Report: Chelsea 3 United Women 1

Sunday 21 January 2024 14:45

Manchester United were beaten 3-1 in our Women’s Super League showdown with Chelsea on Sunday afternoon.

Lauren James opened the scoring for the hosts just five minutes into proceedings, before firing home a second less than 20 minutes later. 

After a tough half, United pulled one back just before the interval through Hayley Ladd following some impressive work from Geyse down the right to set up the chance. 

A breathless end-to-end second half would see plenty of chances fall for either side, with James securing a hat-trick late on to claim all three points for the hosts at Stamford Bridge. 
Hayley Ladd got a goal back for United just before the interval.
In a high-stakes encounter, with considerable ramifications at the top of the WSL table, a fast start was inevitable at Stamford Bridge with a goal five minutes in for the hosts. James was on target to fire Emma Hayes’s side ahead, following intricate play inside the area to set the former Reds forward up to break the deadlock. 

Chelsea continued their surge forward, pressing high and looking for an immediate second as James burst through the middle and dragged a shot just wide of the mark. After a turbulent start, the Reds got our first sight on goal just moments later, with Katie Zelem’s effort blazing over Hannah Hampton’s crossbar. 

Despite a glimpse of getting a foothold on proceedings, Chelsea doubled their advantage just after the 20-minute mark through James once more. Direct football from the back saw Nathalie Bjorn ping a diagonal ball over the top of our defence, into the hosts' no.10, whose thunderous strike evaded Mary Earps between the sticks. 
Niamh Charles came inches away from making it three, with her effort ricocheting off the side netting, prompting a wake-up call for the Reds who were able to carve a way back into the action after a tricky opening 30 minutes. 

Hampton was called into action twice in quick succession, the first seeing her palm away Geyse’s fizzing effort across the face of goal, before comfortably gathering Lucia Garcia’s strike from the edge of the area. 

Our persistence towards the interval soon paid off, however, as we pulled one back through Ladd. The key move began with Geyse down the right, who showed excellent control before a deft touch to knock it past Charles, setting up Garcia. While the Spaniard's effort was blocked, our Welsh midfielder was the quickest to react in the area to fire home and cut down the deficit going into half-time. 
Jayde Riviere in action for the Reds.
Our start the second half was the opposite to the first, with the Reds enjoying some control on the contest from the off. A well-timed pass in behind the Blues defence handed Ella Toone with a clear sight of goal, but the ball was taken off her feet at the last moment by Ashley Lawrence to deny her getting the shot off. Seconds after, Garcia saw her headed effort at the back post bounce wide of the posts. 

In the approach to the hour mark, the Reds had yet another huge chance to find the equaliser but for Hampton stepping up for the hosts. Played through on goal, Garcia held the ball up well before pulling it back into the danger area. An initial mix-up between Ladd and Toone, it eventually fell to the former, who looked to double her tally but for Hampton pulling out a big stop at point-blank range. 

Chelsea eventually grew back into the game after United’s sustained spell of pressure, with James going in search of third, forcing Earps into a crucial save at her near post. Minutes after, Bjorn almost added another goal involvement to her name with a header at the back post hitting the woodwork. 
Geyse played a crucial role in our sole goal of the afternoon.
With the full-time whistle in sight, Hayes’s players continued to push for a goal that would all but clinch the points, leading to James adding her third of the afternoon. With the ball slipped into her path behind United’s backline, their no.10 dragged her shot past the body of Earps into the bottom corner to very much seal the win, in the 85th minute.

Skinner’s side worked until the very end, but it was not our day in the capital. Attention will now turn to midweek, as we look to progress to the quarter-finals of the Conti Cup with a result over rivals Manchester City on Wednesday.
Leah Galton in action for United.

Chelsea: Hampton; Charles, Bjorn, Buchanan (Carter 77), Lawrence; Leupolz, Cuthbert, James (Kirby 89); Kaneryd, Fishel (Nusken 54), Reiten. 

Unused substitutes: Musovic, Ingle, Perisset, Mjelde, Cankovic, Beever-Jones. 

Goals: James 5, 23, 85.

United: Earps; Riviere, Le Tissier, Turner, Blundell (Evans 90+5); Zelem, Ladd (Naalsund 69), Toone (Williams 81); Garcia (Parris 69), Geyse, Galton. 

Unused substitutes: Tullis-Joyce, Guerrero. 

Goal: Ladd 43.

Bookings: Ladd 50, Parris 76.