Manchester City Women vs Chelsea Women. Women's Super League.
City Football Academy.
Match report from a pulsating Women's Super League encounter where Man City had Alex Greenwood and Lauren Hemp sent off but almost pulled off an unlikely victory; Guro Reiten broke City's incredible resistance in injury-time
Sunday 8 October 2023 22:34, UK
Manchester City put in a remarkable shift to almost beat WSL champions Chelsea with nine players but Guro Reiten's injury-time equaliser grabbed a 1-1 draw.
Chloe Kelly's deflected strike put City ahead at the Joie Stadium on Sunday but the hosts' task became tougher when Alex Greenwood was controversially dismissed for picking up a second yellow card for timewasting just before half-time.
City's rearguard stood firm but they suffered another blow when Lauren Hemp was also given her marching orders for a second booking - one of 12 yellow cards shown by referee Emily Heasilp.
Chelsea did finally create some sustained pressure in injury-time and with City down to eight players - as Alanna Kennedy was off the pitch injured - Reiten scrambled home a late equaliser.
On Greenwood's second yellow for time-wasting, City boss Gareth Taylor said: "I heard it was 20 seconds between winning the free-kick and taking it. For those that have played the game, you stand all the ball looking at your options, to the side, forward, backwards, you move around the ball. It seemed a weird time for us to be timewasting before half-time.
"It ruined the game for everyone. I spoke to Emma [Hayes] and we just looked at each other. If [red cards] are to be given if players have offended then fair enough but it spoils things. All of a sudden before half time everything changes.
"We've had three red cards in two games, it's going to send a message to people that haven't watched us that we're a dirty team but anyone who has watched us will never say that. We are a young team that maintain possession and are exciting to watch. We would like to keep 11 players on the pitch. If there is consistency then a lot of games will see a lot of that where this lots of yellow and red cards."
City drew first blood inside seven minutes when Kelly's thumping strike from range took a deflection off Erin Cuthbert and flew into the net.
With City in complete control, the game burst into controversy when Greenwood was given a second yellow card.
She had been booked for a foul earlier in the first half and after taking 26 seconds to take a free-kick deep inside her own half, the referee decided a second caution was the worthy punishment.
The home supporters roundly booed the call and City's players lost their cool, which led to three yellow cards being shown for dissent to Kelly, Laia Aleixandri and Jill Roord.
Despite holding a player advantage, Chelsea lacked any sort of spark and rhythm in the final third as the second half wore on. Hemp, who had already been cautioned for dissent, then hauled back Lauren James and was given an early bath, leaving Man City down to nine players.
James then crashed an effort against the crossbar as finally Chelsea started to lay siege to the Man City goal. A scramble ensued in stoppage time from a direct ball into the box. It led to Reiten being able to poke a finish through the legs of Yui Hasegawa to leave City's players floored.
Manchester City boss Gareth Taylor told BBC Sport:
"For the endeavour, effort and togetherness we showed, I thought we were magnificent.
"I thought we were on the front foot in the first 15 minutes, I had a feeling that Chloe Kelly was going to score today. We overran them in the first few minutes.
"The red card for Alex changes everything. It's frustrating, particularly when we've gone from here to here in terms of dishing out yellow cards. It's a difficult one to take, the girls were magnificent in terms of defending our box. I thought we dealt with everything.
"Unfortunately, at the vital moment, we have Alanna Kennedy off the pitch. But I'm so proud of the players. We played tremendously last week, and this was a different type of game. I was talking with Emma [Hayes] at the end and neither of us enjoyed that, it was a spoiler. We want to see consistency [in decision making]."
Chelsea boss Emma Hayes:
"It's the most difficult place to come. They did everything we knew they'd do but we didn't execute the plan.
"We grew into the game and then the sending off alters the coaching as it becomes 11 vs 10. My job is to create the structures and the players need to make the decisions. Our execution wasn't our best. Then it was 11 vs nine and out execution still wasn't at the level. I was grateful for the equaliser after more laboured attacking play. It's a reminder for just because you have the numerical advantage it doesn't mean you're going to win the game. A point away from home is a point gained and a miss opportunity.
"The officials made themselves very clear in that any timewasting and any backchat will be bookable offences. That was made clear to us and they would implement like they did in the Premier League. I was very proud of our players who were on yellow cards for the discipline you have to have in these games. Once you're on a yellow, you're vulnerable. Any mistime challenge or lack of discipline can cost you.
"Does it spoil the game? Of course, it does. But it's easy to attack the officials. They were clear in what they expected from us and they've applied it both games we've played from our perspective."
Manchester City are in League Cup action on Wednesday against Everton before taking on Bristol City back in the WSL on Sunday, 1pm kick-off.
Chelsea face West Ham next Saturday, live on Sky Sports, 5.30pm kick-off.