MAN CITY WOMEN 1, CHELSEA WOMEN 1
Manchester City came close to beating Barclays Women’s Super League champions Chelsea despite finishing with only nine players.
Only a 96th minute equaliser from Norwegian Guro Reiten prevented City claiming a heroic victory having had captain Alex Greenwood and Lauren Hemp sent off.
And the leveller came with City temporarily down to eight players after Alanna Kennedy had gone off briefly through injury.
Chloe Kelly had given City a first-half lead before the game transcended into farce with referee Elizabeth Heaslip cast as the pantomime villain.
Heaslip booked 11 players – eight from City with Greenwood picking up her second caution for time wasting – and five of those were for dissent but it was far from a game which had a nasty edge but which was ruined by the officiating.
City manager Gareth Taylor said: “It does feel like we deserved more out of the game than a point. For the endeavour, effort and togetherness we showed, I thought we were quality.
“In the first fifteen minutes we were quality and I thought that we were so dominant. I had a feeling that we were going to score today, that we would overrun them.
“The gamechanger is Alex’s red card. It changes everything. It is frustrating, particularly when we seemed to have gone from here to here [one extreme to another] on dishing out those yellow cards.
” It is a difficult one to take because the players were magnificent defending the box against some really physical, direct players. Then with Alanna off the pitch we think Khiara has pulled off the save at the vital moment [but they go on and score].Embed from Getty Images
“I’m so proud of the players. We were tremendous last week. This week was a different game. I spoke to Emma [Hayes] at the end and neither of us enjoyed that because those few decisions were a spoiler. All we want to see is consistency. If that is going to happen in a game like that, then we need to see that applied across every game.”
Chelsea manager Emma Hayes said: “People think it’s easy against 10 or nine but it’s harder because you have to work harder in some ways. We waited too much and the crowd got behind them.
“I’m pleased we got a goal, it shows our resilience but that is not us at our best today.
“You play 11 v 11 all week and the suddenly it’s 11 v 9 and teams just get compact in the central areas and it’s difficult to break down as it always is when an opponent goes down to 10 or nine and that’s something for us to reflect on.
“I’m pleased with our discipline on yellow cards, you have to keep your discipline on a yellow card and I think the two players on a yellow card at half-time, Lauren [James] and Niamh [Charles] did do that.”
Taylor made two changes from the City side which beat West Ham in their opening WSL fixture.
The big news was that last season’s top scorer Khadija Shaw had recovered from injury and was on the bench.
Esme Morgan came in for Leila Ouahabi who was sent off last week and will serve a three-match ban.
Deyna Castellanos also dropped to the bench as Filippa Angeldal came into the side.
Chelsea boss Emma Hayes made three changes from the side who beat Tottenham last weekend.
While City had Shaw back on the bench, Chelsea welcomed the return of Australia striker Sam Kerr to their substitutes list.
Ashley Lawrence was handed her first start since joining this summer while Jessie Fleming made her 100th appearance for the club. Erin Cuthbert also returned for her 200th appearance.
Maren Mjelde, Sjoeke Nusken and Johanna Rytting Kaneryd dropped to the bench.
There was one minute’s silence pre-match in memory of legendary City striker and former chairman Francis Lee who has died aged 79.
City made an electrifying start and had two great chances before they made a breakthrough in the seventh minute.
Chelsea keeper Zecira Musovic had saved well to deny Jill Roord and Lauren Hemp but was beaten by Kelly’s 25-yard drive which deflected off Jess Carter and lopped over the keeper.
It took time for Chelsea to grow into the game and their first clear chance fell to Sophie Ingle whose close-range header was well beaten out by keeper Khiara Keating.
There was drama when Greenwood was sent off in the 38th minute for collecting a second yellow card for time wasting as she took 26 seconds to take a free kick.
And team-mates Laia Aleixandri and Kelly also went into the book for protesting.
Chelsea struggled to take advantage of having an extra player in the second period, even with Hayes making five changes to freshen up things.
They went close to levelling when Lauren James’ shot from distance crashed against the crossbar.
City were reduced to nine players in the 81st minute when Hemp was dismissed for collecting a second yellow card.
Chelsea struck the bar for the second time in the third of added minutes, this time through Millie Bright’s header.
Their pressure eventually told as Chelsea equalised in the 96th minute after Keating pulled off a brilliant save to keep out Bright’s header. In the ensuing scramble, Reiten forced the ball home from close range.
Kerr had two great chances to grab a winner as she nicked the ball past Keating but the effort rolled wide and then headed against the post in the 101st minute as City held on for a battling point.