Chelsea swiftly regained top spot in the Women’s Super League as Maren Mjelde’s penalty saw off a resolute Manchester United side in front of a record WSL crowd.
Having been deposed from the summit by Manchester City’s 5-0 win over West Ham in the early kick-off, Mjelde’s second-half spot-kick ensured that demotion was a brief one.
United vehemently protested against the penalty, convinced Millie Turner had got a touch on the ball when she challenged Fran Kirby, but referee Jack Packman pointed to the spot.
Norway defender Mjelde tucked home to give Chelsea a victory watched by 4,790 spectators at Kingsmeadow – a record attendance for a WSL game held at a non-Premier League stadium.
Chelsea were far from their best and only the woodwork denied United a late equaliser as Blues keeper Ann-Katrin Berger superbly tipped Ella Toone’s volley onto the underside of the bar and out.
After a cagey first half devoid of clear-cut chances, Blues ultimately emerged triumphant by converting a purple patch of supremacy around the hour mark.
Scotland international Erin Cuthbert should have fired them ahead as she raced on to a ball over the top of the United defence but steered wide with only keeper Mary Earps to beat.
However, the introduction of England striker Kirby from the bench paid instant dividends as, within a minute, she drew the foul from Turner, who appeared to get a touch on both ball and player.
Earps got a hand to Mjelde’s penalty but could not keep it out as Chelsea, who this week added Australia striker Sam Kerr to their attacking options come January, made it five wins from six WSL games.
United, promoted as Championship winners last season, were left to once again rue fine margins, having lost 1-0 to the division’s leading three sides – Manchester City, Arsenal and, now, Chelsea.
They were unfortunate not to earn a point when Toone’s volley from Jess Sigsworth’s cross was diverted on to the bar by Berger, with the rebound hitting the keeper on the back but somehow staying out.