Women’s Super League leaders Chelsea’s 33-game unbeaten run ended as they were shocked by struggling Brighton.

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LONDON, ENGLAND – MAY 05: Fran Kirby of Chelsea holds off pressure from Danielle van de Donk of Arsenal during the SSE Women’s FA Cup Final match between Arsenal Women and Chelsea Ladies at Wembley Stadium on May 5, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Jordan Mansfield/Getty Images)

The Blues led early on through Sam Kerr’s superb header from a corner, but Brighton levelled in copycat style thanks to Aileen Whelan’s header.

A much-changed Chelsea, who left key strikers Pernille Harder and Fran Kirby on the bench, dominated but created little against a well-drilled defence.

And Megan Connolly’s corner eluded everyone to earn the visitors victory.

Connolly’s left-wing set-piece at a snowy and windy Kingsmeadow ensured just a third win in 14 league games this season for Brighton, who move up to eighth in the table.

Chelsea remain top but missed a wonderful opportunity to further extend their lead following Manchester United’s surprise home loss against Reading.

A home victory, a 19th successive win in all competitions, looked likely following Kerr’s goal from Erin Cuthbert’s set-piece – the Australian’s 10th in 13 games this season.

But a side who had lost eight of their 14 league games this term replied through a similarly imposing header from Whelan – just Brighton’s 10th goal this season.

Brighton sat deep but pressed aggressively as soon as the Blues crossed the halfway line – a tactic that disrupted the home side’s fluency.

Beth England had a shot deflected onto the bar, but the hosts lacked tempo and quality and were restricted to a series of wayward long-range strikes.

A frustrated and vocal Blues boss Emma Hayes made a triple change just over 10 minutes into the second half, Jo So-Yun adding much-needed creativity in midfield and Kirby and Harder – with 19 goals between them – injecting greater pace and movement.

But despite strong, persistent pressure chances remained at a premium, and Connolly snatched an improbable win on a rare Brighton attack when stand-in keeper Carly Telford made a mess of a near-post corner with 12 minutes left.

Chelsea manager Emma Hayes:

“Our intensity and our aggression was really poor today. You have to take the game to the opponent and you have to work for spaces and chances and I don’t think we did that well at all.

“We’ve given away two set-piece goals which I don’t think we’ve done in my whole time here. They had three shots on target and scored two goals. That’s extremely poor from us.”

Brighton boss Hope Powell:

“It was a demanding, tough game. We had to be disciplined with hard work and good effort and if you do those things you give yourself a chance of winning the game.

“I’ll take some luck against a side like Chelsea – you take all the luck you can get.”


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