off the far post, before Pernille Harder fired home the rebound. The Blues would take their hardly fought 1-0 lead into the break.
Manchester United came out well after halftime, with the Blues failing to take the game to their opponents. Lauren James second half substitution for United impacted the game almost immediately. She played a wonderful one-two on the left edge of the Chelsea box, before shifting to her right foot and curling a strike beyond the diving fingertips of Ann-Katrin Berger. It was James’ first goal in nearly a year and it came at a crucial time for United.
Fortunately for the Blues, Fran Kirby wasn’t about to let first place slip through Chelsea’s grasp. Ann-Katrin Berger played a long ball upfield, bouncing beyond the midfield. The United defense, facing their own goal, struggled to deal with the bouncing ball. Kirby, reading the game excellently as always, timed her sprinting run perfectly to win the ball and put herself through on goal. A couple of excellent touches and a sublime finish later, the Blues were back on top for good at 2-1. Chelsea were able to see out the remainder of the match in relatively straightforward fashion, taking firm control of the WSL in the process.
- Starting XI: Berger, Mjelde, Bright, Eriksson, Andersson, Leupolz, Ji (Reiten ‘77), Cuthbert, Harder (Ingle ‘70), Kerr (England ‘70), Kirby
- Maren Mjelde played an excellent game, dealing well with United’s talented wingers throughout the match. In particular, Leah Galton has been a nightmare to deal with and Mjelde (and Andersson) frustrated her throughout the match.
- Ji So-yun didn’t have the creative impact she often does, but she did well playing deeper in midfield and tracked back on multiple occasions to make key defensive contributions.
- What else can you say about Fran Kirby? Just build her statue already. While we’re at it, let’s get a national holiday on the calendar as well.
- With Arsenal dropping points against Reading, today was an excellent boost to Chelsea’s title hopes in more ways than one.
- Next up: A Continental Cup quarterfinal matchup against Manchester City on Wednesday, January 20th.