Pernille Harder
Pernille Harder’s first-half penalty put Chelsea 2-1 up at The Academy Stadium

Chelsea’s defence of their Women’s Super League title is still in their hands but Manchester City remain hot on their heels following an entertaining draw at The Academy Stadium.

A late equaliser from Lauren Hemp ensured City remain two points behind Chelsea with two games remaining after a frantic and dramatic encounter.

Hemp thumped in following mistakes from Chelsea duo Fran Kirby and Millie Bright to make it 2-2, after Pernille Harder’s spot-kick had given the visitors a half-time lead.

Sam Kerr scored the opener with a powerful header before City’s Chloe Kelly poked in the equaliser.

City had several huge chances to win late on but Chelsea goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger pulled off a stunning save to deny Hemp, before stopping Georgia Stanway’s strike.

Lucy Bronze headed wide from an unmarked position in stoppage time, while Kerr had a chance to all but seal the title for Chelsea with the final kick of the match but was denied when one-on-one with goalkeeper Ellie Roebuck.

A match which delivered as a title-decider

Both managers admitted in the build-up that the result of this game would play a massive factor in the direction of the title.

It was tipped to be the best game of the season between two sides who, as Man City boss Gareth Taylor described, have been “slogging it out” for months.

It did not disappoint as it had everything a WSL title-decider should have – penalty controversy, quality from both sides and a constant flow of attacking football.

The tone was set within two minutes from City when Kelly’s driving run down the right forced a save at the near post by Berger, before Bronze nutmegged Kerr after robbing her of possession.

They dominated the opening 15 minutes as Hemp and Kelly continued to cause problems from wide positions for Chelsea, while Sam Mewis showed her strength in midfield.

But Kerr had managed to sneak in behind City’s defence on two occasions in as many minutes before her header opened the scoring and Chelsea built on their momentum.

Roebuck appeared to get the ball – as well as a large chunk of Kerr – when she was penalised in the box but Harder kept her cool to slot it in from the spot.

As the game wore on it became more and more open – City piling on the pressure late on as a winner would have turned the title race in their favour.

Berger’s heroic saves to deny Hemp and Stanway kept Chelsea in it but Bronze missed a golden opportunity when she skewed her header wide from an unmarked position in the six-yard area in stoppage time.

Kerr then raced through one-on-one with the final act of the game and it would not have been a surprise if another dramatic turn was to follow, but Roebuck made herself big and blocked the shot.

Chelsea can win the title at Tottenham in their next match on 2 May should City slip up.

But this result was a huge swing in Chelsea’s favour – ensuring the title remains in their hands with two games to go – and that was epitomised by manager Emma Hayes’ celebrations on the pitch at full-time.

Line-ups

Man City Women

Formation 4-3-3

  • 26Roebuck
  • 20Bronze
  • 13Dahlkemper
  • 27GreenwoodBooked at 77mins
  • 3Stokes
  • 22MewisSubstituted forStanwayat 75′minutes
  • 24Walsh
  • 19Weir
  • 9Kelly
  • 18WhiteSubstituted forLavelleat 64′minutes
  • 15Hemp

Substitutes

  • 2Mannion
  • 7Coombs
  • 10Stanway
  • 11Beckie
  • 14Morgan
  • 16Park
  • 21Lavelle
  • 34Benameur
  • 39Davies

Chelsea Women

Formation 4-2-3-1

  • 30Berger
  • 7Carter
  • 4Bright
  • 5Ingle
  • 25Andersson
  • 8Leupolz
  • 10JiSubstituted forReitenat 77′minutes
  • 14KirbySubstituted forEnglandat 90′minutes
  • 23HarderSubstituted forCharlesat 62′minutes
  • 22Cuthbert
  • 20Kerr

Substitutes

  • 1Musovic
  • 3Blundell
  • 9England
  • 11Reiten
  • 17Fleming
  • 21Charles
  • 24Spence
  • 28Telford
  • 29Fox

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