Chelsea’s defence of their Women’s Super League title is still in their hands but Manchester City remain hot on their heels following an entertaining draw at The Academy Stadium.
A late equaliser from Lauren Hemp ensured City remain two points behind Chelsea with two games remaining after a frantic and dramatic encounter.
Hemp thumped in following mistakes from Chelsea duo Fran Kirby and Millie Bright to make it 2-2, after Pernille Harder’s spot-kick had given the visitors a half-time lead.
Sam Kerr scored the opener with a powerful header before City’s Chloe Kelly poked in the equaliser.
City had several huge chances to win late on but Chelsea goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger pulled off a stunning save to deny Hemp, before stopping Georgia Stanway’s strike.
Lucy Bronze headed wide from an unmarked position in stoppage time, while Kerr had a chance to all but seal the title for Chelsea with the final kick of the match but was denied when one-on-one with goalkeeper Ellie Roebuck.
A match which delivered as a title-decider
Both managers admitted in the build-up that the result of this game would play a massive factor in the direction of the title.
It was tipped to be the best game of the season between two sides who, as Man City boss Gareth Taylor described, have been “slogging it out” for months.
It did not disappoint as it had everything a WSL title-decider should have – penalty controversy, quality from both sides and a constant flow of attacking football.
The tone was set within two minutes from City when Kelly’s driving run down the right forced a save at the near post by Berger, before Bronze nutmegged Kerr after robbing her of possession.
They dominated the opening 15 minutes as Hemp and Kelly continued to cause problems from wide positions for Chelsea, while Sam Mewis showed her strength in midfield.
But Kerr had managed to sneak in behind City’s defence on two occasions in as many minutes before her header opened the scoring and Chelsea built on their momentum.
Roebuck appeared to get the ball – as well as a large chunk of Kerr – when she was penalised in the box but Harder kept her cool to slot it in from the spot.
As the game wore on it became more and more open – City piling on the pressure late on as a winner would have turned the title race in their favour.
Berger’s heroic saves to deny Hemp and Stanway kept Chelsea in it but Bronze missed a golden opportunity when she skewed her header wide from an unmarked position in the six-yard area in stoppage time.
Kerr then raced through one-on-one with the final act of the game and it would not have been a surprise if another dramatic turn was to follow, but Roebuck made herself big and blocked the shot.
Chelsea can win the title at Tottenham in their next match on 2 May should City slip up.
But this result was a huge swing in Chelsea’s favour – ensuring the title remains in their hands with two games to go – and that was epitomised by manager Emma Hayes’ celebrations on the pitch at full-time.
Manchester City boss Gareth Taylor:
“For me there only looked like one winner [late on]. We had some good opportunities and then their keeper makes a world-class save. There is still a chance but you can understand the players’ disappointment. It looked like we were going to get the late winner but we ran out of time in the end.”
On what they need to beat Chelsea: “Details. You can see there’s very little between both squads. We’re more or less a new squad. We have shown that we are capable of being there with them. I think it’s just time and the small details.
“I’m proud of the way we played and the football we have played this season.”
Chelsea manager Emma Hayes:
“They had to win the game so you had to expect that they would come at us when they were 2-1 down at half-time. It wasn’t comfortable. It was one of those where we felt we had to see it out.
“The team as a whole stuck together and stayed composed when it mattered. They ultimately turned any fear into fun and at the end that was probably the only fun we had – at full-time.
“I was so relieved the game finished. I hated every minute of the second half! It was uncomfortable and painful. I’m delighted it’s finished.
“As I say time and time again, you can score goals to win games but defence wins championships. Ann Katrin-Berger is an unbelievable asset to the team. The more pressure, the more she responds. There’s a mentality within the dressing room that regardless of whether we are playing well or not, somebody will bail us out.”
Man City Women
- 27GreenwoodBooked at 77mins
- 22MewisSubstituted forStanwayat 75′minutes
- 18WhiteSubstituted forLavelleat 64′minutes
- 10JiSubstituted forReitenat 77′minutes
- 14KirbySubstituted forEnglandat 90′minutes
- 23HarderSubstituted forCharlesat 62′minutes
Match ends, Manchester City Women 2, Chelsea Women 2.
Second Half ends, Manchester City Women 2, Chelsea Women 2.
Attempt saved. Sam Kerr (Chelsea Women) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Beth England with a headed pass.
Attempt missed. Lucy Bronze (Manchester City Women) header from the centre of the box misses to the right. Assisted by Alex Greenwood.
Attempt saved. Abby Dahlkemper (Manchester City Women) header from the centre of the box is saved in the top right corner. Assisted by Alex Greenwood with a cross.
Corner, Manchester City Women. Conceded by Erin Cuthbert.
Substitution, Chelsea Women. Beth England replaces Fran Kirby.
Foul by Caroline Weir (Manchester City Women).
Jessica Carter (Chelsea Women) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Georgia Stanway (Manchester City Women).
Sophie Ingle (Chelsea Women) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt saved. Georgia Stanway (Manchester City Women) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Lucy Bronze.
Attempt missed. Lauren Hemp (Manchester City Women) header from a difficult angle on the left misses to the right. Assisted by Alex Greenwood with a cross.
Attempt blocked. Fran Kirby (Chelsea Women) right footed shot from the right side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Sam Kerr.
Attempt missed. Guro Reiten (Chelsea Women) left footed shot from the left side of the box misses to the right.
Attempt saved. Lauren Hemp (Manchester City Women) header from the right side of the six yard box is saved in the top centre of the goal. Assisted by Alex Greenwood with a cross.
Corner, Manchester City Women. Conceded by Jonna Andersson.
Substitution, Chelsea Women. Guro Reiten replaces Ji So-Yun.
Alex Greenwood (Manchester City Women) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Foul by Alex Greenwood (Manchester City Women).