There was an even bigger let off for Birmingham from our next attack, as Hampton, struggling with the sun, spilled a speculative strike from Ji. The ball bounced in the six-yard box and it looked the simplest of tasks for England to turn home the rebound, yet somehow defender Harriet Scott got back to keep it out.
Another Blues change was made, with Harder coming on in place of goalscorer Kirby. It was very nearly followed by the unlikeliest of equalisers, as Scott looked to go one better than her defensive exploits with a dangerous cross that was headed inches wide of the far post. At the other end, we still couldn’t put the game to bed; England, for a third time, saw what looked to be a certain goal taken from her, this time after another sublime stop by Hampton.
It mattered not, however, as the referee called time on a game that had provided more thrills than perhaps would have been anticipated when Kirby headed the Blues ahead after only nine minutes. The three points were in the bag and focus can now turn to a huge week on the horizon.
Indeed, they don’t come much bigger than our next two assignments. Arsenal visit Kingsmeadow on Wednesday night for the first game of the Continental League Cup group stage, in a repeat of last season’s final, and then Manchester City are next up in the league as we host the side we pipped to the 2019/20 WSL title by the barest of margins.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1) Berger; Mjelde, Bright, Eriksson (c), Andersson; Ingle (Ji 65), Leupolz; Cuthbert (Charles 65), Kirby (Harder 77), Reiten (Kerr 65); England
Unused subs Telford, Thorisdottir, Blundell, Carter, J Fleming
Scorer Kirby 9
Birmingham City (4-3-3) Hampton; Scott, Brougham, Corsie, Holloway; Whipp, Murray (c), Napier (Kelly 68); Mayling, Walker (Toussaint 89), Scofield (Green 66)
Unused subs Lawley, McCarron, Grant
Referee Abigail Byrne
Crowd Behind closed doors