Maren Mjelde’s controversial first-half penalty set reigning Women’s Super League champions Chelsea on their way to victory in a lively tussle with last season’s runners-up Manchester City.
Mjelde slotted home after City’s Ellen White was penalised for handball, although the ball struck Demi Stokes.
But fortunate as their opener was, Chelsea dominated the second half.
Sam Kerr tapped in a second and, after Chloe Kelly’s penalty gave City hope, Kirby’s composed finish made it 3-1.
England striker Kirby, playing wide on the right, was the standout performer in a stylish win that extends Chelsea’s unbeaten WSL run to 25 games and takes them up to third in the table after four games.
A thrilling first league meeting between the two sides this season went the same way as Chelsea’s 2-0 Community Shield success in August.
City, who are fifth in the table following their first loss of the season, will feel hard done by following the spot-kick, which also saw White cautioned.
Kirby shines in wide role
Kirby was at her relentless best, teeing up numerous chances with a combination of direct running, pace and wonderful vision.
The Blues edged a tight first period, with Pernille Harder crowded out by Lucy Bronze when well placed and Kerr blasting a half-volley over the bar, while City’s best chance saw USA midfielder Sam Mewis strike the bottom of the post with a low strike.
Mjelde’s calmly side-footed penalty gave the hosts the chance to defend deeper and utilise their pace on the break and they made the most of it.
Chelsea seized control as Erin Cuthbert came close to doubling the lead with a fierce low strike that went a fraction wide, while Kerr twice wasted wonderful opportunities from Kirby passes from the right.
The impressive Cuthbert was then also guilty of some wayward finishing, blasting the ball over as she raced through on goal.
But the pressure told when Kerr’s radar returned from yet another Kirby pass, this time the Australian netting from close range.
Millie Bright’s handball enabled City to get on the scoresheet inside the final 20 minutes.
Kirby settled the nerves in the closing stages, however, rounding Ellie Robeuck and slotting the ball home.
- 18MjeldeBooked at 88mins
- 4BrightBooked at 33mins
- 10JiSubstituted forIngleat 85′minutes
- 20KerrSubstituted forCharlesat 74′minutes
- 23HarderSubstituted forEnglandat 69′minutes
Man City Women
- 22MewisBooked at 45mins
- 19WeirSubstituted forScottat 81′minutes
- 16ParkSubstituted forStanwayat 60′minutes
- 18WhiteBooked at 36minsSubstituted forLavelleat 60′minutes
Match ends, Chelsea Women 3, Manchester City Women 1.
Second Half ends, Chelsea Women 3, Manchester City Women 1.
Foul by Rose Lavelle (Manchester City Women).
Sophie Ingle (Chelsea Women) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Demi Stokes (Manchester City Women).
Maren Mjelde (Chelsea Women) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt blocked. Keira Walsh (Manchester City Women) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Jill Scott.
Maren Mjelde (Chelsea Women) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Georgia Stanway (Manchester City Women) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Maren Mjelde (Chelsea Women).
Jill Scott (Manchester City Women) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Melanie Leupolz (Chelsea Women).
Attempt saved. Rose Lavelle (Manchester City Women) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the top left corner.
Attempt blocked. Georgia Stanway (Manchester City Women) left footed shot from the left side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Samantha Mewis.
Substitution, Chelsea Women. Sophie Ingle replaces Ji So-Yun.
Attempt blocked. Erin Cuthbert (Chelsea Women) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.
Corner, Chelsea Women. Conceded by Lucy Bronze.
Attempt blocked. Fran Kirby (Chelsea Women) right footed shot from the right side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Ji So-Yun.
Offside, Chelsea Women. Maren Mjelde tries a through ball, but Niamh Charles is caught offside.
Foul by Lucy Bronze (Manchester City Women).