Sunderland Ladies defender Rachel Pitman took plenty of positives out of Saturday night’s 2-1 defeat at Chelsea, who are one win away from landing the WSL title.
The Wearsiders suffered a fifth straight loss to fall to second-bottom spot, with just two games to play, 11 points clear of bottom club Yeovil.
Lucy Staniforth’s opportunistic 40-yard effort almost caught out Blues keeper Carly Telford early on.
Shortly after, Eni Aluko raced clear on the left and played in Erin Cuthbert, but her shot was deflected wide.
Chelsea broke the deadlock just before half-time, with Gemma Davison bursting down the right before squaring to Kirby.
The striker’s shot looped off Back Cats’ defender Kasia Lipka and into the net for the England Ladies striker’s 25th goal of the season.
Playing her final home game before retirement, captain Katie Chapman almost signed off in perfect style, but Sunderland keeper Rachael Laws tipped her fierce effort onto the post.
Chelsea secured the win 10 minutes into the second half when Aluko flicked home Jonna Andersson’s looping left-wing cross.
Keira Ramshaw’s low shot on 85 minutes proved to be little more than a late consolation for the Black Cats, who are now seven games without a win.
Defender Pitman said: “I think we are obviously disappointed with the result.
“But if we look back on previous games against them, to see how far we have come, we had plenty of chances and I think in previous games against them we have not had chances.
“So, from that aspect, we have to take a lot of positives from our performances.
“We are confident in the ability of the team and we know that we can always create chances. In the first half, particularly in the first 10-15 minutes we were obviously under the cosh.
“But we came in at half-time and we knew we could create more chances in the second half. We thought we could get a goal and put them under pressure. Unfortunately it came a little too late in the end.”
Sunderland have their final home match at Mariners Park on Wednesday when they host Arsenal, while Chelsea will be crowned champions if they win at Bristol City tomorrow.
Chelsea Ladies (3-4-1-2): Carly Telford, Millie Bright, Gilly Flaherty, Maria Thorisdottir, Gemma Davison, Maren Mjelde, Katie Chapman (Deanna Cooper 83), Jonna Andersson (Claire Rafferty 59), Erin Cuthbert, Fran Kirby (Ramona Bachmann 67), Eni Aluko Subs not used: Hedvig Lindahl, Hannah Blundell, Drew Spence
Sunderland (4-3-1-2): Rachael Laws; Rachel Pitman, Victoria Williams, Hayley Sharp, Kylla Sjoman, Kasia Lipka (Dominique Bruinenberg 69), Zaneta Wyne, Abbey Joice, Mollie Lambert, Keira Ramshaw, Lucy Staniforth Subs not used: Anke Preuss, Ellie Stewart, Louise Griffiths, Bridget Galloway, Simona Koren
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