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Dublin: 8°C Thursday 13 May 2021

Denise O'Sullivan makes debut as Brighton hold star-studded Manchester City

Chelsea, meanwhile, were 9-0 winners over Bristol City.

File photo of Denise O'Sullivan.
File photo of Denise O'Sullivan.
Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

IRISH INTERNATIONAL DENISE O’Sullivan made her debut as Brighton held star-studded Manchester City to a shock 0-0 draw in the Women’s Super League. 

O’Sullivan replaced compatriot Megan Connolly at half-time, as Brighton earned a point against City, who themselves handed debuts to Lucy Bronze and Alex Greenwood. 

Bronze is back at City for a second time and Greenwood, like Bronze, has moved from Lyon, but there would be no winning start.

City created the majority of the chances in the game, however all were stifled by a well organised Brighton defence and some excellent saves by goalkeeper Megan Walsh.

Brighton, who only gained one point away from home in all of last season, had to battle to the final whistle to keep the star-studded Man City side out but managed to make their point.

Elsewhere, Chelsea manager Emma Hayes said she was “happy to be home” as Chelsea thrashed Bristol City 9-0 with nine different goalscorers in the first home game of their title defence.

There were a number of debut goals for the Blues but it was a familiar face in Fran Kirby who started the onslaught for the hosts in the 15th minute.

Kirby endured a difficult 2019/20 campaign, but Hayes said: “I think Fran is at a level above already. She doesn’t have to carry anyone on her shoulders in this team like she might have done a few years ago.”

It was this strength in depth and team spirit which seemed to please Hayes the most.

Maren Mjelde scored a penalty in the 32nd minute and new signing Melanie Leupolz headed Chelsea’s third after 35 minutes – the first of the debut goals.

Erin Cuthbert and Millie Bright rounded off the first-half goals as Chelsea showed they mean business after their disappointing draw with Manchester United last week.

Reigning PFA Player of the Year Beth England opened the scoring after the break in the 64th minute and Chelsea showed their depth when record signing Pernille Harder came on to replace her just a minute later.

Harder enjoyed a successful home debut with a hand in the last three goals, immediately setting up fellow substitute and summer signing Niamh Charles to tap home.

Charles repaid the favour in the 73rd minute, squaring for Harder to finish a slick Chelsea move and Sam Kerr eventually got her goal in the 86th minute when Harder played her through.

“The fact that there were nine different goalscorers shows the diverse players that we have in our group,” Hayes said. “When it becomes about an individual at any point, you compromise on the biggest prizes.”

Being able to use all five of her substitutes played into Hayes’ hands on a hot Sunday afternoon when Chelsea rarely took their foot off the gas.

When asked about the gulf in class between her team and bottom-of-the-table Bristol City, Hayes conceded the league will take time to grow.

“I’m hoping what happens at the top will trickle down,” she said.

“Might there have to be some teething pains to get to that level? Yes. And is there a gap? Yes. But I want to focus on all the great things that women’s football does in this country and build on that in the hope we take it even further.”

An influx of new signings to the WSL has seen the top of the table looks as competitive as it has ever been, and Hayes added: “Talent wins games but teams win championships. They have the experience of knowing that and it’s my job to point them to that on a regular basis.”

Elsewhere, Manchester United were 5-2 winners away to Birmingham, Reading were 3-1 winners against Aston Villa, and Everton beat Tottenham 1-0. 

Women Super League’s results 

Manchester City 0-0 Brighton 

Chelsea 9-0 Bristol City 

Reading 3-1 Aston Villa 

Birmingham City 2-5 Manchester United 

Everton 1-0 Tottenham Hotspur 

With reporting by Gavin Cooney

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