Could this be the most significant result of the 2022/23 season? The pretenders being pegged back by the rulers? Chelsea pipped Manchester United 1-0 at a sunny Kingsmeadow and, despite Reds manager Marc Skinner’s howls of outrage at the refereeing, the reigning league champions were worthy winners in what is proving a tight contest. They
Could this be the most significant result of the 2022/23 season? The pretenders being pegged back by the rulers?
Chelsea pipped Manchester United 1-0 at a sunny Kingsmeadow and, despite Reds manager Marc Skinner’s howls of outrage at the refereeing, the reigning league champions were worthy winners in what is proving a tight contest.
They contained, controlled and shepherded the game to its conclusion, and now sit top of the table again.
Manager Emma Hayes, severely under the weather with a bug that is going the rounds at Chelsea’s Cobham training ground, urged her girls on from the touchlines, and was delighted with the overall performance.
Pointing out that her side had played three intense games in the space of week, she said: “I thought we were the better team; the decisions we took today, tactically, were the right ones.”
She had special praise for Jessie Fleming, player of the match, who rose to the occasion playing as a No10 tucked behind Sam Kerr, dazzled with her focus and industry, and was instrumental in breaking down United attacks and setting up Chelsea’s forward forays.
But the moment of this lunchtime Sunday fixture came in the 23rd minute when former United favourite Lauren James conjured up one of the assists of the season; a devilish, looping ball, hoofed from the halfway line on the right. It landed perfectly for Kerr to chest down then chip over the stranded Mary Earps in the Manchester goal.
In front of 3,277 noisy fans, including a huge contingent from Manchester who had to make a very early start, Chelsea continued to dominate, and denied United any serious scoring opportunities.
Ann-Katrin Berger, preferred between the sticks this time, had no saves whatsoever to make. She caught a couple of long balls which were sent her way, but was not called on for any heroics.
Earps, by contrast, saw half a dozen close chances flash by the posts, and watched helplessly as a long-range Fleming effort struck the apex and bounced harmlessly away.
Skinner professed fury that ref Cheryl Foster had denied his team two penalties towards half-time, although he also conceded that “Sam is very good about invading the back line” of United.
In one of the incidents, Nikita Parris was felled by Kadeisha Buchanan, but the ref was well placed and saw no reason to point to the spot.
“We have to invest in the officials, and the technology,” said Skinner, adding that his girls were fuming at the injustice in the changing room. He admitted, however, that his side needed to be more ruthless in the box. Although star striker Alessia Russo found herself in good positions on the edge of Chelsea’s area, the defence – notably a solid and determined Millie Bright – shut her out.
After this hectic three-game spell, Chelsea have a week to recover from the bug that’s going the rounds before facing Reading away in the FA Cup.
Guro Reiten was so ill she had to remain at home, while Erin Cuthbert (tight hamstring) watched from the stand with Pernille Harder and Fran Kirby, both long-term injured. Tellingly, Chelsea only named six subs to United’s nine.