Manchester City dug deep in our first WSL outing at the Joie Stadium to earn a 1-1 draw with Chelsea, despite being reduced to nine players.

Chloe Kelly’s spectacular strike brought a hotly anticipated encounter between two WSL title rivals to life inside eight minutes at the Joie Stadium.

However, City’s momentum was stalled when captain Alex Greenwood was controversially sent off just before the break.

Lauren Hemp would also receive her marching orders in the second 45 and City looked like we might hold on to a memorable victory, but Guro Reiten’s 96th-minute strike earned the visitors a share of the spoils.

What happened?

It was a party atmosphere at the Joie Stadium as the Club celebrated our first WSL match since securing a commercial agreement for the naming rights of our stadium.

A strong start had been the catalyst for City’s impressive 2-0 win against Chelsea in last season’s fixture, and Gareth Taylor’s side were quick out of the traps once again in the Manchester sun.

Jill Roord, who had found the net on her competitive debut the week before, was the first to test Zecira Musovic, with the keeper parrying away her deflected strike from the edge of the box, before the Chelsea stopper was called into action again soon after to tip away a Lauren Hemp volley.

City were in the mood, and the opener would follow before the eight-minute mark in spectacular fashion.

Picking up play on the edge of the Chelsea box, Kelly’s vicious drive was too powerful for Musovic, with a slight deflection off the boot of Jess Carter helping it on its way into the visitors’ net.

The winger’s passionate celebration, and the pandemonium the goal caused in the Joie Stadium, demonstrated the incredible start City had made to proceedings.

But Emma Hayes’ side recovered from that early onslaught, with the rest of the opening 45 a much more evenly contested affair.

Indeed, City were thankful to Khiara Keating for an impressive reaction save on 25 minutes, saving well with her feet to deny Sophie Ingle after the midfielder had met a Chelsea cross from the left.

And the game was turned on its head when, much to the bemusement of her team-mates, Alex Greenwood was shown a second yellow card for an apparent time-wasting infringement.

It was crucial that City didn’t lose our heads after the captain’s dismissal, and the hosts were able to see out the rest of the half in a disciplined, professional manner, despite Mia Fishel flicking an effort just wide of the far post in stoppage time.

The boss made a tactical switch at the break, bringing Kerstin Casparij into the fray with Kelly as the lone forward.

Chelsea, understandably, piled on the pressure, with Erin Cuthbert flashing an effort just over the City bar early in the second half.

But despite their territorial dominance, the reigning WSL champions were finding it difficult to break down the dogged rearguard action of Taylor’s side, characterised by a tenacious performance from Hemp as an auxiliary wing back in a defensive five.

Lauren James had been kept quiet for the majority of proceedings, but she was a coat of paint from levelling the scores when her curling effort came crashing back off the crossbar from distance.

As the clock wound down City were given an event tougher assignment as Hemp was handed a second yellow for a foul, meaning we had to play for the final ten minutes with nine players.

But Taylor’s side weren’t fazed and could even have added a second when substitute Bunny Shaw’s effort was deflected over the bar by a desperate sliding challenge as the hosts countered.

City were within touching distance of the win, but a late scramble in the box from a corner, despite an incredible reaction save from Keating, saw Reiten bundle the ball home from close range.

A cruel end to what was a determined City display, but a positive point considering the circumstances, especially after Laia Aleixandri‘s remarkable late challenge to deny Reiten at the death, and the visitors hitting the woodwork with Keating stranded.

Player of the match: Khiara Keating

A performance of incredible maturity despite her tender years.

Keating epitomised City’s dogged display, making several impressive stops and marshalling the back line with great applomb.

FA WSL
1 Manchester City Manchester City Man City 18 15 1 2 49 12 37 46 WWWWW
2 Chelsea FC Chelsea Chelsea 17 14 1 2 50 14 36 43 WLWWW
3 Arsenal Arsenal Arsenal 18 13 1 4 42 18 24 40 LWWLW
Last updated: 14 April 2024

What it means

City have four points from our opening two matches, sitting top of the table as it stands.

Chelsea are third by virtue of our superior goal difference.

How we lined up

Gareth Taylor made two changes from the side who beat West Ham United in our WSL opener, with the suspended Leila Ouahabi and Deyna Castellanos making way for Esme Morgan and Filippa Angeldahl.

Khiara Keating started between the sticks, shielded by a back four of Morgan, Alanna Kennedy, Alex Greenwood and Laia Aleixandri.

Yui Hasegawa sat in front of the defence, with Angeldahl and Jill Roord completing the midfield three.

At the sharp end, Chloe Kelly and Mary Fowler provided width for Lauren Hemp.

City XI: Keating, Morgan, Kennedy, Greenwood (C), Aleixandri, Hasegawa, Angeldahl (Mace 80’), Roord (Blakstad 85’), Kelly (Shaw 80’), Fowler (Casparij 46’), Hemp.

Subs: MacIver, Houghton, Coombs, Castellanos, Park.

Chelsea XI: Musovic, Fishel (Kerr 46’), Bright (C), Ingle (Cankovic 46’), Carter, James, Reiten, Lawrence (Perisset 70’), Fleming (Kirby 60’), Charles, Cuthbert (Leupolz.

Subs: Nusken, Mjelde, Rytting-Kaneryd, Berger.

Up next

City’s Continental Cup campaign begins on Wednesday 11 October, as we travel to Walton Hall Park to face Everton.

Kick-off is set for 19:00 (UK), with the match available to watch live on CITY+.

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