Barclays FA Women’s Super League champions Chelsea have been held to a 1-1 draw by Manchester United in their opening fixture of the season at The Leigh Sports Village in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League.
Emma Hayes’ side were looking to kick-off their title defence in the best possible way against a Manchester United side who were heavily depleted due to injuries but it didn’t go to plan for The Blues with Leah Galton netting a late leveller.
The first effort of the match fell the way of the home side. Jane Ross showed some neat footwork on the edge of the area and was able to create some space for herself to fire in a shot from 20 yards. The ball got stuck under her feet and drifted wide although it will have initially had Carly Telford worried.
Chelsea’s first meaningful chance came from Sam Kerr as she drove into the United area but Abbie McManus was able to deflect the ball wide of the near post. From the subsequent corner, Guro Reiten drilled a low right-footed shot at goal but it was straight at Mary Earps who gathered comfortably.
The visitors eventually took the lead just before the half-hour mark. Fran Kirby was played in behind on the right and slotted a low cross to Kerr in the middle. The striker was too strong for Kirsty Smith and tapped the ball in from close range to make it 1-0 to the champions.
United came close to equalising as the half drew to a close when Kirsty Hanson cut inside on her left and floated a cross into the area. The delivery was met by Galton whose looping header caused Telford plenty of problems but gratefully saw the ball rebound off the crossbar.
Ella Toone had an effort from the edge of the area straight after the interval which stung the palms of Telford but the England international goalkeeper was able to divert the ball over.
The introduction of Erin Cuthbert seemed to give Chelsea a new lease of life as she had both of her side’s best chances of the second 45 minutes but she was superbly denied on both occasions by Earps.
Chelsea were made to rue those missed opportunities as Manchester United drew themselves level shortly after. Smith played the ball into Toone in the midfield, who then played a superb first time ball to Jackie Groenen. The Dutch international was bearing down on goal with options in the middle and left Galton with a simple tap in to draw The Red Devils level.
That is how it finished up with both sides taking a point away from the fixture and on reflection that was probably the right result. It was not the ideal start to Chelsea’s title defence but they came up against a very good Manchester United side. The hosts on the other hand will be delighted with their first point taken from a ‘top three’ side in the Barclays FA Women’s Super League. They will see this as a statement to the rest of the league that they are now able to compete with the best in England.