WSL: Chelsea claim cagey win over stalwart Leicester

Fran Kirby of Chelsea celebrates after scoring Chelsea's second goal during the Barclays FA Women's Super League match between Chelsea Women and Leicester City Women (Photo by Tom Dulat/Getty Images)

Chelsea’s win over Leicester allowed them to maintain their spot in the table on Sunday, but it was no walk in the park.

Leicester City put in a great defensive shift against Chelsea, leaving the game goalless until the 83rd minute. The Blues will be relieved to take the points; the reigning champions had to work hard for their 2-0 victory. Leicester remain bottom of the table with no points, but nonetheless played defiantly at Kingsmeadow.

The match began with gestures of solidarity to show support for NWSL players. The league has come under fire amid institutional sexual misconduct claims. These claims have resulted in the dismissal of North Carolina Courage coach Paul Riley, as well as the resignation of league commissioner Lisa Baird.

The home side saw several changes to the starting line-up after a heavy clash mid-week with Wolfsburg in the Champion’s League. Dutch defender Aniek Nouwen made her first WSL start for the Blues. Chelsea’s defense was rock-solid, not allowing a single shot on target.

Despite the complimentary statistics, Chelsea failed to make headway with any of their own chances. There were several near misses for the Blues. Leicester shot stopper Kirstie Levell came between a slew of almost-goals to keep the Foxes afloat. Jessie Fleming worked tirelessly to create chances, maintaining energy despite the building frustration.

Embed from Getty Images

Second half subs the difference

Though Leicester were unable to make any shots on target, it looked as though they might hold the home side to a draw. Emma Hayes brought on Pernille Harder and Sam Kerr at half-time, seeking to break the deadlock quickly. Unyielding, Levell cleared Kerr’s close-range header impressively off the line.

It was impact substitution that finally wore down Leicester’s defensive spirit. Fleming crossed a low ball for Harder to slice through the crowded box late in the 2nd half. In injury time, Kerr headed the ball into the path of Fran Kirby. Left with little between her and the back of the net, the forward slotted home.

Embed from Getty Images

Manager Hayes remarked on the sluggish start to the game, but praised Fleming’s “willingness to do the dirty work” and the team’s resilience to get the win late in the day. The victory marked Hayes’ 100th in the WSL.

The Chelsea win over Leicester allowed them to remain 2nd in the table behind Arsenal. The Blues will not rest on their laurels as they head overseas for their next UWCL group stage game against Juventus on Wednesday.

MORE from Her Football Hub: