Women’s Super League: Chelsea inch closer to title with win at Birmingham
Chelsea kept the Women’s Super League title race in their own hands with a nervy win at Birmingham.
Pernille Harder’s 71st-minute penalty ensured victory for Emma Hayes’ side at St Andrew’s.
Without a shot on target in the first half, Chelsea improved somewhat in the second but struggled to make their chances count.
The Blues – who have one game left – have a four-point cushion over Arsenal, who have two to play.
“First half, I thought we played stressed,” Chelsea boss Hayes told Sky Sports. “We rushed things because the goal didn’t come.
“It’s one of those games where you know it’s going to be tight and you hope you get the early goal. And when you don’t, the opponent gets buoyed.
“But job done – Pernille Harder has composure in the biggest moments and I’m delighted.”
Birmingham, meanwhile, are five points adrift and need to win both of their remaining games, against Manchester City and Aston Villa, to have a chance of avoiding the drop.
They have already played a part in this title race with their 2-0 win against Arsenal in January and looked as if they could cause another upset for three-quarters of this match.
Birmingham defended diligently and pressed throughout, only allowing the WSL title holders a handful of chances.
The visitors came close in the opening minutes when Sam Kerr hit the bar and Harder fired wide, but after that they looked lacking in the final third.
At the other end, Chelsea goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger sometimes seemed unconvincing at set-pieces but her side managed to keep Birmingham at bay.
‘Gutted by defeat’
Hayes’ side have struggled somewhat in recent fixtures and only edged past Spurs when the two met on Thursday.
But they managed to get that game over the line and did so again on Sunday, as Harder scored from the spot after Lisa Robertson handled the ball.
Birmingham came close in the dying minutes of the game, but a fingertip stop from Berger kept out Emily Whelan’s shot from the edge of the box and secured the win.
Manager Darren Carter said he didn’t have “too many qualms” about the penalty decision but he was “gutted that it’s cost us at least a point”.
He added: “To lose the game on a penalty, and then to have a couple of chances at the end – we’re gutted, because I think there was something there for us.”
The WSL title remains in Chelsea’s own hands going into their final fixture next Sunday, at home to Manchester United – and they will be champions before then if Arsenal lost at home to Tottenham on Wednesday.
B’ham City Women
- 32CowieBooked at 35minsSubstituted forWhippat 67′minutes
- 3ScottBooked at 90mins
- 8RobertsonBooked at 43minsSubstituted forWhelanat 86′minutes
- 11PennockSubstituted forSmithat 67′minutes
- 30BergerBooked at 90mins
- 7CarterSubstituted forAnderssonat 64′minutes
- 5IngleSubstituted forJamesat 64′minutes
- 23HarderSubstituted forSpenceat 82′minutes
- 20KerrSubstituted forMjeldeat 86′minutes
- 9EnglandSubstituted forCuthbertat 45′minutes
Match ends, Birmingham City Women 0, Chelsea Women 1.
Second Half ends, Birmingham City Women 0, Chelsea Women 1.
Harriet Scott (Birmingham City Women) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Niamh Charles (Chelsea Women) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Harriet Scott (Birmingham City Women).
Ann-Katrin Berger (Chelsea Women) is shown the yellow card.
Attempt missed. Lucy Whipp (Birmingham City Women) right footed shot from the right side of the box is high and wide to the right following a corner.
Corner, Birmingham City Women. Conceded by Magdalena Eriksson.
Attempt saved. Emily Whelan (Birmingham City Women) left footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the top centre of the goal.
Corner, Birmingham City Women. Conceded by Jonna Andersson.
Offside, Chelsea Women. Niamh Charles tries a through ball, but Lauren James is caught offside.
Substitution, Birmingham City Women. Emily Whelan replaces Lisa Robertson.
Substitution, Chelsea Women. Maren Mjelde replaces Sam Kerr.
Substitution, Chelsea Women. Drew Spence replaces Pernille Harder.
Guro Reiten (Chelsea Women) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Lisa Robertson (Birmingham City Women).
Attempt blocked. Veatriki Sarri (Birmingham City Women) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Foul by Erin Cuthbert (Chelsea Women).
Christie Murray (Birmingham City Women) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt blocked. Erin Cuthbert (Chelsea Women) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Magdalena Eriksson.