By Paul Lagan at Solihull Moors FC
Fran Kirby’s looping ninth minute header proved to be decisive as Chelsea beat Birmingham City 1-0 at the Solihull Moors FC stadium yesterday.
While the Londoners dominated possession totally throughout the game, they created few clear cut chances and it was the home side’s goalkeeper Hannah Hampton, who was on hand to deal with the occasional efforts that came her way.
The early pressure came from the away side with Birmingham struggling to cope, and on nine minutes a regulation free-kick on the left by Erin Cuthbert saw pint-sized Fran Kirby leap above the rest to direct the ball high and wide of Hampton to put the Londoners into the lead.
Sophie Ingle had a great chance to double the led on 32 minutes – a Guro Reiten deep corner was met at the far post by the Wales skipper, but she could not hit the target.
Reiten was unlucky with seven minutes left on the clock of the first half, when she left fly with a venomous let-footer which smashed of the crossbar, preserving a single goal advantage.
Georgia Brougham tried her luck from the edge of the Chelsea area but her right-footed effort sailed high and wide over Ann-Katrin Berger’s crossbar.
There were no changes by either side at half-time.
The half started in exactly the same vein as the first, with Chelsea on the front foot,with the home side pushed right back to the edge of their penalty area.
Despite having all the possession, Birmingham’s rugged defence held firm, leaving Chelsea’s central midfielder Ingle with little option but to try a shot from 20 yards out – it sailed well wide of Hampton’s goal on 53 minutes.
Chelsea boss Emma Hayes had seen enough of possession but no chances created, and on 64 minutes made a triple substitution. On came Sam Kerr, Ji and Niamh Charles – off came Cuthbert, Ingle and Reiten.
Charles made an instant impact, cutting straight through the Birmingham defence to pass to England, who knocked the ball onto Kirby. The winger took a goal-bound shot but Hampton was well positioned on her near post to tip the ball away for a corner.
The increase in tempo was palatable from the Londoners.
England thought she had scored on 74 minutes with a looping header over Hampton, but was adjudged to be offside.
A fine goal-line clearance by Harriet Scott two minutes later thwarted England once again, when it looked like the striker had only to tuck the ball home, but the fullback somehow scrambled the ball into Hampton’s grateful palms.
Kirby’s day ended on 77 minutes, with Pernille Harder taking her place.
Hampton produced a point blank save from England with six minutes left on the clock having been set up wonderfully by Kerr.
In the end Chelsea were happy to see out the clock.
Up next is a Continental Tyres group match against Arsenal at Kingsmeadow on Wednesday, before they host Manchester City against at home in the WSL.
Berger, Bright, Ingle, Leupolz, England, Reiten, Kirby, Eriksson, Mjelde, Cuthbert, Andersson
Subs: Thorisdottir, Blundell, carter, Ji, Fleming, Kerr, Charles, harder, Telford
Hampton, Brougham, Scott, Scofield, Mayling, Holloway, Corrie, Murray, Whipp, Napier, Walker
Subs: McCarron, Green, Grant, Kelly, Lawley, Toussaint
Referee: Abigail Byrne
Picture: Action from Birmingham FC Women v Chelsea Women FC
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