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Chelsea 2 Birmingham City 0
Chelsea maintained their pursuit of Barclays FA WSL leaders Manchester City with a 2-0 home win over Birmingham City, ahead of the top two clash in Manchester later in the month.
A determined display by the visitors ensured there was no repeat of the six-goal margin in the reverse fixture but Chelsea's dominance on the night was rarely threatened.
Birmingham did manage the first shot on goal by Rachel Williams - who was making her 100th FA WSL appearance against her former club - in the fifth minute and it took Chelsea twenty minutes to fashion a shot themselves, Erin Cuthbert firing in a 15-yard effort beaten away by keeper Hannah Hampton. Generally, however, Birmingham defended very efficiently from crosses and set pieces whilst looking for the occasional counter attack.
Abbi Grant instigated Birmingham's best move of the half on 37 minutes, crossing for Lucy Staniforth to fire just over with a fine first time shot on the run. Chelsea finally broke the deadlock right on 45 minutes when Jonna Andersson's cross from the left found Guro Reiten who made space to strike low past Hampton.
Drew Spence nearly added a second on 51 minutes when her shot from a half cleared corner drew a fine save from Hampton low to her left.
It was Beth England who doubled the advantage with her 13th of the season, bursting through the middle to latch onto a Cuthbert through ball and send a right foot finish beyond Hampton on 58 minutes.
Little was seen of Birmingham as an attacking threat in the second half but they continued to defend in depth, with skipper Kerys Harrop often getting in crucial blocks and interceptions. Substitute Ramona Bachmann brought some extra invention to the home attack and she set up England for a superb turn and shot which struck the inside of the post before flying across goal on 75 minutes.
Chelsea continued to press, with Hannah Blundell getting in good positions on two occasions without finding the target. Birmingham earned their first corner of the match in second half stoppage time but had never looked like reducing the deficit.
However, in the light of the result in their first meeting and Chelsea's eight-goal haul in their last home game, this result reflected a disciplined and hard working effort.
Birmingham are deep in a relegation fight but remain third bottom with Bristol City losing, whilst Chelsea remain a point behind leaders Manchester City but with a game in hand ahead of the summit meeting on 23rd February.
Chelsea: Carly Telford, Hannah Blundell, Millie Bright, Sophie Ingle, Beth England, Guro Reiten, Magdalena Eriksson, Maren Mjelde, Erin Cuthbert, Drew Spence, Jonna Andersson. Subs: Ramona Bachmann, Jess Carter, Maria Thorisdottir, Ann-Katrin Berger, Ji So-Yun, Deanna Cooper.
Birmingham City: Hannah Hampton, Sarah Mayling, Kerys Harrop, Chloe Arthur, Rachel Williams, Brianna Visalli, Abbi Grant, Adrienne Jordan, Georgia Brougham, Lucy Whipp, Lucy Staniforth. Subs: Emma Kelly, Claudia Walker, Alex Brooks, Harriet Scott, Connie Scofield, Rebecca Holloway.
(Report by Patrick Higgins)
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