WSL Matchday 10 round-up: Blues maintain lead after Manchester derby draw
Chelsea strengthened their position at the top of the Women’s Super League after holding on for a 3-2 victory against struggling Reading.
Fran Kirby's opener and Jelena Cankovic's first-half brace saw Emma Hayes’ side race into a commanding 3-0 lead at the interval.
Yet the Royals, who are now winless in 11 away trips, dragged themselves back into the contest with two quickfire strikes from Sanne Troelsgaard and Amalie Eikeland on the hour mark.
It set up a nervy finish at a snowy Kingsmeadow but the league leaders were able to hold on for a precious three points, with Hayes admitting her side let their standards slip at half-time.
However, she was unwilling to single out goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger, who saw Troelsgaard’s goal squirm under her body despite the strike lacking power.
The Blues boss, 46, said: "I'm not going to target individuals. As a team, I felt we were complacent and Ann has been a top goalkeeper for a long time.
"While she will have wanted to do better, we did not do well enough as a team in the second half."
Nevertheless, victory made it nine straight league wins for the West Londoners since a shock opening-day defeat to Liverpool and ensured they will stay top heading into the division’s winter break.
A mammoth crowd of 44,259 witnessed a pulsating 1-1 draw between local rivals Manchester City and Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium.
The attendance represented the second-largest in WSL history and those present were treated to an entertaining, end-to-end encounter.
Leah Galton gave the Red Devils a first-half lead against the run of play with a beautiful goal, driving through the Citizens’ midfield before slotting home a one-two with Ella Toone expertly.
It was a strike that flattened an expectant home crowd but their side were back on terms after the break when Laura Coombs headed home Chloe Kelly’s cross to secure a point.
Though both teams pressed for a late winner, a draw was a fair result — but it does little for either side in terms of keeping pace with the title challengers.
City boss Gareth Taylor praised those who came out to support his side, saying: "The first half was a bit new to us but we tried to acclimatise as best we could. We couldn't train here yesterday due to the weather conditions.
"It was brilliant to see all the supporters. I think it was a real step forward and both teams gave a really good account for themselves."
Meanwhile, United manager Marc Skinner said that disappointment with a draw showed how far his squad have come in a short space of time.
Skinner explained: "We're not happy with the fact we've only taken a point. We're disappointed with the goal we conceded. We'd defended well up until that point.
"We wanted to win that game. This Manchester United is a different beast. We believe fully in what we're doing."
United sit third on 22 points while City are three points and a place behind them — though the Manchester duo have played one game fewer than leaders Chelsea.
Gunners romp past Villa
Arsenal earned a convincing 4-1 win at Aston Villa to leave them three points behind Chelsea with a game in hand.
Vivianne Miedema’s fourth goal in as many games was the highlight for the Gunners, along with an own goal and strikes from Katie McCabe and Jordan Nobbs that helped seal a comfortable triumph.
The hosts had taken a surprise early lead through Kirsty Hanson’s drive but were unable to hold on once Jonas Eidevall’s outfit clicked into gear at Villa Park.
Given Arsenal and Chelsea’s goal difference tallies are very close, margins of victory are becoming all the more important in a title tussle that looks set to go down to the wire once again.
Eidevall was pleased to see his side in prolific form, saying: "We have had three games in a row where we have only, by our high standards, scored one goal in each game.
"That's why I think it was important from a self-confidence perspective to put a few more of the opportunities away.
"All in all, I think we're in a great position in the league and now we need to focus on the Champions League."
Clashes with Lyon and Zurich are to come before Christmas, while their first post-festive season fixture is a tasty top-of-the-table match with the Blues on January 15.
WSL Matchday 10 results
Manchester City 1-1 Manchester United
Tottenham 0-2 West Ham
Brighton P-P Everton (frozen pitch)
Liverpool P-P Leicester (frozen pitch)
Aston Villa 1-4 Arsenal
Chelsea 3-2 Reading