Georgia Stanway’s ensured that an enthralling encounter between the top two sides in WSL 1 ended in a dramatic draw, Manchester City clawing back a point after dispelling a two-goal deficit against rivals Chelsea.
Goals in the first half from Millie Bright and Ji So-yun had put the visitors in control and it could have been more but second half efforts from Nikita Parris and substitute Stanway saw the points shared at the Academy Stadium.
Chelsea, who went top of the table in midweek, remain just a point ahead as an intriguing title race rumbles on.
Looking to end a spell of almost three years without a goal against City, Chelsea took just six minutes to open their account, defender Bright thrashing high into the net after the ball fell to her feet following a corner.
With Nick Cushing’s side decimated by injuries to several key personnel, Chelsea controlled the first half and went 2-0 up inside 25 minutes when Ji found the bottom corner after good link-up play with wing-back Crystal Dunn.
City boss Cushing introduced Claire Emslie at the break and after just four minutes, Demi Stokes’ wonderful cross from the left wing teeing up Parris to head home at the back post.
With the hosts pushing to avoid back-to-back defeats for the first time since 2015, Chelsea found gaps on the break but were thwarted several times by Ellie Roebuck before Dunn fired over from close range.
City’s came close to grabbing an equaliser came with 10 minutes to go when another Stokes cross found Parris and she controlled the ball and looked certain to score from six yards out, but somehow skewed wide.
But the equaliser came in dramatic fashion with four minutes to go, Stanway smashing an effort into the top corner from the edge of the box from Jill Scott’s lay-off to keep the gap to the leaders down to a single point
WHAT THEY SAID:
Manchester City head coach Nick Cushing said: “It was a typical Man City vs Chelsea game, they’re always like cup finals and always all-out war.
“We weren’t at the races first half and we know that – we’re lacking in a bit of confidence at the moment and there’s many reasons for that.
“It feels like a win. I feel the same way and the same excitement I feel after a win and because of the situation.
“Four points is a big margin to make up, so I’m unbelievably proud of the performance in the second half.”
Chelsea defender Anita Asante said: “We’re obviously disappointed because we felt we played really well, particularly in the first half, and we created a lot of chances to win the game.
“They have a lot of quality and experience in the team, and it’s always tough to come to Man City and get a result.
“We wanted to go at them from the off. We’ve been feeling quite confident after recent matches and we wanted to show that assertiveness from the off.
“I think we managed to follow the game plan really well, especially the first half.”
With an international break looming, City aren’t in action again until they face Arsenal in the final of the Continental Tyres Cup on March 14.
Chelsea, meanwhile, next go to Liverpool in the SSE FA Women’s Cup on March 18.
Cushing added: “We’re finding it really difficult to get the players ready and fresh – all the best to the England team because our nine players are really, really suffering right now with the schedule.
“We said on Friday, as a staff, since the start of 2016 ,we’ve played every game possible apart from the Champions League final.
“It’s taken its toll and we need to review it as a club whether we need a bigger squad.”
Asante said: “There’s many positives to take away and as a squad, we feel like we’re getting stronger and stronger.
“We’re learning a lot and we want to build on this, and hopefully get a little bit wiser in the future.”
Manchester City (4-3-3): Ellie Roebuck, Esme Morgan, Abbie McManus, Jennifer Beattie, Demi Stokes, Keira Walsh, Jill Scott, Izzy Christiansen, Nikita Parris, Nadia Nadim, Julia Spetsmark
Substitutes: Claire Emslie for Spetsmark 46, Georgia Stanway for Christiansen 66, Jane Ross for Nadim 79
Substitutes not used: Karen Bardsley, Mie Jans, Melissa Lawley, Ella Toone
Chelsea (3-4-3): Hedvig Lindahl, Millie Bright, Anita Asante, Magdalena Eriksson, Hannah Blundell, Maren Mjelde, Ji So-yun, Crystal Dunn, Drew Spence, Fran Kirby, Ramona Bachmann
Substitutes: Erin Cuthbert for Spence 56, Maria Thorisdottir for Kirby 83, Eniola Aluko for Bachmann 90
Substitutes not used: Carly Telford, Jonna Andersson, Gemma Davison, Karen Carney
Bookings: Ji 79
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