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Birmingham City 0 Chelsea 4 (Aluko 3, Carney 5, Davison 22, Ji So-Yun 26)
Chelsea dished out a reminder that they are not finished yet in the title race with a masterclass first half performance at the Autotech Stadium.
All of their attacking players got on the scoresheet as Birmingham City's normally miserly defence was breached four times inside the opening 26 minutes, and Emma Hayes' side could well have scored more on the day.
It took three minutes for Chelsea to opening the scoring as Eniola Aluko picked the ball up on the edge of the area and drove a firm low shot which beat Ann-Katrin Berger at her near post.
Before Birmingham could recover, their other former outfield player inflicted a further blow. Claire Rafferty burst down the left and got past Marisa Ewers before whipping in a delightful cross for Karen Carney to direct a downward header into the far corner of the net. Carney's muted celebrations after scoring revealed what a bittersweet moment it had been for the England star.
Carney almost got on the scoresheet again moments later when chasing down a long ball and her attempted lob didn't quite have enough power and Berger was able to gather. Birmingham mustered up their first effort on goal, a 25-yard effort from Abbey Leigh Stringer which was held by Rebecca Spencer, before Chelsea again broke dangerously and Hannah Blundell's curling effort was blocked by Emily Westwood, Aluko firing well over from the rebound.
A third goal was looking on the cards though and it came at the midpoint of the first half. Katie Chapman won the ball in midfield and carried forward before finding Carney who in turn set up Gemma Davison for an emphatic finish from the edge of the area which gave Berger no chance.
Just another four minutes elapsed before Carney set up a chance for Aluko whose miscued shot went straight at Ji So-Yun with Birmingham appealing in vain for offside and although Berger managed to block her first shot, the South Korean international made no mistake at the second attempt to put her side four ahead.
Chelsea continued to dictate matters against a shellshocked home side but they could not add any further goals to their lead ahead of the interval.
Birmingham made two changes at half time and looked more solid during the second half whilst Chelsea were never going to find it easy to recapture the heights of the opening 45 minutes.
It was Chelsea who created the first opportunity though as Davison and Aluko combined to set up Rafferty but the angle was just too tight for the full back and her shot was narrowly off target.
Aluko shot wide following a good team build up and Carney came within inches of notching her second goal on the day, unleashing a 25-yard strike which crashed against the underside of the bar before bouncing out again.
Davison was the next to go close to extending her side's lead with a driving run which took her through on goal but, with only Berger to beat, she slid her shot past the keeper but also past the post.
Birmingham had played a lot better during the second half and almost grabbed a consolation when Freda Ayisi got to the line and cut the ball back for Kirsty Linnett whose shot was saved by Spencer. It had very much been Chelsea's day though and they will still have their sights set on runaway leaders Manchester City, with five matches left to play.
Birmingham City: Ann-Katrin Berger, Marisa Ewers (sub Alex Windell 61mins), Jess Carter, Aoife Mannion, Emily Westwood, Kerys Harrop, Freda Ayisi, Abbey Leigh Stringer (sub Chloe Peplow 45mins), Charlie Wellings, Melissa Lawley, Andrine Hegerberg (sub Kirsty Linnett 45mins). Subs not used: Sophie Baggaley, Coral-Jade Haines, Sian Johnson, Keeley Davies.
Chelsea: Rebecca Spencer, Hannah Blundell, Claire Rafferty (sub Ana Marques Borges 65mins), Millie Bright, Gilly Flaherty, Niamh Fahey, Gemma Davison, Karen Carney, Eniola Aluko (sub Beth England 77mins), Ji So-Yun (sub Jade Bailey 62mins), Katie Chapman. Subs not used: Hedvig Lindahl, Drew Spence.
(top) Karen Carney heads home Chelsea's second goal
(middle) Katie Chapman gets away from Abbey Leigh Stringer
(bottom) Melissa Lawley tries to trick her way past Hannah Blundell
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