Women’s Super League leaders Chelsea’s 33-game unbeaten run ended as they were shocked by struggling Brighton.
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.”
- 3BlundellSubstituted forMjeldeat 68′minutes
- 17FlemingSubstituted forKirbyat 56′minutes
- 11ReitenSubstituted forJiat 56′minutes
- 9EnglandSubstituted forHarderat 56′minutes
- 6Le Tissier
- 19SimpkinsSubstituted forBanceat 62′minutesBooked at 90mins
- 9LeeSubstituted forJarrettat 78′minutes
- Christiana Hattersley
Match ends, Chelsea Women 1, Brighton and Hove Albion Women 2.
Second Half ends, Chelsea Women 1, Brighton and Hove Albion Women 2.
Libby Bance (Brighton and Hove Albion Women) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Magdalena Eriksson (Chelsea Women) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Libby Bance (Brighton and Hove Albion Women).
Foul by Sam Kerr (Chelsea Women).
Megan Walsh (Brighton and Hove Albion Women) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt blocked. Erin Cuthbert (Chelsea Women) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Ji So-Yun.
Corner, Chelsea Women. Conceded by Danique Kerkdijk.
Foul by Pernille Harder (Chelsea Women).
Megan Connolly (Brighton and Hove Albion Women) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt blocked. Pernille Harder (Chelsea Women) right footed shot from a difficult angle on the right is blocked. Assisted by Maren Mjelde.
Corner, Chelsea Women. Conceded by Victoria Williams.
Attempt blocked. Ji So-Yun (Chelsea Women) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Fran Kirby.
Attempt missed. Sam Kerr (Chelsea Women) header from the centre of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Sophie Ingle with a cross.
Attempt missed. Pernille Harder (Chelsea Women) right footed shot from the centre of the box misses to the right. Assisted by Erin Cuthbert with a headed pass.
Goal! Chelsea Women 1, Brighton and Hove Albion Women 2. Megan Connolly (Brighton and Hove Albion Women) right footed shot from a difficult angle and long range on the left to the high centre of the goal following a corner.
Substitution, Brighton and Hove Albion Women. Rianna Jarrett replaces Lee Geum-Min.
Corner, Brighton and Hove Albion Women. Conceded by Ji So-Yun.
Attempt blocked. Lee Geum-Min (Brighton and Hove Albion Women) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Emma Koivisto.