BY PAUL LAGAN
Beth England thought she had scored a sensational winner against Manchester City to make it 3-2 as the Blues twice forced their way back into the game only to see the home side snatch an equaliser as this blood and guts top of the table clash that ended in a sensation 3-3 at the Academy Stadium.
Chelsea will be the happier having twice gone behind – the point leaves the Londoners a point behind City in second place, but they have a game in hand and must be considered favourites to reclaim the WSL1 title.
This game had everything, brilliant play, terrible mistakes, incredible goals, gilt-edged chances missed and an injury to City goalkeeper Ellie Roebuck last on that resulted in her being stretchered off.
The watching England and Olympic manager Phil Neville was in the stand watching and he would have been impressed by Lauren Hemp who terrorised Maren Mjelde on the left.
Sam Kerr had a great chance 10 seconds into the match when she was put through by Guro Reiten. The Australian striker struck a goal-bound right-footer but Ellie Roebuck was equal to the task and parried the ball away.
Caroline Weir should have put the home side ahead on 11 minutes, but she somehow conspired to thrash the ball over Ann Katrin-Berger’s crossbar from six yards out.
Ellen White inched the ball wide two minutes later after Weir’s clipped free-kick fell invitingly to the England striker.
The fact she was unchallenged for the header will be a concern for Chelsea boss Emma Hayes.
Roebuck produced a magnificent save to tip a powerful Kerr header around her post for a corner. From the resultant corner kick, Georgia Stanway thwarted Erin Cuthbert at the far post to keep the score 0-0 after 20 minutes.
But a minute later, Chelsea failed to clear the ball and White was on the spot to slot home from close range to put the home side ahead.
Kerr had another great chance on 30 minutes. Put through by Mjelde, Kerr attempted an angled chip – Roebuck easily snaffled the ball out of he air.
But after a piece of sustained pressure by the west Londoners, the ball fell to So Yun Ji 25 yards out. The South Korean controlled the ball in the swirling wind and left fly with a venomous right-footed half-volley which zipped past the desperate dive of Roebuck to level the scores six minutes before the break.
There were no changes by either side at half time.
Roebuck again produced a magnificent save to prevent England from smashing home after 54 minutes.
Chelsea were caught on the counter-attack on 60 minutes when Stanway raced clear – she outpaced Bright on the left, cut slightly inside and then hammered the ball past Berger to go 2-1 up.
The Blues kept their cool and on 68 minutes they equalised when Jonna Andersson whipped in the ball from the left and skipper Magdalena Eriksson headed towards the goal – Roebuck fluffed the ball and allowed it to fall over the line for an equaliser.
Seconds later and the home side were awarded a penalty when Jill Scott was clipped in the box.
Stanway powered a right-footer to Berger’s right, but the German pounced on the ball to keep the Londoners in the game.
Hayes opted to replace in effectual Guro Reiten for Ramona Bachman on 71 minutes.
Incredibly Chelsea took the lead when Beth England thundered a 30-yarder with such venom it gave shell-shocked Roebuck no chance and smashed into the back of her net.
The drama did not end their. Mjelde, who was having a nightmare of a game at right-back went to sleep, allowing Hemp, her nemesis all game to get past her and she prodded the ball home to make it 3-3.
Maria Thorisdottir came on, replacing Ji on 76 minutes.
England had a great chance to net number for for Chelsea with five minutes on the clock, but she screwed her left-footer wide of goal.
Deep into seven minutes of added time Roebuck collected a long ball but fell awkwardly – she was treated in the pitch for three minutes before being carried off, to be replaced by Karina Benameur.
Chelsea and City were dead on their feet as the 11t mi utes of added time expired.
The Londoners, still unbeaten this season and now prepare for the Conti Cup final next weekend against Arsenal at the City Ground, Nottingham.
Teams: Chelsea; Berger, Bright, Ingle, England, Ji, Reiten, Eriksson, Mjelde, kerr, Cuthbert, Andersson
Subs: Telford, Thorisdottir, Blundell, Carter, Engman, Bachmann, Spence
Man City; Roebuck, Stokes, Bonner, Houghton, Scott, Stanway, Beckie, Hemp, White, Weir, Walsh
Subs; Benameur, Coombs, Bremen, Toland, Park, Wullaert, Fidalgo
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