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Chelsea 2-1 Manchester United: Fran Kirby nets winner as champions move top of WSL

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Chelsea beat Manchester United to leapfrog the Red Devils and move top of the Women’s Super League.

After Sam Kerr missed several early chances for the hosts, Pernille Harder turned in a rebound to hand the Blues a narrow half-time lead.

Lauren James curled in from the edge of the box to equalise but Fran Kirby quickly restored Chelsea’s advantage with a composed finish.

The result extends the west London club’s unbeaten league run to 31 games.

The Blues have not lost in the WSL since 27 January 2019, and have now equalled Manchester City’s record top-flight run set between May 2015 and May 2017.

Defeat was United’s first in 15 league games and Casey Stoney’s side are now behind Chelsea on goal difference, having played a game more than their title rivals.

Blues pass Red Devils test to go top

Emma Hayes’ Chelsea, crowned champions last season on a points-per-game ratio, endured a nervy afternoon against a United team who demonstrated their potential in just their second campaign in the top flight.

Fine interplay between Kirby and Kerr in the first 15 minutes set up a succession of openings which the Australian failed to take.

First Kerr saw a low shot saved by the outstretched leg of goalkeeper Mary Earps, before she twice fired wide from inside the box either side of seeing another effort deflected behind.

United forward Christen Press sent a half-volley off target before Kirby drew Earps into another save with a low effort from a narrow angle.

Chelsea went ahead from the resulting corner as Millie Bright had a header blocked before Kirby struck the post and Denmark forward Harder turned in the loose ball to notch her third goal in the WSL.

Kirsty Hanson came close to netting an equaliser just before the break, but the Scotland forward was flagged offside from Ella Toone’s through ball after rounding Blues keeper Ann-Katrin Berger.

The Red Devils did level though when substitute James combined with Toone and beat Bright before finding the bottom right-hand corner with a superb finish.

Kerr almost put Chelsea back in front immediately but was again foiled by Earps, before Kirby put them 2-1 up when she latched onto Berger’s long clearance and lifted the ball over the onrushing keeper.

United, for whom USA forward Tobin Heath was an unused substitute, were unable to find a way back into the game as they saw their six-match winning run away from home come to an end.

Chelsea manager Emma Hayes:

“Casey has a tremendous team that are challenging us. United are the best team we have played this year, they are a tough side.

“The difference was experience. The game plan worked. The players executed what I asked of them.”

Manchester United boss Casey Stoney:

“In the first half we were nowhere near our standards, but second half we were a lot better.

“For the first 45 minutes Chelsea were brighter, sharper, quicker to the ball.

“At 1-1 you take a point and you walk away. It was out of character but we have to be able to defend a long ball. We have to head it, we have to clear it, we have to deal with it.”

Line-ups

Chelsea Women

Formation 4-2-3-1

  • 30Berger
  • 18Mjelde
  • 4Bright
  • 16Eriksson
  • 25Andersson
  • 8Leupolz
  • 10JiSubstituted forReitenat 77′minutesBooked at 90mins
  • 14Kirby
  • 23HarderSubstituted forIngleat 70′minutes
  • 22Cuthbert
  • 20KerrSubstituted forEnglandat 70′minutes

Substitutes

  • 3Blundell
  • 5Ingle
  • 9England
  • 11Reiten
  • 17Fleming
  • 21Charles
  • 24Spence
  • 28Telford

Man Utd Women

Formation 4-2-3-1

  • 27Earps
  • 17Batlle
  • 4Turner
  • 21Turner
  • 20Smith
  • 12Ladd
  • 14GroenenBooked at 75mins
  • 18HansonSubstituted forSigsworthat 75′minutes
  • 7Toone
  • 11Galton
  • 24PressSubstituted forJamesat 55′minutes

Substitutes

  • 2Harris
  • 5McManus
  • 9Sigsworth
  • 10Zelem
  • 13Fuso
  • 16James
  • 19Ross
  • 22Bentley
  • 77Heath

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