Manchester United slipped to second in the Super League table, following a rather disappointing 1-0 defeat to Emma Hayes’ superior Chelsea side in London.
In what was billed to be a high profile clash involving the top two of the WSL, United managed to create little and often looked tired against a Chelsea side which took full advantage of any opportunities that came their way.
The 5-1 win over Leicester City had seen Marc Skinner hand a start to Martha Thomas on the right, but Nikita Parris started at Kingsmeadow. Mary Earps kept her spot in goal, behind Ona Batlle, Millie Turner, Maya le Tissier and Hannah Blundell.
The usual midfield pairing of Hayley Ladd and Katie Zelem also started, with Leah Galton, Ella Toone and Alessia Russo all starting the big game, alongside Parris.
But United’s attack never seemed to click - especially in the first half and Chelsea dominated.
Sam Kerr used immense pace to power past the United backline and found herself 1v1 against Mary Earps, who saved an attempt brilliantly to deny Chelsea the lead in the 13th minute.
But with the Blues dominating and United struggling to impose their control over the game and pressing in a disjointed manner, Kerr did hand Chelsea a lead. Ex-Red Lauren James picked out Kerr’s run between Turner and Le Tissier perfectly with a lofted through ball. Kerr ended up lobbing Earps this time, allowing the United stopper no chance at all.
A big chance nearly fell to Russo in the 42nd minute after Parris had made a good run on the right and her shot nearly fell to the England international. But Russo couldn’t strike it properly and the chance went begging.
Kerr had a brilliant chance to make it 2-0 in the 52nd minute. She had, once again, made a brilliant run in-behind and had it picked out. The Australian did brilliantly to get away from Le Tissier but the slightly tiger angle meant that her shot went just wide of the far post.
James had a chance of her own to score Chelsea’s second but her left-footed attempt was wide of Earps’ goal.
United grew into the game in the 2nd half, as they took more control of possession and pinned Chelsea back. Russo and Galton had shots blocked, suggesting how closer United were getting to potentially making a breakthrough.
Minutes later, an effective Chelsea press nearly led to a goal as Zelem was caught in possession. Kerr was put through and she used her pace to beat one United defender but her shot was blocked by an on-rushing Le Tissier.
Kerr had another chance to seal 3 points for Chelsea after a cross from the right was missed completely by Turner and it fell to the Australian. Her first touch wasn’t great and Earps gobbled it up, even though Kerr seemed in for a split second.
Chelsea managed to keep United at bay for the rest of the game and the Reds struggled to create anything of note just in the 2nd half, but in the whole game.
It was United’s first loss in the league since 7th November, when they had lost to Chelsea themselves. Whether the defeat on Sunday goes onto define the season or not is yet to be seen but the performance was barely convincing.