Man City 2-2 Chelsea: Blues close in on WSL title after keeping hosts at bay in thriller

Report as Emma Hayes’ Chelsea hold off Man City in thrilling draw; Chelsea two points clear at top with two games to go; Sam Kerr and Pernille Harder strike for Blues; City twice hit back through Chloe Kelly and Lauren Hemp; Ann-Katrin Berger makes vital late save

Wednesday 21 April 2021 20:44, UK

Chelsea tightened their grip on the Women’s Super League title after holding on for a 2-2 draw at closest rivals Manchester City.

On a pivotal night at the Academy Stadium in Manchester, the reigning champions twice surrendered their lead but were indebted to goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger for a stunning late save from Lauren Hemp that kept Gareth Taylor’s side at bay.

Sam Kerr had put the Blues ahead with a powerful header (25), only for Chloe Kelly to swiftly hit back (29) during a frantic first half.

Kerr then won a penalty that Pernille Harder converted (34) but City responded again after the break as Hemp (74) punished a series of Blues blunders.

That set up a thrilling finale as City sought a winner that would have turned the title race on its head but Berger denied Hemp with a brilliant fingertip save to ensure Emma Hayes’ side maintained their two-point gap at the top with just two games to go.

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How draw kept Chelsea in driving seat

Both Hayes and counterpart Taylor had admitted the game was a likely title decider but it was a blistering rather than cagey opening, with Kelly taking aim inside the opening minute.

Alex Greenwood headed Kerr’s instinctive flick off the line with 15 minutes gone but the WSL’s top scorer did make the breakthrough soon after, meeting Erin Cuthbert’s set-piece with a powerful headed that this time evaded Greenwood.

The Australian went close moments later as Chelsea threatened to take control but Kelly instead hit back, pouncing from close-range to convert Hemp’s cross as Millie Bright could only stretch out a leg.

Hayes’ side did not have to wait long to retake the lead when the referee awarded a penalty after Kerr was brought down by Ellie Roebuck and Harder kept her cool from the spot.

City needed a response and the second half was soon stretched as they committed players forward, while Chelsea looked to punish them on the break.

There seemed little way through royal blue shirts until Chelsea undid their defensive efforts with an error-strewn passage of play.

Fran Kirby surrendered possession in dangerous territory, allowing Kelly to deliver, and when Bright swiped at air, Hemp made the league leaders pay.

The hosts surged forward in search of a winner that would have seen them instead edge a point clear at the summit but were left to rue a fine piece of goalkeeping from Berger, who was at full stretch to push Hemp’s header onto the crossbar with one hand.

Chelsea had controversially pipped City to the title last season on points-per-game basis after the league was halted by the pandemic, the Blues behind but having played a game less, but they are on course for a third WSL in four years by going the distance.

What’s next?

Chelsea face Bayern Munich in the first leg of their Champions League semi-final on Sunday, before travelling to Tottenham next in the WSL and finishing at home to Reading on Sunday May 9.

Man City host Birmingham on May 2 before finishing at West Ham on May 9.

Missed the news? WSL on Sky Sports next season…

Sky Sports has announced a three-year deal with the FA to become the primary broadcaster of the Barclays Women’s Super League from September 2021.

As one of the most competitive leagues, with some of the most famous names and teams in the world, the WSL will be one of Sky Sports’ flagship offerings.

The deal will see Sky Sports show at least 35 games exclusively live per season and further strengthens the broadcaster’s commitment to women’s sport.

The WSL will get the full Sky Sports treatment with lengthy build-ups and reaction to all live matches, plus daily news from the competition across Sky Sports News and Sky Sports’ digital platforms.

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