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Chelsea 0 Birmingham City 1 (Williams 78)
Birmingham City once again got the better of Chelsea in a tightly contested match at Staines.
After an FA Cup and League double in late May, a single goal settled the outcome and lifted Birmingham's hopes of qualifying for the 2013-14 Champions League and closed the gap on leaders Arsenal.
This was a more cagey affair than the previous meetings but there were a number of close calls before a bizarre goal from Rachel Williams won the match twelve minutes from time.
Jodie Taylor had the first effort on goal, played in by Eniola Aluko, but Carly Telford gathered at her near post. The Chelsea keeper was later unsure whether to pick up a possible back pass and her hurried clearance was returned just over the bar by Williams from 35 yards.
Chelsea's best early chance fell to Kate Longhurst whose shot was well blocked by Marie Hourihan. The introduction of Helen Lander on 35 minutes gave the home side new impetus and an excellent Danielle Buet pass released the Welsh international only for Hourihan to make a fine save. Her opposite number did equally well to deny Taylor in a one on one situation. Dunia Susi then skipped past three challenges at pace only for Hourihan to smother her shot at close range as the half ended in a flurry of chances.
Birmingham made a change at the break, with Emily Westwood moving up front and Karen Carney replaced by Cristina Torkildsen, who slotted into the back four. The move worked very well and Birmingham were able to exert greater pressure on the Chelsea defence. They were very close to opening the scoring on 47 minutes as Buet cleared a Chelsea Weston effort off the line after a corner.
Chelsea's Adriana Martin was gifted a golden chance by a miscued clearance.which gave her the ball six yards out, but Hourihan saved the day with a brave block on 57 minutes.
Birmingham then took charge and created a number of good openings. A superb pass by Torkildsen set Aluko free and her cross was curled narrowly wide by Isobel Christiansen. Aluko was very lively on the right wing and was twice close to scoring only to be denied by a diving Telford.
Aluko again got free to set up the winner on 78 minutes. Her head high cross was met by a flying Wiliams who somehow deflected the ball goalwards. A rebound from the underside of the bar hit the diving Telford and ended up in the back of the net for an untidy but valuable goal.
Westwood nearly added a second but was narrowly wide and Aluko went close again. Chelsea were restricted to an ambitious 30-yard Helen Bleazard effort over the top as Birmingham saw out the game with greater comfort than earlier.
Other results meant that Birmingham needed a win to maintain their challenge. They achieved this whilst only reaching their fluent best late on and being grateful for some excellent goalkeeping by Hourihan.
Chelsea: Carly Telford, Sophie Ingle, Claire Rafferty, Kylie Davies, Gemma Bonner, Suzanne Lappin (sub Helen Lander 35mins), Helen Bleazard, Danielle Buet, Kate Longhurst (sub Laura Coombs 79mins), Adriana Martin, Dunia Susi. Subs not used: Sarah Quantrill, Sophie Perry, Drew Spence, Rachel Gwilliam.
Birmingham City: Marie Hourihan, Chelsea Weston, Kerys Harrop, Isobel Christiansen, Emily Westwood, Laura Bassett, Eniola Aluko, Rachel Williams, Jodie Taylor, Karen Carney (sub Cristina Torkildsen 45mins), Jo Potter. Subs not used: Emily Simpkins, Anna Wilcox, Harley Simpson, Marie Ballard.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
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