Defending champions Chelsea looked rocky on the road against Birmingham, failing to score any goals from open play. Reprieve finally came for Hayes’ side when a second half penalty allowed Pernille Harder to put the visitors in front.
Birmingham City currently face relegation from the Women’s Super League, but fought defiantly against the weary league leaders.
With only one more weekend of WSL action left, Chelsea were under pressure not to drop points, with rivals Arsenal in hot pursuit of the league title.
Ann-Katrin Berger was back in the net after a straight red in the Blues’ first clash with Tottenham Hotspur. Erin Cuthbert and Jonna Andersson dropped to the bench, making way for Jessie Fleming and Niamh Charles. Sensibly, the home side kept the starting XI that secured a huge 3-1 win on the road against Brighton in the previous round.
Back-to-back battles against Spurs seemed to have taken their toll on Chelsea, as the visitors were lacking finesse in their passing and final-third finishing.
Despite loose touches from Birmingham and easy turnover of possession, the lacklustre Chelsea failed to capitalise on errors. At half time, neither side had been able to make headway.
After the break, Hayes made a series of changes, keen to inject some energy back into her team and secure the vital three points. Impact was felt by the additions of Andersson and Cuthbert, who were able to create more chances, but none were completed.Embed from Getty Images
A late lifeline for Chelsea
It was a cruel twist of fate that saw Birmingham’s demise. An unwitting handball in the box by Lisa Robertson was immediately called — a penalty gifted to Chelsea.
Inevitably, Harder’s practice and composure from the spot saw her team take the lead. By sheer luck, the Blues secured their win. With only three shots on target for Chelsea, there were few opportunities of any real promise.
Hayes admitted her disappointment in her side post-match, but credited their resolve and moved her focus to the final round. With just one point separating Chelsea and Arsenal, the Blues need to win their last home game of the season against Manchester United to lift the trophy. It’s sure to be a thrilling final weekend of WSL action.