In a first half that was without many clear-cut chances, the match carried the feeling of one that would be decided on a mistake more than a moment of brilliance.
Passing the ball around in their own defensive third, the hosts took one too many touches to invite pressure from the WSL champions. A half chance for Beth England or Fran Kirby snuffed out by the Birmingham defence or just Chelsea’s inability to make their chances count the most common occurrence.
A serious injury to Marisa Ewers early in the match, the main point of interest that saw the hosts regroup well when they returned to a full compliment after a belated substitution.
Coming out after the break with a little more fire, the visitors pressed the hosts a little higher, getting more bodies into the mix faster. Yet, again Chelsea failed to take their chances, some fantastic blocks and tackles from the home defence enough to keep the deadlock.
Gifted a chance to take the lead late in the match when Kerys Harrop slid in on Ji So-Yun to take the ball then the player. Amy Fern had no hesitation in pointing to the spot, successful from 12-yards in the midweek, Karen Carney opted to go to her right, Ann-Katrin Berger’s dive perfect to deny the captain.
Even reduced to ten men after a second yellow to Hayley Ladd with five minutes left, the hosts stood resolute to claim a point.
A little more oomph
Confident in possession but maybe undeservedly so at points, the hosts created their own problems. Needing to be perfect with their passes, with or without the pressure from their opposition, the Blues were guilty of taking too many touches. Riding their luck at points, there was little the hosts could really offer in attack, their passing ponderous at times. However, in defence, it was where Birmingham were excelling, the challenges from Harrop, Aoife Mannion and Meaghan Sargeant perfectly timed to deny the talented Chelsea attack.
For Chelsea, it was more of the same, the chances, the attackers, the sheer lack of goals. Whether home or away, against Birmingham, Arsenal, Everton, Bristol City or Manchester City, the goals have just refused to come for the champions. With a team full of goalscorers, from the recognised attackers to those who chip in from further back, it could be time for the champions to look outside the box for inspiration.
Birmingham’s strength, and the best players on the pitch, could be found in the triangle at the back of the home defence. Mannion and Sargeant firm in front of the stubborn Berger. The challenges from the centre backs were meaty and determined, the ride or die feel to some of the tackles in the box enough to leave some of the home fans with their hearts in their mouths but the timing remained perfect throughout. For the shots that did get through, there was Berger, diving and flying through the air to keep those in yellow at bay.