It was another disappointing afternoon for Aston Villa women as they fell to a 2-0 defeat against Chelsea at Kingsmeadow on Sunday afternoon.
The victory meant Emma Hayes’ side returned to the top of the Women’s Super League after Manchester City moved above them with a 1-0 win over Reading earlier in the weekend.
But it was a brace from Sam Kerr and a goal in each half that earned them a crucial three points in the title race.
The visitors started well and despite seeing very little of the ball, they were able to restrict Chelsea to only a few half-chances in the opening stages.
The hosts had their first real chance 12 minutes in as Jessie Fleming got a shot away and nearly found the top corner, but Asmita Ale was able to head it clear and relieve the pressure on Villa.
Minutes later, there was concern for Marcus Bignot as Marisa Ewers was down receiving treatment for what looked like a calf problem, but the captain was able to continue.
Villa’s defense eventually cracked and Chelsea took the lead as Sam Kerr broke the deadlock on 24 minutes.
Fran Kirby sent a fantastic ball into the box and the Australian was able to rise above Ale to head it beyond Lisa Weiss.
Bignot made his first change just shy of the 30-minute mark as Ewers was unable to continue after attempting to play on; she was replaced by Elisha N’Dow, who took the captain’s armband.
It was a far tighter game than the return fixture at the Banks’s stadium in January that saw the Blues score four on the night; Villa were able to frustrate the hosts on their own turf and restrict them in large spells.
Villa continued to battle and nearly found an equalizer early in the second half as Chloe Arthur had a go from distance, but her effort was comfortably held by the Chelsea keeper.
But the hosts extended their lead and punished Villa for their mistakes as Kerr netted her second of the afternoon with just over half an hour left to play.
A mix up at the back and a poor clearance from Weiss went straight to Kirby, whose brilliant vision allowed her to pick out the goalscorer in space in the box.
Kerr nearly completed a hat-trick on 60 minutes as her effort rolled just wide of the far post before she was replaced by Melanie Leupolz moments after.
It ended a disappointing afternoon for The Villans as they were unable to pull a goal back in the latter stages and the manner in which Chelsea’s second happened will frustrate a team that has improved their defensive game in recent times.
But the deficit was only half of what it was back in January, against a free-scoring Chelsea competing for their second consecutive league title – so there is no doubt Bignot will be somewhat satisfied with Sunday’s performance, if not the result.
It’s still all to play for, though, and whilst this wasn’t a fixture Villa would’ve expected to pick up points, they must carry this level of performance into Everton next week.
Chelsea will be at home once again next Sunday as they welcome Birmingham City to Kingsmeadow.