Chelsea Ladies 1 Birmingham City Ladies 1
A RESILIENT performance full of character helped Blues Ladies to a well deserved point at title hopefuls Chelsea on Sunday.
But for an uncharacteristically lapse in defensive concentration shortly after taking a 48th minute lead through Freda Ayisi, David Parker’s side may have returned with maximum points.
In truth, though, reigning champions Chelsea deserved their 53rd minute equaliser from former Blues striker Eni Aluko just four minutes after her introduction as a substitute.
Aluko is the first player to breach the Blues rearguard in seven and league cup matches and Parker’s side can take further confidence from another impressive display against illustrious opposition.
Despite losing captain Emily Westwood to a head injury in the 20th minute, the visitors remained compact and a danger on the break as Chloe Peplow came on at right wing back to impress and Alex Windell joined Aoife Mannion and Jess Carter in an effective central back three.
Chances were hard to come by in the first half, although Carter had to make a fine sliding tackle to deny Gemma Davison a sight of goal in the 24th minute.
A minute later Carter was booked for hauling down former City captain Karen Carney on the halfway line, but that aside attackers on both sides were largely kept under wraps by the defences.
However, the game burst into life shortly after the restart when Charlie Wellings seized on Drew Spence’s loose pass across the back line and set up Ayisi who drilled the ball into the bottom left corner from 15 yards.
However, the hosts then withdrew Spence for Aluko who within four minutes had levelled with a side-footed effort past a helpless Ann-Katrin Berger after the Blues defence was left outnumbered following Ji So-Yun’s pass.
Chelsea sensed blood and Carney and Davison both curled efforts wide before ten minutes from time Mel Lawley broke for Blues and fed Ayisi, whose fierce strike from a narrow angle was beaten away by Hedvig Lindahl.
Four minutes from the end of normal time the hosts were reduced to ten when captain Katie Chapman received a second yellow card for chopping down Ayisi.
There was one more clear chance to come in the third minute of stoppage time but Chelsea’s Claire Rafferty volleyed wastefully over from close range following neat build-up play by Davison.
Blues, though, held on and will host Sunderland next Sunday (2pm) sitting fourth in the table and unbeaten in eight league and cup games.
Blues: Berger, Windell, Carter, Mannion, Harrop, Westwood (Peplow 20), Stringer, Hegerberg, Lawley, Wellings, Ayisi.
Subs not used: Baggaley, Edwards, Brown, Johnson, Linnett.
Match report by Liam Moakes.