Emma Hayes picked up her 100th WSL victory on Sunday as her Chelsea side battled to a 2-0 victory over Leicester at Kingsmeadow.
The visitors began very brightly, proving they were not scared with some aggressive play early on, but Hayes’ side soon settled down and began to control possession.
Niamh Charles had a handful of early chances, but some spirited defending kept clear-cut opportunities to a minimum in the opening 45.
Sam Kerr and Pernille Harder were both brought on at the break to try and make the breakthrough, and Chelsea almost got that after just a few minutes as Jess Sigsworth had to stretch to clear off the line following a corner.
The two substitutes both had excellent opportunities. Kerr’s header was somehow saved from point-blank range, before Harder bent an effort from range agonisingly wide of the post.
Chelsea were relentless in their search of a goal, and with 83 minutes on the clock, they finally got one as Harder poked home to give Chelsea the lead with their 21st attempt on goal.
With the game now more open, Fran Kirby made it two with a composed finish to seal a hard-fought victory for the champions.
Here are how both sets of players rated…
Zecira Musovic (GK) – 6/10 – Needed to be alert to the odd Leicester counter but was rarely tested.
Millie Bright (CB) – 7/10 – Some excellent passes from deep and enjoyed some decent chances in the first half. Nearly took a fan’s head off with a rocket of a strike that went just wide.
Aniek Nouwen (CB) – 8/10 – Composed at the back and played a crucial quarterback role with her passing. Looked for Andersson or Fleming every time and usually found them.
Magdalena Eriksson (CB) – 6/10 – Dealt with Leicester’s sporadic attacks well enough. Job done.
Niamh Charles (RM) – 7/10 – Involved a lot early on and had some good half-chances to open the scoring. Really impressed as a wing-back.
Jessie Fleming (CM) – 8/10 – Justified her recent Ballon d’Or nomination with some glorious possession work. Kept the ball well, pulled the strings and even had a good few chances on goal.
Sophie Ingle (CM) – 6/10 – Some decent passes but largely left the leg work to the midfielders around her.
Drew Spence (CM) – 6/10 – Really got around the pitch and involved herself in a lot of good moments, but didn’t always have the finishing touch needed to get through.
Jonna Andersson (LM) – 7/10 – Involved in nearly everything Chelsea did. Bombed up and down the left and put in some teasing balls for England.
Fran Kirby (ST) – 8/10 – Looked really dangerous whenever on the ball and got the goal she deserved late on.
Bethany England (ST) – 6/10 – Found space hard to come by in Leicester’s box and didn’t get on the ball as much as she would have wanted.
Sam Kerr – 6/10 – Got herself involved a lot and was very unlucky not to open the scoring.
Pernille Harder – 7/10 – Unsurprisingly raised the tempo after coming on and had the quality needed to save the day.
Ji So-yun -7/10 – Brought the creativity Chelsea were lacking with some excellent through balls.
Guro Reiten – 7/10 – Flew down the left wing and put in cross after cross after cross in search of the opener.
Erin Cuthbert – 6/10 – Added to the sheer numbers in Leicester’s box.
Kirstie Levell (GK) – 7/10 – Pulled out a stunning save to deny Kerr from point-blank range.
Georgia Brougham (RB) – 6/10 – Had a really tough time dealing with Fleming and Andersson out wide but shifted centrally in the second half and seemed to get in the way of everything.
Abbie McManus (CB) – 7/10 – Clearly worked incredibly hard against Chelsea’s forwards and generally did fantastically well. Threw herself at everything.
Ashleigh Plumptre (CB) – 8/10 – Some brilliant no-nonsense defending. Battled for every ball in the air and put in a crunching challenge on Kirby to deny a certain goal.
Jemma Elizabeth Purfield (LB) – 6/10 – Found it tough to keep up with Charles but worked incredibly hard. A few last-ditch challenges to keep the Blues at bay.
Shannon O’Brien (RM) – 5/10 – Spent more time operating as a right-back but fortunately came through without aggravating her ankle injury.
Sam Tierney (CM) – 5/10 – Couldn’t deal with Chelsea’s midfield trio and didn’t offer enough cover to her defence.
Molly Pike (CM) – 6/10 – Got herself in some nice positions as she tried to lead Leicester’s counters. An excellent ball for a Sigsworth chance early in the second half.
Hannah Cain (LM) – 5/10 – Tried her best to get on the ball but had to spend most of her time trying to deal with Charles and Kirby at the back.
Natasha Flint (ST) – 5/10 – Put herself around a lot and showed a real willingness to cause problems, but rarely gave Chelsea’s defenders anything to worry about.
Jessica Sigsworth (ST) – 6/10 – Relished the battle with Chelsea’s back three and came out on top once or twice. Involved in a lot of good moments for Leicester and saved a certain goal at the other end.
Esmee De Graaf – 6/10 – Injected some extra energy.
Paige Bailey-Gayle – 6/10 – Defended on the front foot and used her freshness to get at Chelsea’s back line.
Sophie Howard – N/A – Came on in stoppage time.