Birmingham City Ladies 2 Chelsea Ladies 1
FA Women’s Super League One
BLUES LADIES bagged their first victory of the league campaign in deserved fashion on Sunday as they saw off much-fancied Chelsea at Solihull Moors’ Autotech Stadium in front of a bumper crowd of 949.
David Parker’s side, who began their league season with a goalless draw at home to Everton the previous month, took the game to their visitors from the outset and once again gave proof that they intend to prove wrong the pundits, many of whom have tipped them to be relegated.
Blues were clearly keen to put one over a Chelsea side whose starting XI contained three former City favourites in the shape of Rachel Williams, Laura Bassett and Eniola Aluko, the latter of whom proved a menace on the counter-attack on several occasions, especially in the first half.
However, there was no denying it was the hosts who looked the better team in possession and their bright start was rewarded with a fifth minute opener from right back Chelsea Weston, albeit in fortuitous circumstances.
Weston appeared to be swinging over a deep cross towards the back post, but the ball headed towards the centre of goal and dipped just under the crossbar, much to the despair of Chelsea stopper Christiane Endler.
Chelsea almost mustered an instant response as Aluko burst through, but Birmingham keeper Rebecca Spencer was smartly off her line to thwart the sister of Hull City striker Sone with her legs.
Four minutes later some intricate passing on the left between Kirsty Linnett and captain Karen Carney worked a fine chance for Blues midfielder Remi Allen, but her left-footed strike flew inches wide of the post.
Two minutes later Aluko’s effort almost caught out Spencer at her near post, but the keeper was able to gather the ball at the second attempt, before Carney looked to have played Allen in on goal shortly afterwards, only for an offside flag to thwart the hosts.
The second half of the opening period was less eventful as Birmingham looked comfortable defending their lead, but Chelsea almost equalised out of nothing when their captain Katie Chapman fired in a dipping 30-yard strike which hit the top of the bar following good work from Aluko.
The hosts were then denied a 2-0 lead in the 45th minute when the dangerous Melissa Lawley went on a menacing run down the left and cleverly pulled the ball back to the waiting Linnett in the area, but the striker, who appeared to have picked the perfect spot, saw her composed strike towards the bottom right corner amazingly cleared off the line by the outstretched leg of Claire Rafferty.
The key question at the start of the second half was whether Chelsea could capitalise on their let-off, but it was the hosts who made all the running at the start of the second period and the livewire Lawley almost put Linnett in on goal after more good work on the left.
However, Chelsea hauled themselves on to level terms in the 50th minute completely against the run of play when substitute Danielle Buet’s corner was volleyed home impressively at the near post by Hannah Blundell.
Chelsea then came within a whisker of taking the lead in the 57th minute, but Spencer made a brilliant point blank save to keep out Williams’ header at the expense of a corner.
Undeterred, the home side came roaring back and looked set to regain the lead a minute later when Lawley’s smart footwork in the box proved too hot for Rafferty to handle and the latter’s clumsy challenge resulted in a penalty.
Up stepped Carney but, although her penalty was well struck and directed towards the bottom left corner, it was at a good height for Chelsea keeper Endler who made a fine full length stop to her right.
Birmingham were clearly the side hunting a winning goal and it arrived in the 77th minute when the tireless Linnett – who had ran her socks off for the cause up front – whipped in a brilliant cross from the left wing and Jo Potter climbed above her marker to nod the ball home at the back post and spark jubilation among the home players, management and fans.
The hosts were seeing out time comfortably until stoppage time when Chelsea almost snatched a share of the spoils, but Weston made a brave block to deny Williams from close range before Spencer again showed quick reactions to deny the same player just seconds later.
Blues Ladies, with four points from their opening two league matches, head to Arsenal on Wednesday before visiting Liverpool on Saturday.