Man City Women started the new WSL campaign with a 0-0 draw away to Chelsea after a frustrating 90 minutes of football. Nick Cushing’s side were exposed to some early pressure from the home team when Ramona Bachmann intercepted Steph Houghton’s ball to Bonner; calling Karen Bardsley into action.
Georgia Stanway applied pressure to the hosts early on and her shot on goal was saved by Hedvig Lindahl, the youngster off balance and falling as she took the shot.
Jen Beattie, who along with Caroline Weir and Claire Emslie qualified for next years WWC with Scotland last week, found herself in referee Rebecca Welch’s book when she went in on Bachmann. Chelsea were consequently awarded a free kick and Millie Bright stepped up, looking for new Chelsea captain Karen Carney and Swede Jonna Andersson.
Returning to Chelsea after a loan spell at Liverpool, Bethany England was determined to get in behind City’s defence, beating Abbie McManus to get a cross in, Keira Walsh clearing before Bachmann headed the ball back towards Bardsley.
U20 star Lauren Hemp made a great run, going up against Andersson and sent a ball across the box looking for Mel Lawley; but Lindahl got to it first.
Stanway seemed to be the corner taker for City with Weir on the bench and both sides had chances to go ahead in the first half through set pieces but the hosts were equal to the Blues crosses and vice versa. Beattie linked up well with Lawley when the forward was played short corner by Stanway, her cross finding the Scot’s head; Lindahl making a comfortable save.
England put City fan’s hearts in their mouths when Karen Carney crossed the ball and the U23 international connected but her header was seen wide. Nikita Parris when the closest for City when she weaved her way through the Chelsea backline; her effort hitting the side netting.
Chelsea again made a break when Bachmann dispossessed Stanway and played a through ball, but fortunately there was no one there to connect and Bardsley could collect.
The battle continued for the rest of the first half with shots from both sides being saved, free kicks sent over and both the hosts and visitors blocking shots and clearing corners, neither side able to break the deadlock before the whistle blew.
Whether the introduction of Nadia Nadim for Hemp or the half time team talk, City seemed to hold possession for a while and create some early pressure with Mel running in behind and pressuring Lindahl; Stanway’s shot just skimming the bar. Steph Houghton had two attempts at going ahead when she headed wide from both Stanway’s free kick and the following corner. However it was Chelsea that nearly went ahead when Bachmann’s back heel from Carney’s corner was cleared and Ji So-Yun’s effort cleared by the City captain.
Emma Hayes introduced Kirby with twenty minutes to go, clearly wanting her star striker to work her magic, despite Kirby having suffered an ankle injury in England’s game in Newport.
Kirby certainly got straight into the action, performing some link up play with Ji whose effort looked to be going high but the ball dipped towards goal for Bardsley to save. City were forced to sit back and defend for a while when Eriksson’s corner came in, Beattie clearing before Ji made a great run forward; Houghton blocking the shot.
Gemma Bonner made some crucial tackles in the last minutes of the game, stopping the hosts earning the three points they wanting and allowing City to come away with a vital point in what is going to be a very competitive season.
Man City now travel to Spain as they face league champions Atletico Madrid in the first leg of the UWCL tie on Thursday, before returning to play Bristol City Women away in the Continental Cup on Sunday. Kick-off is at three at the Stoke Gifford Stadium.
Chelsea FC Women:
Hedvig Lindahl, Millie Bright, Sophie Ingle (Fran Kirby 67’), Jess Carter, Karen Carney ©, Ji So-Yun (Erin Cuthbert 79’), Bethany England (Drew Spence 67’), Magdalena Eriksson, Maren Mjelde, Jonna Andersson and Ramona Bachmann.
Subs (not used): Carly Telford, Maria Thorisdottir, Hannah Blundell and Adelina Engman.
Bookings: Eriksson 52.
Man City Women:
Karen Bardsley, Gemma Bonner, Jen Beattie, Steph Houghton ©, Mel Lawley (Janine Beckie 73’), Jill Scott (Tessa Wullaert 90’), Georgia Stanway, Lauren Hemp (Nadia Nadim 45’), Nikita Parris, Abbie McManus and Keira Walsh.
Subs (not used): Ellie Roebuck, Mie Jans, Caroline Weir and Claire Emslie.
Bookings: Beattie 5, Bonner 66.
MCWFC OSC POTM: Steph Houghton
Referee: Rebecca Welch