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Chelsea 4 (Aluko 34,48, Flaherty 45, Kirby 73) Birmingham City 0
An irresistible Chelsea performance, including a debut goal for Fran Kirby, rendered Gemma Davison's harsh first half dismissal irrelevant and moved them back to the top of the WSL 1 table.
It was right back Hannah Blundell who had the first shot in anger, firing not far over from distance, before Davison shot wide after Ji So-Yun had played her in. The South Korean was involved on 12 minutes as Chelsea came very close to opening the scoring. A backheel from Eniola Aluko on the halfway line took two Birmingham players out of the equation and Ji reciprocated the favour with some lovely skill of her own. Aluko burst clear down the left past two defenders and opted to pass rather than shoot; her cross was agonisingly beyond the reach of Davison at the back post.
Five minutes later, Aluko did go alone and nearly reaped the rewards, but Spencer got a crucial touch on her left footed shot to divert it wide of the post. The striker was in the thick of the action again midway through the half, taking Spence's raking pass in her stride and squaring across the six yard box for Davison. On the stretch, she could only shoot over, while at the other end Jo Potter bent a first time curler past the post.
Aluko had been the game's outstanding player and she got the goal her performance deserved on 34 minutes. She was involved in the build up, too, teeing up Spence for a shot after good work from Ji. The midfielder's strike was saved by Spencer but only as far as Aluko, who confidently volleyed into the net.
Spence and Blundell in quick succession weren't too far away from doubling the lead, before the home side were reduced to ten players. Davison had already been booked for a late challenge when she tumbled in the box under the close attentions of two Birmingham defenders. Instead of awarding what looked like a clear penalty, referee Paul Forrester opted to give a free kick for simulation and booked the winger, who had to go.
That didn't stop Chelsea pressing for a second goal and in the third minute of time added on, it came. Ji swung over a corner from the right and an unmarked Flaherty coolly steered her volley into the bottom corner. It was the perfect ending to an eventful half.
Things got even better for the home side three minutes into the second period. A fairly innocuous looking cross from Blundell was awkwardly flicked on to her own hand by Aoife Mannion. Aluko made no mistake from the spot for her second of the day.
On the hour mark, Aluko made way with Fran Kirby introduced for her Chelsea debut. The former Reading striker had an instant impact, playing in Bright whose saw her shot blocked, before flicking the resulting corner goalwards.
Kirby continued to look lively and drew the biggest cheer of the afternoon with a fine first Chelsea goal. Ji put her through and she showed poise to draw Spencer before deftly lifting it over the keeper to make it 4-0 - and no less than Chelsea deserved for an outstanding performance.
Birmingham enjoyed their best spell of the game in the final fifteen minutes but there was still little to suggest one team was a woman light, such was the quality of Chelsea's passing and moving. The joint biggest league win of the campaign keeps the Wembley buzz going.
Chelsea: Hedvig Lindahl, Hannah Blundell, Niamh Fahey, Gilly Flaherty, Ana Borges, Millie Bright, Katie Chapman, Drew Spence (sub Laura Coombs 71mins), Gemma Davison, Eniola Aluko (sub Fran Kirby 58mins), Ji So-Yun (sub Marija Banusic 74mins). Subs not used: Marie Hourihan, Anne Meiwald, Atlanta Primus.
Birmingham City: Rebecca Spencer, Meaghan Sargent (sub Freda Ayisi 45mins), Aofie Mannion, Kerys Harrop, Melissa Lawley, Alex Windell, Remi Allen, Karen Carney (sub Charlie Wellings 50mins), Jo Potter, Kirsty Linnett.
Subs not used: Sophie Baggeley, Cheryl Edwards, Emily Westwood, Crissy Torkildsen, Coral Haines.
(Report by www.fawsl.com)
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