Chelsea Women 0-1 Manchester City: 3 takeaways, historic run comes to a close

In an encounter between the Women's Super League's best, Manchester City came out the victors on Friday night against Chelsea Women, drawing even with the Blues on points at the top.

Chelsea FC  v Manchester City - Barclays Women´s Super League
Chelsea FC v Manchester City - Barclays Women´s Super League / Chloe Knott - Danehouse/GettyImages

Streaks aren't ever built to stand the test of time. Geno Auriemma's 100-plus winning run at the University of Connecticut wasn't. The truth is---there's always an end. On Friday night under the Kingsmeadow lights, Chelsea Women's 33-home unbeaten record in the Women's Super League came to a screeching halt.

Captained by a brilliant first-half goal set up by Jess Park and finished by Khadija Shaw, Manchester City vaulted itself into serious conversation to hoist the league title in May. Emma Hayes' Chelsea was stymied by Khiara Keating and her wall of a back four as the home side shockingly failed to create a single big chance throughout the 90 minutes in Kingston on Friday.

The 19-year-old English stop-stopper was up to the task, especially in stoppage time, miraculously denying Sjoeke Nusken from point-blank range. Park was sensational playing behind Shaw while Alex Greenwood and Laia Aleixandri proved to the league why their backline should be feared.

With the two teams that possess so much quality, you just cannot afford individual mistakes, especially in your own half. In the first 15 minutes, it cost the west Londoners. Erin Cuthbert, one of the Blues top performers as of late lost the ball to Park in the middle of the pitch, leading to the goal that turned out to be the decider. There is only one outcome when you see the Jamaican star one-on-one with the keeper in the final third.

From there, it was an uphill climb. Hannah Hampton was strong between the posts, but every time the home side created something of promise, the Citizens had an answer. "Super" Fran Kirby had an opportunity in the 34' after some neat combination play, but her attempt was deflected wide by Keating. Cuthbert nearly redeemed herself with a gorgeous curling strike in the second half. None of it was meant to happen.

Hayes made sure in her post-game that none of the blame was to be pointed toward the Wee Scot for the defeat.

“We gave away a goal that is a poor goal on our part. That could easily have been a 0-0 game but it is an error. I am not putting that on Erin because she has been absolutely superb this year and will be beating herself up about that but these things happen," Hayes explained. "Second half we were totally dominant and just didn’t have that cutting edge when it mattered.”

In the eight WSL matches remaining, the Manchester outfit and the west Londoners have to play both Arsenal and Manchester United. Gareth Taylor's crew have both of those fixtures on home soil while Hayes' final English top-flight match will be in Manchester at "The Theatre of Dreams." It is now a true title race. Even on points. Even on goal differential. All to play for with 720 minutes of WSL football for each outfit left. Don't let your mind go into full international break mode just yet. Here are our takeaways from yesterday's far-from-ideal evening.

3 takeaways from the final match prior to the February international window

3. Not enough conviction in the final third to walk away with a result, but no reason to be concerned going forward

Similar to the Crystal Palace match last weekend, credit has to go to the opposition's defense for a lot of the west Londoners' frustrations. The home side had its foot on the gas a lot more in the second half, but its foot just wasn't on the floor. With Sam Kerr in the stands, fans were dreaming of what could have been if No. 20 were in the lineup. It was just the second time all season that the west London outfit had been held scoreless for an entire 90 minutes. City are the only club to have kept Hayes' crew off the score sheet more than once since last March.

Lauren James attempted to conjure up some magic at times through her crafty progressive carrying. The finishing product was lacking. City forced the Blues into not playing as direct as it probably would have liked in the buildup. Nothing was comfortable for the players driving forward in the dark blue on Friday. If you had any questions about why Taylor's team only allowed eight league goals so far, this contest answers them all.

This is the second match against a top WSL side this season that the offensive production was essentially absent. Should you be worried? Frankly, no. These nights occur, even to the best of the best. Mayra Ramirez has adjusted extremely well to to the English game, and as more time passes, her comfort level with increase. Reinforcements are coming in the likes of Catarina Macario too. If she is healthy, the attack will receive a massive shot in the arm.

2. Once again, a controversial decision plays a part in the final score between these two sides

Sure, it wasn't Emily Heaslip, but that did not mean we left Friday night without questions regarding the officiating in this league. Another big game. Yet another costly mistake by the individuals who are not even affiliated with either opposition. It is becoming inevitable at this point. Real Madrid away. Man City earlier this season. Those are just two examples with Chelsea involved, never mind the contests featuring fellow rivals or the questionable decisions that thankfully didn't influence results.

In the 30', it seemed as if Greenwood gifted the west Londoners a lifeline by completely taking out Ramirez in the box. No. 5 in white got all of the Colombian. None of the ball. Still, with no VAR, the protests from the players and fans were never going to come to something. You can be the judge, but the clip below tells the whole story. It is pretty ironic too since Greenwood was given a harsh red last time against Chelsea, and was handed a free pass for a careless tackle in the reverse fixture. The technology is out there, meaning the excuses shouldn't exist.

1. Proper title race is now in session, only fitting in Emma Hayes' last few months

You just knew the west Londoners weren't going to run away with it. In the Blues' run of four straight league triumphs, the top two had never been separated by more than two points at the end of the season. The title has notoriously gone down to the wire. This year, though, we very well could get the most entertaining conclusion yet. The club that's been there done that against the one that has been demanding respect from the start this year. Once Taylor lost some of his most influential pieces in the transfer market in the summer of 2022, the road to contention looked long. Led by some mainstays, impressive youth, and intelligent signings like Yui Hasegawa, City is in the ring battling with the four-time defending English champions heading into March.

Hayes' side will have to balance a European campaign in addition to this league run, something City will not have to do. That's the privilege of competing for Chelsea Women. Matches not only come thick and fast on the domestic side---European fixtures are right in the mix as well.

Greenwood gave her perspective to BBC on the fight for the title during the post-game.

“There’s eight games to go, we need to stay focused and go again. I think we’ve always had what it takes. For us, it’s staying humble. We do what we do and we stay focused. We should enjoy this. Then we go again.”

Chelsea Women return to action on March 3 in the Women's Super League on the road against Leicester City at the King Power Stadium.