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Last season's top two went head-to-head in an entertaining encounter as Emma Hayes and Nick Cushing's sides locked horns with both teams keen to kick-off their FA WSL campaign in the best way possible.
But a game consisting of numerous chances for either side ended level with both Chelsea and City failing to make it onto the scoresheet.
Jill Scott said that playing Chelsea was “like going to war” in Friday’s pre-match press conference, and from the first whistle it was apparent that this would be the case.
The opening moments of the game were tough for City as we were battling with continuous pressure from Emma Hayes’ side, but an excellent through ball from Keira Walsh which was collected by summer recruit Lauren Hemp presented the first chance of the game. The Norfolk-born attacker burst down the right-wing before sending a shot at goal which was comfortably caught by Lindahl.
The game was on.
Crowds at the Kingsmeadow saw some superb play from Mel Lawley, who managed to retain possession while dodging a challenge in the area before passing back out to Under-20 World Cup star Georgia Stanway. Stanway sought out Jen Beattie with a looping cross, and the Scot headed towards the goal. Once again Lindahl was prepared and blocked Beattie’s attempt.
Although City were enjoying a majority of the possession, Chelsea were pressing high. Karen Bardsley heart was sent racing when Beth England fired a thunderous strike from 30 yards. Our stopper punched England’s shot off course, causing it to spiral into the air, before catching the stray ball.
In response, Nikita Parris made the most of our possession as she slalomed around the Chelsea defence, twisting and turning before firing a left-footed attempt towards Lindahl. Instead of breaking deadlock it slipped into the side netting.
As the first half drew to a close, City were forced to defend and Bardsley made a number of crucial saves. The first came in the 35th minute at Chelsea’s Maren Mielde took her chance from outside the box with a powerful shot towards the bottom corner which saw KB dive to block the attempt. The next, just seconds before the half time whistle as our stopper reacted sharply to stop Ramona Bachmann’s volley in its tracks following the home side’s corner.
City flew out of the blocks after the break and looked energised. Nick Cushing’s side continued to dominate the possession and dictate the pace of the game. Parris, in particular, was a huge threat for the Chelsea backline.
Despite City’s confidence, the London side went close to going into the lead a number of times in the form of Bachmann.
Bachmann nearly had her breakthrough with a swift back-heel flick off Karen Carney’s curling corner-kick, and again as she lept onto Ji So Yun’s pass with a volley towards goal – but Steph Houghton was alert and cleared the second attempt neatly.
Chelsea ramped it up a gear and the addition of Fran Kirby saw the oppositions attacking threat increase. Again, our defence continued to be tested, but our back four and goalkeeper stood strong to take a precious point away from the Kingsmeadow.
How we lined up
Bardsley was in goal shielded by a back four of Gemma Bonner, skipper Houghton, Beattie and Abbie McManus, while Walsh was employed in her defensive midfield role alongside Jill Scott and Stanway. Hemp and Lawley flanked Parris up front.
The Blues now travel to Spain to take on Atletico Madrid in the first leg of their Champions League test, before returning to play Bristol in the Continental Cup on Sunday 16 September.
Jill Scott addresses the press ahead of Sunday's WSL opener...
Cushing’s side begin their league race away to reigning Champions Chelsea on Sunday 9 September, a tough fixture which resulted in a win, a draw and a loss last season.