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  • Writer's pictureBy Paul Lagan at Kingsmeadow Stadium

Chelsea fail the test and allow title rivals City to blow the WSL race wide open thanks to Shaw's early strike

Action from Chelsea v Man City Picture: Paul Lagan
Action from Chelsea v Man City Picture: Paul Lagan

By Paul Lagan at Kingsmeadow

Chelsea 1v Man City 1

Khadija Shaw blew the WSL title race wide open with the only goal of the game, that humbled champions and leaders Chelsea 1-0 in former fortress Kingsmeadow where Chelsea had gone 23 games unbeaten.

The cardinal sin of a midfielder is to be dispossessed close to your own penalty area.

Erin Cuthbert will be having a few sleepless nights for the sin she committed on 14 minutes that allowed striker Shaw to take advantage and smash home the three pointer that puts City equal top on 34 points just behind the Blues on goal difference.

Chelsea were several levels below even their average of the season and departing head coach Emma Hayes will be scratching her head as to why her star players went missing.

Fran Kirby, Guro Reiten Lauren James and newcomer Mayra Ramirez, all a useful source of guile were running on fumes of memories.

But while a victory would have cemented almost certain champions status, the drama that is unfolding will serve as a good episode or two for a documentary crew that is following Hayes's final months in the Chelsea hot seat.

The Blues started tentatively, almost unsure about how to operate.

Should they push forward for a possible early strike, or sit back and bide their time in the hope of catching City with a counter-attack.

Stuck between a rock and a hard place, they looked out of place, and that was transmitted to the crowd, who were nervously passive by general standards.

This gave City added confidence and they took full advantage.

It was first blood to the visitors on 14 minutes as Cuthbert was clinically dispossessed.

The ball was instantly fed to sttiker Shaw who brilliantly drove the b all past Hannah Hampton.

Columbia striker Mayra Ramirez exploded into life on 29 minutes when she outpaced Alex Greenwood. She zipped into the penalty areas and was clipped on the heels by the lunging defender.

Referee Abigail Byrne made no gesture either way other than to give a goal kick after Ramirez tapped the ball on over the byline.

It was a stonewall penalty and the lino was equally culpable in missing a major on-field decision.

Cuthbert tried a long-ranger on 42 minutes, but the effort, while powerful enough, was a tad too high and the ball dipped late on to the top netting of Khiara Keating's goal.

There were no changes by either side at half-time, but the Blues started brightly with James sending over a right byline cross which just evaded the head of in-running Reiten.

Shaw had a similar experience on 52 minutes.

Hayes had seen enough and it wasn't working – she hauled off Kirby and Reiten for Johanna Rytting Kaneryd and Aggie Beever-Jones on 63 minutes.

Hayes soon added Sjoeke Nusken to the fray, taking off right-back Ashley Lawrence on 72 minutes.

Cuthbert almost redeemed herself but her curling right-footer drifted away from goal with 13 minutes left on the clock.

Hayes then brought on Jelena Cankovic for Melanie Leupolz in a final desperate throw of the for to get an equaliser.

As the clock limped over to the first of the nine added minutes, City visibly dropped even further back. While this invited Chelsea forward, it meant they had only one job - contain the home side.

Keating made a wonderful save five minutes in, diving to her right to thwart Cankovic's left-footer.

That was it.

Teams: Chelsea: Hampton, Carter, Leupolz, James, Reiten, Lawrence, Kirby, Charles, Cuthbert, Ramirez, Bjorn

Subs: Musovic, Ingle, Nusken, Perisset, Mjelde, Rytting Kaneryd, Buchanan, Cankovic, Beever-Jones

Man City: Keating, Aleixandri, Greenwood, Coombs, Kelly, Hemp, Ouohabi, Park, Casparij, Shaw, Hasegawa

Subs: MacIver, Stokes, Fowler, Angeldahl, Blindkilde Brown, Mace, Kennedy

Referee: Abigail Byrne


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