Manchester City Women had to work hard to break down a stubborn Leicester City to take top spot in the WSL. Lauren Hemp and Chloe Kelly were both on the scoresheet in the second half as the blues edged past the Foxes.
Manager Gareth Taylor opted for the same side that won 2-0 at Tottenham last weekend, resisting the urge to give some of his midweek signings a debut start, but he had to wait until the 82nd minute for City to finally break the deadlock. Kelly added a second three minutes later to send the faithful home happy.
The blues were expected to be straight down Leicester throats, as so often they do against teams visiting the Joie Stadium. However, the visitors seemed intent on throwing everyone behind the ball, soaking up the City pressure and frustrating the blues wherever possible.
It was a tactic that worked well through the first half, with City creating just one decent chance throughout the half. That attempt was smothered by the visiting keeper, who was determined to keep a second consecutive clean sheet in the WSL.
As a result of Leicester’s dogged defending, City were reduced to shots from range and playing the ball around to try and coax their way towards goal. Leicester, though, were organised enough to keep City out and go in level at the break.
The faithful could have been forgiven for thinking it wasn’t going to happen today, particularly after Arsenal lost at West Ham, giving the blues a golden opportunity to put some space between them and the Gunners.
But it didn’t seem like it was happening, especially after Bunny Shaw’s goal in the second half was disallowed for offside. Bunny later hit the crossbar after working some space for herself and the rebound fell kindly to Laura Coombes. It seemed a simple task for the City midfielder, but it felt like with took her an age to bring the ball under control. When she did, the keeper had scrambled across to make the save.
There was no let up from the blues, who continued to push forward, desperate to grab the opening goal and when it finally came, it was an acrobatic effort from Hemp.
Shaw was released inside the penalty area but, with Leicester cramming orange shirts into the box, the Jamaican saw her path to goal blocked. But her perfectly waited cross found Hemp, who looked to attempt a cross between a scissor and scorpion kick. Whatever it was, it beat the keeper and City were a goal to the good.
Two minutes later, Kelly made the game safe. A corner on the City left was floated in by the winger, which eluded everyone and fell into the back of the goal. Relief washed across the stands, the dugout and on the pitch, knowing the blues were heading to the top.
It was a fair scoreline that reflected City’s dominance and just about shielded the numerous misplaced passes and failure to get the ball past the last defender. Thankfully, the visitors offered very little, having one shot all through the match and none on target. It really would have been a travesty had the blues failed to win.
Blues Turn Attention to Cups
City’s next WSL match will be the eagerly awaited clash of the top two as the blues travel to Chelsea. Before that though, City return to Brisbane Road on Wednesday to face Spurs in the League Cup, before travelling to Arsenal next weekend for their FA Cup fifth-round tie.
If the blues can get through the next two weeks unscathed, Gareth Taylor’s side have a real opportunity to claim one, maybe multiple pieces of silverware this season.
Final Score: Manchester City Women 2-0 Leicester City Women