Harder penalty secures 2-2 draw for Chelsea against title rivals Man City
By Paul Lagan
Man City 2 v Chelsea 2
Chelsea have one hand on retaining their WSL title with a nerve-wracking 2-2 draw at the Academy Stadium against second-placed Manchester City.
Just two points behind, the home side needed to beat the Londoners to overtake them with two games remaining.
But in a pulsating encounter in which the Blues have never won a League match at City’s impressive stadium, a draw was as good as a win for the outfit from west London.
Chelsea were never behind, they were in the lead twice and but for uncharacteristic errors, could have snatched all three points.
Goalkeeper Ann Karin-Berger produced another memorable performance with three sensational saves, one from a close-range Lauren Hemp header that was truly world-class.
A manic opening 45 minutes saw chances, tension and goals as the Londoners twice took the lead.
Sam Kerr crashed home a header from a corner on 25 minutes but within four minutes the home side were level and after excellent work by Lauren Hemp on the left, Millie Bright missed it and Chloe Kelly had a simple tap-in at the back post .
But the champions were not daunted and they restored their lead on 32 minutes when Sam Kerr went on a solo run on the counter-attack but she was brought down by Goalkeeper Ellie Roebuck.
up stepped Pernille Harder who slotted cooly home.
The second half was again full of tension.
Emma Hayes made her first change of personnel on 63 minutes when Niamh Charles replaced Harder.
The home side’s Gareth Taylor followed that quickly by replacing Ellen white with Rose Lavelle.
Kerr had a terrific chance to increase the lead on 63 minutes. but after excellent set-up play bu Kirby, the Australian produced a wayward shot from must inside the City penalty area.
But with 15 minutes left, a catastrophic error by Fran Kirby saw her dispossessed of the ball and that allowed Kelly to race into the Chelsea area and the ball fell to Hemp who smashed the ball past Berger to level the scores.
Hayes decided another change was needed and on came Guro Reiten for Ji.
City pushed forward and Berger produced a sensational save to tip the ball onto her crossbar and away for a corner following a point blank header by Hemp.
Reiten had the chance to put the Londoners back in the lead, but her left-footer inched wide of Ellie Roebuck’s left upright.
Berger than was perfectly positioned to block a Stanway effort from 20 yards as the home side threw everything at them in search of the winner.
Berger then snuffed out Hemp’s byline cross but injured her right thigh with a follow up challenge by Greenwood.
On 90 minutes Beth England was introduced for Kirby to add extra pace up front and it would be needed as five minutes were added by the referee.
A long ball into the Chelsea area with 90 seconds left, fell to Bronze, but her diving header went just wide of goal.
Chelsea and City were like two boxers who had given their all and were hanging onto each other at the end.
That boxing match would have resulted in a draw, this football match certainly did.
Chelsea face Bayern Munich on Sunday in the first leg of the Champions League final.
Teams: Chelsea, Berger, Carter, Bright, Ingle, Andersson. Leupolz, Ji, Kirby, Kerr, Cuthbert, Harder,
Subs: Musovic, Telford, Blundell, England, Reiten, Fleming, Charles, Spence, Fox
Man City, Roebuck, Bronze, Dahlkemper, Greenwood, Stokes, Walsh, Mewis, Weir, Kelly, Hemp, White
Subs: Taieb, Mannion, Davies, Park, Lavelle, Beckie, Morgan, Stanway