Sam Kerr sends Chelsea top with win over United

After Manchester United’s 5-0 win against Leicester City last week, Marc Skinner downplayed the importance of Sunday’s trip to Kingsmeadow – where they’d face Emma Hayes’ Chelsea. Skinner insisted that his side would need to “right a couple of wrongs” if they were to pick up a result against their title rivals on the road.

CHE: Berger; Carter, Bright, Buchanan, Perisset; Ingle, Leupolz; Charles, Fleming, James; Kerr

MUN: Earps; Blundell, Turner, Le Tissier, Batlle; Zelem, Ladd; Galton, Toone, Parris; Russo

Emma Hayes’ side started well, and looked promising on the counterattack – with Lauren James causing plenty of problems for her former club early on, though she was dealt with well by a resilient United defence. Chelsea’s first chance to open the scoring came through Sam Kerr, but Mary Earps was able to make an easy save to deny the Australian the opener.

Melanie Leupolz split the United defence with a through ball that found Kerr, though the striker’s close-range effort was denied by Earps. Kerr eventually found the opener in sensational style, after Lauren James’ ball over the top found the Australian, who sent an audacious chip over Mary Earps and into the back of the net.

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United grew into the game well, and felt they should have been awarded a penalty after Kadeisha Buchanan downed Nikita Parris in the box, but the winger’s appeals were dismissed by the referee. Having bagged a hat-trick last time out, Alessia Russo found her way through on goal with just over thirty minutes played, turning quickly in the box before getting a shot away – though the striker’s effort was saved rather comfortably by Ann-Katrin Berger.

Marc Skinner’s side began to dominate for a period of time, and could have taken the lead from a free-kick after Leah Galton was caught by Eve Perisset – but Millie Turner’s header was sent wide of the post. Minutes before the break, Russo attempted to replicate her infamous backheel goal from the EUROs, though this time her attempt went wide.

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Chelsea’s dominance really began to show after the interval, with Sam Kerr and Lauren James both having brilliant chances within the first ten minutes of the second half – neither were able to find the back netting though.

A late free-kick for United was wasted, with Katie Zelem opting to shoot from distance, but her strike was saved with ease by Berger. Chelsea sought to extend their lead at the other end of the pitch through Melanie Leupolz, though the German midfielder’s effort blazed just over the horizontal.

United failed to pick up a result on the road, and while they still have seven games to play, they face an uphill struggle if they are to lift the WSL trophy at the end of the season. Marc Skinner’s side sit level on points with Manchester City – and Arsenal are just three points behind with a game in hand. Emma Hayes’ Chelsea will be able to breathe a sigh of relief tonight, as they now look to be favourites for the title, two points clear at the top with a game in hand over the competition.

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