By Paul Lagan at the Joie Stadium
Manchester City 1 v Chelsea 1
Chelsea will be relieved they managed to get a point, and City will be frustrated they were not able to hang on for three, as the sides produced a pulsating, controversial but nevertheless poor quality 1-1 draw at the renamed Joie Stadium.
Sadly it will be the referee Emily Heaslip who will be the centre of the questions after the game.
A slew of yellow cards for time-wasting, needless fouls and justified fouls saw the home side reduced to nine players.
But the visitors did not help their cause with an indifferent performance.
City will look to Heaslip performance as a get-out clause.
The truth is the game paned out because of the tactics and attitude of the players
The home side were reduced to nine players and defended their 1-0 lead until deep in to added time when Guro Reiten smashed home through a mountain of legs.
Up until then the Blues looked sluggish and out of sorts.
Jill Roord had the first chance of the game on three minutes – her edge of the penalty area half-volley was blocked by Zecira Musovic, This was quickly followed up by another save by the Sweden international, this time parrying away a Lauren Hemp volley.
But the slow start by the Blues suggested they needed to up their game quickly.
But on nine minutes, winger Chloe Kelly tried her luck from range, in a more central position. The ball took a slight deflection, but it was enough to get past Musovic to put the home side ahead.
Sophie Ingle was handed a yellow card on 11 minutes for a needless foul on the edge of her own penalty area.
City were up for the game, Chelsea by contrast were struggling to create any serious and consistent team play.
But bit by bit the west Londoners got themselves back in the game and they were unlucky not to equalise on 26 minutes, when, after excellent set-up play, Ingle had a goal-bound header well saved by Khiara Keating. Niamh Charles was yellow-carded for a late challenge on Kelly on 36 minutes.
Incredibly on 38 minutes a second yellow card for time-wasting by Alex Greenwood saw her heading for an early bath.
Referee Heaslip was more than liberal with her yellow cards as a couple more City players, Alanna Kennedy and Kelly were booked for complaining.
Chelsea head coach Emma Hayes took off Ingle and replaced her with Jelena Cankovic at the break and Sam Kerr came on for ineffectual Mia Fishel.
Hayes took the chance to make two substitutions while Hemp was being treated for an injury, off went Erin Cuthbert and Jessie Fleming, on came Melanie Leupolz and Fran Kirby.
But despite the numerical advantage and the additional firepower, Chelsea still struggled to break through a resolute defensive-minded City.
Ashley Lawrence was then taken off with Eve Perisset – a natural full back brought on, on 70 minutes.
Without a shot on target, James struck the crossbar on 79 minutes, the Blues, while not looking desperate in their play, must have it at the back of their minds that they were never going to get level.
Everything was going Chelsea’s way, apart from the goal as Lauren Hemp exited the field early when she produced a foul on 82 minutes which was turned to red as it was her second yellow offence.
This left City with nine players.
City boss Gareth Taylor was then handed a yellow car for dissent.
Chelsea employed the old Micky Droy tactic of sending up the giant centre half as an additional striker – in this case Millie Bright.
But chances were few and far between as Keating appeared to be sharper in her box than any Chelsea player.
The referee added eight minutes to the end of the regulation 90.
Bright then headed onto the crossbar with Kerr failing to smash home the rebound.
Justifiably the Blues finally bundled home their advantage but only after Keating made another goal-line save, Reiten showed her class by crashing the ball home past a phalanx of players.
There was still time for Chelsea to hit the woodwork again as Kerr lobed a header past Keating but not her goal.
Teams: Chelsea, Musovic, Fishel, Bright, Ingle, Carter, James, Reiten, Lawrence, Fleming, Charles, Cuthbert
Subs: Berger, Nusken, Leupolz, Kirby, Perisset, Mjelde, Rytting Kaneryd, Kerr, Cankovic
Manchester City, Keating, Aleixandri, Greenwood, Fowler, Kelly, Hemp, Angeldahl, Morgan, Roord, Hasegawa, Kennedy
Subs: Malvern, Houghton, Coombs, Castellano, Park, Casparij, Shaw, Mace, Blakstad
Referee: Emily Heaslip
Picture Top City Alex Greenwood is sent off Picture: PA
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