Chelsea Ladies took one giant step closer to the WSL 1 title after beating Sunderland Ladies at Kingsmeadow on Saturday evening. In a match that was hampered by the terrible weather in West London, Chelsea still managed to come out on top in a scruffy game. Manchester City’s loss to Arsenal earlier in the day means that Chelsea only need a point in their midweek fixture against Bristol City Women to complete the league and cup double.
In what was Katie Chapman’s final home game as a Chelsea player and Chelsea captain, it was also announced before the game that it was to be Claire Rafferty’s last home game as a member of Chelsea’s playing staff. Katie Chapman was conveniently making her 100th appearance for the club and the Chelsea side that was sent out by Emma Hayes contained six changes from the side that started the FA Cup final. Carly Telford came back in goal for a rare league appearance while Gemma Davison made her first start for a while after coming back from injury.
The opening exchanges of the match followed a distinct pattern; Sunderland were set up to contain and sat deep while Chelsea remained patient in possession trying to open up space. The only half chance that was created was just after 18 minutes when Eni Aluko dribbled to the by-line before putting in a cross that was narrowly missed by Kirby and put just wide by Cuthbert.
As the rain poured down it was becoming increasingly difficult for Chelsea’s rapid one touch passing to come off and as the clock ticked towards half time, they were yet to make the breakthrough. On 42 minutes, the goal came in a fashion that was typical of the way the game was going. Gemma Davison managed to drift into space on the right before playing the ball into the box for the waiting Fran Kirby who feigned a shot with her right foot before failing to connect properly with her left. The shot took a heavy deflection and looped over the unlucky Sunderland keeper. It wasn’t one of the finest goals from Kirby but her 25th of the season was greatly needed. Chelsea almost got an instant second goal but Chapman’s long range effort came off the post and rolled out.
The start of second half again was inconspicuous but Chelsea’s quality again made the breakthrough. After a switch of play, Jonna Andersson tested the defending full back before putting in a cross that took a slight deflection, Aluko intelligently judged the flight of the ball to connect with the ball perfectly on the volley and double Chelsea’s lead.
Sunderland did manage to pull a goal back in the 86th minute to give the match a tense finish but the Blues managed to hold on and get the win.