Chelsea overcome conditions and Brighton to challenge WSL league leaders

Beth England scores the visitors' first on a wet night in Brighton - PA
Beth England scores the visitors' first on a wet night in Brighton - PA

Brighton 0-2 Chelsea

Chelsea overcame a sodden-wet pitch to beat Brighton and claim a fourth straight Women's Super League victory, moving the defending champions level on points with Arsenal and Manchester United at the top of the table.

After torrential rain made the soggy conditions very challenging, especially in the first half, Chelsea eventually found a way through thanks to Bethany England poking in after Niamh Charles' blocked header bounced off the underside of the bar, and substitute Pernille Harder's emphatic finish made the points safe for the visitors.

For Denmark's Harder, the goal was her third in two WSL matches over the past seven days since her return to the side after injury. Her moment of class was of the highest quality in a game that at times struggled to get going early on amidst soaking ground that was slowing down the pace of the ball almost to a standstill in certain patches. The match went ahead following pitch inspections.

The victory was Chelsea's third in a row under the temporary leadership of assistant coach Denise Reddy, who remains in charge while manager Emma Hayes continues her recovery from major surgery. Hayes was once again speaking to Reddy through an earpiece but the final decisions on tactics and substitutions were Reddy's.

Following Thursday's priceless away win against Paris Saint-Germain in Europe, Chelsea faced a quick turnaround and rested several stars including Sam Kerr and Harder from the start, but once they came on late into the second half, Chelsea's superior quality showed.

Chelsea are third in the table, and have played a game more than Arsenal and Manchester United, whom they are behind on goal-difference. Arsenal and Manchester United both have identical records so far, with four wins each, 11 goals each and four clean sheets.

The latest of those Manchester United clean sheets came on Sunday afternoon as Nikita Parris' header gave them a slender 1-0 win at bottom-of-the-table Leicester City. Elsewhere on Sunday, West Ham United survived a late rally from Reading to hold on to win a five-goal thriller 3-2, having led 3-0 inside half an hour.

Match details

Brighton (4-4-1-1): Walsh 6; Green 6, Williams 7, Kullberg 7, Pattinson 7; Robinson 5, Bance 5 (Park 6 79), Olme 5, Sarri 6; Lee 6; Terland 6 (Carter 6 70) Subs not used: Connolly, Stott, Jarvis, Ferguson, Startup (gk) Yellow cards: Olme

Chelsea (3-4-3): Berger 7; Bright 7, Nouwen 7, Carter 6 (Eriksson 6 68); Perisset 6, Cuthbert 7, Fleming 6 (Ingle 7 82), Charles 7 (Reiten 7, 67); Rytting Kaneryd 6, England 7 (Kerr 6, 72), James 6 (Harder 8 73) Subs not used: Musovic (gk), Svitkova, Buchanan, Abdullin

Referee: Abigail Byrne

Attendance: 3,626