Kirby begins Chelsea’s Women’s World Championship defense with Manchester City win | Women’s Super League

Chelsea began their title defense with a comfortable but not entirely convincing 2-0 defeat to Manchester City to intensify the pressure on City boss, Gareth Taylor.

There’s rare to be much riding in the second game of the season, but with both Chelsea and City suffering shock defeats in the first weekend, against Liverpool and newly promoted Aston Villa respectively, suddenly that result is all the more significant.

Matches between the top three of Arsenal, Chelsea and City played an important role in determining the outcome of the league. In a league with 12 teams and 22 matches, every point counts as decisive. Last season, Arsenal lost the title by one point, having lost one game all season. Despite this, there are no predictable results in the Women’s Super League.

At the all-sold Kingsmeadow Stadium, the champions of the past three years are starting to shine brighter, but they’ve been far from the cheery side in recent years. This was an open confrontation, with neither team being able to maintain possession the way they liked.

The hosts should have advanced within a minute, but Kirby’s comeback to demote Sam Kerr was a bit behind the Australian striker who put her wide effort in as a result.

After 12 minutes of play, they united again, as Kerr jumped on City captain Steve Hutton’s pass before throwing at Kirby when he crossed one-on-one. It was her pass behind her teammate and Kirby could only get the weakest shots away, which was blocked.

On her second straight start for Chelsea, after joining from Manchester United in July 2021, Lauren James was an electrician as part of the home team’s front three, having played as a full-back against Liverpool.

But the lack of top-of-the-line, with Kerr and Kirby particularly extravagant, allowed City to keep the threat, with striker Bane Shaw dangerous.

The Chelsea goal, when it finally came but inevitably, was beautiful. Jesse Fleming raced in Houghton, hitting her and giving Guru Ritten the ball. The Norwegian cut the goal and Kirby shot inside.

It was a single bruise for former England captain Houghton, who bested him under the watchful eye of Lion coach, Sarina Wegman.

City haven’t looked as defensively as they did in their 4-3 defeat to Aston Villa, but there was a lack of consistency in their play. If there is a plan for how to get back into the game after they conceded late in the first half, it will be hard to see.

Instead, it was Chelsea who continued to appear more dangerous, with City giving them more and more of the ball in the middle, and James increasingly underlining her physical and technical presence, leaving fans drooling as she ran towards the edge of the penalty area before being forced. Low bodice by Elle Roebuck.

Chelsea’s second result was less beautiful. Sophie Engel kicked the rebound into the goal after an attempt by Erin Cuthbert, but it deflected from Leila Wahaby’s raised arm and referee Abigail Bayern pointed to the penalty kick and Marin Mjildy managed to convert it.

For City, the pressure is on. Wholesale changes in the team cannot be an excuse for a long time. The lack of answers after the assignment would be a concern. The team that was knocked out of the title race before it started last season is now off its pace in the new season, and for a club with high expectations, a challenge that doesn’t exist won’t be good enough.

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