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Chelsea 1 (Aluko 48) Manchester City 2 (Duggan 12, Houghton 86)
Manchester City opened up the WSL 1 title race with a late Steph Houghton winner at Chelsea to inflict a second league defeat in a row on the Blues and their first at their Staines home since the 2013 season.
An intense and even contest seemed destined for a draw when a driven free kick from the England skipper took a wicked deflection off Claire Rafferty to send the ball past Hedvig Lindahl for the winner.
City had started well and took a twelfth minute lead when a delightful pass from Daphne Corboz, making her full WSL debut after a scoring cameo last week at Bristol, released Toni Duggan for a confident finish to Lindahl's left. Chelsea threatened at times but City defended very effectively and Lucy Bronze made a vital interception as a Ji So-Yun cross threatened a simple finish for Eniola Aluko.
City generally looked the more fluent and confident team through the first half with Corboz and Jill Scott dominating midfield and took a deserved lead into the break.
Aluko levelled the score when allowed too much time and space by the City defence to measure a crisp strike low to Karen Bardsley's right soon after the restart. For a time Chelsea threatened to take over with So-Yun threatening to unlock the defence again, but the momentum then shifted back in City's favour.
Corboz had a curling effort pushed away by Lindahl who then punched away the resulting corner under pressure. Chelsea substitute Laura Coombes was denied a scoring opportunity at the other end by a great tackle from Jennifer Beattie on 75 minutes as thr action flowed back and forth.
Nikita Parris headed wide from an Issy Christiansen free kick but it was the latter who drew the foul for the winning goal. Rafferty was penalised for a challenge on the City player 20 yards from goal and her misfortune was compounded when, seeking to intercept Houghton's whipped shot. Rafferty sent the ball wide of Lindahl, the ball taking a crazy deflection seemingly off her shoulder.
Parris nearly added a third on the break, Lindahl saving well at her near post and Chelsea could not mount concerted pressure on Bardsley's goal as time ran out. Sunderland and Arsenal have both overtaken Chelsea since the restart of the league season and Manchester City will now enter the title race after a third win in a row.
Chelsea: Hedvig Lindahl, Hannah Blundell, Niamh Fahey, Gilly Flaherty, Claire Rafferty, Millie Bright, Katie Chapman, Drew Spence (sub Laura Coombs 65mins), Gemma Davison, Eniola Aluko (sub Ana Borges 88mins), Ji So-Yun. Subs not used: Marie Hourihan, Jodie Brett, Anne Meiwald, Marija Banusic, Atlanta Primus.
Manchester City: Karen Bardsley, Lucy Bronze, Steph Houghton, Kathleen Radtke, Demi Stokes, Jennifer Beattie, Jill Scott, Issy Christiansen, Daphne Corboz (sub Krystle Johnston 76mins), Toni Duggan, Nikita Parris. Subs not used: Alex Brooks, Abbie McManus, Georgia Brougham, Emma Lipman.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
Photos by www.jamesprickett.co.uk:
(top) Daphne Corboz battles with Claire Rafferty
(middle) Toni Duggan opens the scoring for City despite the efforts of Hannah Blundell
(bottom) Issy Christiansen gets past Millie Bright
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