A Ji So-Yun double denied Manchester City the chance to go four points clear at the top of the FA Women’s Super League.
The South Korean midfielder scored twice after the break – her second a deflected 89th minute free-kick to keep Chelsea’s title hopes alive after first-half strikes from Tessa Wullaert and Georgia Stanway had put City ahead.
Inside the first five minutes, the reigning champions spurned a golden opportunity when Beth England couldn’t turn home Demi Stokes’ loose pass.
And City made them pay when slapdash defending from Emma Hayes’ side allowed Wullaert to dispossess Millie Bright and the Belgian drove to the edge of the area before hamming past Hedvig Lindahl in goal.
The table-toppers were rewarded again when Stanway found space on the edge of the area and angled the ball in off the post to score her 11th goal of the season.
Chelsea’s willingness to play out the back presented chances for the hosts and Nikita Parris, on her 100th FA WSL appearance, narrowly missed out on a third goal against Chelsea in five days.
After the restart, Wullaert was denied by a fine diving save from Lindahl and Chelsea immediately broke back as Ji found space in the area before sweeping the ball under Karen Bardsley to score.
The FA WSL’s record goalscorer Parris twice broke free one-on-one but the striker remarkably fired wide on both occasions in the space of ten minutes – and it proved costly as Ji’s 89th-minute free-kick took a deflection and looped over Bardsley for the equaliser.
Moment of the match
By hook or by crook, Chelsea got an equaliser – and Ji won’t care a jot that her second goal of the afternoon needed a little help to find the net.
Her strike clipped the wall and then looped devilishly past a despairing Bardsley in what could prove a key moment in the title race.
What they said:
Manchester City head coach Nick Cushing said: “We spoke at half-time and we knew they would make changes and bring Fran Kirby and [Ramona] Bachmann on.
“We were them last season when we brought Georgia Stanway on and we went and drew 2-2.
“We should have won the game. We were put under pressure but we had two great chances on the counter that we should have scored.
“We’re disappointed but as the coach, I get it. There are reasons why it happens and we just need to make sure we learn from it and move forward.
“We have just got to make sure it doesn’t affect us in the short-term.”
Chelsea manager Emma Hayes said: “I’m gutted because we started the game so well for 15 minutes and we made a mistake – just like midweek – and emotionally, it was a carbon copy. You could see that it affected the team.
“I said at half-time [that] it’s not difficult. Be aggressive, do what you’re good at, and you have to show them what champions are like in the second half.
“I can’t remember the last time we had to dig our way back 2-0 down. It was gutsy.
“I thought it was a game of mistakes for both teams and opportunities. The 2-2 score line is reflective, in my opinion.”
Manchester City switch their focus to the SSE Women’s FA Cup fifth round on Sunday, February 17, with a trip to Championship promotion-chasers Tottenham Hotspur in the offing.
Cushing said: “It will be a difficult game. We have watched them already and we’ve watched Man United and Charlton.
“The teams at the top of the Championship are good enough to be in our league and that’s why they are fighting so closely.
“We won’t underestimate them and we will continue to fight hard to make sure that we are in the hat for the next round.”
Meanwhile, Chelsea’s next assignment is another heavyweight clash as they go to Arsenal in a re-run of last year’s final.
“Arsenal are worthy of the position that they are in now. I don’t think we should be surprised about it,” said Hayes.
“I think we should expect the league position, much the same as my own team.
“You have got to compete and know that if we are not still picking up the league, that you are winning other trophies.
“We are still in the FA Cup and the Champions League and I think the team can take the second-half performance into Arsenal.
“We are at home and we will put absolutely everything into it.”
Manchester City 2
Tessa Wullaert 11, Georgia Stanway 25
Ji So-Yun 50, 89
Manchester City (4-3-3): Karen Bardsley, Demi Stokes, Jen Beattie, Steph Houghton, Gemma Bonner, Keira Walsh, Jill Scott, Caroline Weir, Tessa Wullaert, Georgia Stanway, Nikita Parris
Substitutes: Lauren Hemp for Wullaert 79, Janine Beckie for Parris 90+2
Substitutes not used: Ellie Roebuck, Esme Morgan, Megan Campbell, Claire Emslie, Lauren Hemp, Pauline Bremer
Chelsea (4-3-3): Hedvig Lindahl, Hannah Blundell, Millie Bright, Magdalena Eriksson, Jonna Andersson, Drew Spence, Sophie Ingle, Karen Carney, Ji So-Yung, Erin Cuthbert, Beth England
Substitutes: Fran Kirby for Carney 63, Ramona Bachmann for Ingle 76
Substitutes not used: Ann-Katrin Berger, Anita Asante, Jessica Carter, Ali Riley
Bookings: Bright 5, Spence 17
Referee: Matthew Dicicco
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