Kirby strike downs Man United and propels Chelsea to top of the WSL after 2-1 win at Kingsmeadow
By Paul Lagan at Kingsmeadow
Chelsea 2 v Man United 1
Fran Kirby sliced open the Manchester United defence to score the winner in a pulsating 2-1 victory at Kingsmeadow and at the same time propelled the Blues to top of the WSL table.
Kirby was in sensational form, and a thorn in the side of the United defence every time she had the ball.
After United had equalised Pernille Hardee’s opener, a long ball by Ann-Karin Berger in the second half, was met by Kirby, who raced clear of the chasing defenders before plonking the ball past Mary Earps.
From that point on, the Blues defended well and restricted the then leaders to few efforts on goal. Whenever they got close, Berger was composure personified, giving her defenders confidence to an already highly-performing unit.|
With a game in hand over United with the same points total of 26 points, the Blues extended their unbeaten league win to 31 matches.
A terrible kick out by Ann-Katrin Berger on three minutes almost gifted Christian Press a chance on goal. Thankfully Millie Bright was on hand to clear the ball from the edge of her penalty area.
Sam Kerr, two minutes later produced a low right, footer that Mary Earps hacked away with her right boot. Then the Australian raced clear from. A Ji through ball, but sliced her effort just wide of the United goal.
As in the first game, United were content to sit back, soak up the inevitable pressure and counter-attack quickly.
Kerr missed another chance on 15 minutes after Ji again sent the striker free. But once again she shot wide of goal.
The same settled down to a period of huff and puff without much of a threat on goal. Christian Press did slash a ball wide of Berger’s gol on 26 minutes.
But on 29 minutes, excellent set up play between Jo an Kirby saw the striker get a shot on goal. But Earps was equal to it and kicked the ball away for a corner.
From the resultant kick the Blues took the lead and they pummelled the United goal. A goal-line clearance was headed way this was followed by a Kirby shot and finally Pernille Harder smashed the ball home to put the Blues 1-0 up on 29 minutes.
A thunderbolt from Harder just before the whistle almost caught Earps out, but the England international managed to scoop the ball to safety at the second attempt.
There were no changes by either side at half-time.
The visitors had the lion’s share of possession in the opening phase of the second half and that pressure was rewarded on 61 minutes when substitute Lauren James, brother of Chelsea’s Reece, provided a wonderful right-footer that sailed past Berger and into the back of the net to level the score.
Kerr forced Earps into another smart save two minutes later and she parried away a force right-footed drive.
But from a long kick out by Berger, on 64 minutes, the ball fell over the head of Millie Turner and Fran Kirby latched onto it. she outpaced the defender before slotting home a wonderful drive past Earps to restore the led for the Londoners.
Emma Hayes opted to replace Harder and Kerr with Sophie Ingle and Beth England on 70 minutes to consolidate the middle of the park and to add some impetus up front in support of Kirby.
Hayes made her final change on 77 minutes, Guro Reiten replacing Ji.
From this point onwards, it was a case of ensuring no mistakes were made at the back and seeing out the remaining minutes, which they did successfully.
Teams: Chelsea, Berger, Bright, Leupolz, Ji, Kirby, Eriksson, Mjelde, Kerr, Cuthbert, Harder, Andersson
Subs: Telford, Blundell, Ingle, England, Reiten, Fleming, Charles, Spence
Man Utd: Earps, Turner, Toone, Galton, Ladd, Groenen, Battle, Batlle, Hanson, Smith, Turner, Press.
subs: Bentley, Harris, McManus, Sigsworth, Zelenograd, Fuso, James, Ross, Heath