Chelsea 0-1 Manchester City: Shaw’s first-half strike seals huge three points in WSL title race

It was a top-of-the-table clash in the Women’s Super League on Friday evening as Manchester City made the journey to Kingsmeadow seeking the three points that would see them go level with the league leaders, Chelsea. It was Bunny Shaw’s first-half strike that sealed the victory for the visitors in a tight game of football in South London.

CHE: Hampton; Lawrence, Carter, Bjorn, Charles; James, Cuthbert, Leupolz; Reiten, Kirby, Ramirez
MCI: Keating; Casparij, Aleixandri, Greenwood, Ouahabi; Hasegawa, Coombs, Kelly; Park, Hemp, Shaw

City were pushing forwards straight from the blow of the whistle with England teammates Chloe Kelly and Lauren Hemp looking as dangerous as ever, but the first chance fell to the hosts with Fran Kirby playing in Erin Cuthbert at four-minutes, her shot blocked by Alex Greenwood. A series of corners for the Blues were collected by Khiara Keating as Cuthbert tested her at six-minutes followed by Niamh Charles’ effort from the left at seven-minutes.

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The possession was dominated by City in the opening ten minutes, but the hosts definitely looked dangerous on the break, winning the ball back and looking to create early chances. A corner taken by Chloe Kelly for the visitors in the 12th minute didn’t amount to anything despite being aimed at Shaw with the ball working its way back to Hannah Hampton in net at the other end.

The scoring was opened at 14-minutes as City broke forwards at pace with Erin Cuthbert caught in possession by Jess Park who darted up the pitch before playing the ball to Bunny Shaw – the Jamaican forward flicked the ball past the England goalkeeper, netting her 14th goal of the season and her first ever against the Blues.

Despite opening the scoring, the visitors proceeded to lack the finishing product as they attacked with Shaw’s chance to double the advantage at 17-minutes sent wide. Working hard to keep her side in the game, Hannah Hampton produced consecutive saves in the 20th minute denying Shaw and conceding a corner that forced her to produce another save, this time at the end of Alexandra’s header.

City are unbeaten after taking the lead this season and looked to increase the breathing room through Lauren Hemp’s ball to Shaw in the 29th minute, but Hampton was quick off her line to diffuse the attack with the ball quickly sent back up the pitch into City’s half. Mayra Ramírez dispossessed Alex Greenwood before preparing to unleash a shot from a tight angle with the England defender sliding in and taking down the Colombian forward forcing penalty appeals from the Chelsea fans, but the ultimate decision by Abi Byrne was no penalty.

The best chance of the game for the Blues came at 35-minutes with Lauren James slipping the ball to Ramírez who played in Kirby, but Khiara Keating closed her down before her effort could reach the far corner, tipping it behind.

Ramírez won the ball in midfield at 42-minutes, setting up Cuthbert, but she fired her effort over with the half time whistle looming and the hosts continuing to chase – the visitors were the side with the closer chances as four minutes of injury time were played. Jess Park played the ball beyond Niamh Charles to Chloe Kelly, but Charles blocked the cross well and sent the ball out for a corner that she was able to head away before Shaw took a shot from a tight angle that almost caught Hampton, but the Blues just managed to hold on.

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A massive 45-minutes in the WSL title race began with Chelsea on the front foot at the start of the second half, searching for an equalising goal. Lauren James burst down the right at 47-minutes before sending a cross over Keating to the back post, but no Chelsea shirt could tap it in. Chelsea continued their high press with Aleixandri making an important header to clear before the visitors were back to trying to double their lead as a cross found Shaw in the 52nd minute, her low header going just wide.

At 57-minutes, Chloe Kelly created a chance for Jess Park to find the back of the net but her shot was blocked before Laura Coombs’ effort at 59-minutes was comfortably caught by Hannah Hampton. With the game beginning to open up, a Chelsea ball failed to find Fran Kirby as Khiara Keating intercepted.

It was another penalty appeal for the Blues as James fell in the vicinity of the box at 62-minutes, tripped by Leila Ouahabi right on the edge of the box, but Abi Byrne made the decision of no penalty once again.

Needing to win by two to go top on goal difference, the visitors looked to attack with Casparij cutting inside and curling a shot narrowly over the bar at 72-minutes before Jess Park set up Chloe Kelly at 74-minutes who stood up her defender but struck straight at Hannah Hampton.

Erin Cuthbert was presented with a perfect opportunity to earn her side a point at 78-minutes, but her effort was narrowly off target with Ramírez heading the captain’s corner at 86-minutes straight at Keating as the visitors continued to defend furiously in South London.

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Bringing an end-to-end second period to a close, nine minutes of injury time were played forcing Khiara Keating to make an incredible double save as she denied Jelena Čanković’s volley with a diving save followed by saving Sjoeke Nüsken’s shot on the rebound. She earnt herself the player of the match award and her side three crucial points with City going level on points with the Blues at the top of the WSL table.