Fresh from her player-of-the-match performance in last week’s Women’s FA Final win, England forward Eniola Aluko scored a brace to return Chelsea to the top of the table ahead of Sunderland, who dropped points against Liverpool on Saturday.
Chelsea winger Gemma Davison spurned the chance to put the hosts ahead within the opening 25 minutes when she fired over from close range.
The visitors, who sit just above Bristol Academy at the bottom of the table, then went close to taking a surprise lead, but Jo Potter’s volley flew narrowly wide of the top left-hand corner.
Chelsea had to wait until ten minutes before the break to get the goal their dominance deserved, as Birmingham ‘keeper Rebecca Spencer got down well to parry Drew Spence’s effort, only for the instinctive Aluko to pounce on the loose ball to grab her first goal of the game.
Minutes before the half-time whistle, Birmingham were offered a way back into the game when Davison was shown a second yellow card for simulation.
But Birmingham couldn’t make their numerical advantage count, as Emma Hayes’ side doubled their lead before the break through an unmarked Gilly Flaherty, who finished calmly in the bottom right corner from Ji So-Yun’s corner.
And any hopes of an upset all but disapperead two minutes after the restart when Aoife Mannion was judged to have handled the ball in the area.
Aluko stepped-up to score her second goal of the game, and fifth of the WSL 1 season.
Substitute Fran Kirby, who signed from Reading for a British record transfer fee last month, then sealed an impressive Chelsea debut by skilfully lifting the ball over Spencer to complete the rout.
After suffering two consecutive defeats, the win puts Chelsea one point clear at the top of the table ahead of Sunderland, who could only rescue a 2-2 draw at Liverpool on Saturday.
Aluko acknowledged the importance of capitalising on their title rivals’ slip-up: “With Sunderland dropping points yesterday we wanted a win today to keep pressure on them at the top and we did that very well,” she said.
“This is a team now that doesn’t panic when things don’t go our way in games, we don’t implode because we know the quality that’s in our team and there’s a lot of steel in that dressing room.”
However, Arsenal can leapfrog Chelsea if they beat Manchester City on Sunday evening.
The defeat leaves Birmingham just one point above the relegation place, and manager Dave Parker bemoaned his side’s inability to exploit Chelsea’s red card.
“It just gives you that extra opportunity because they’ve got less players up front, you can play out more easily and dominate in midfield,” he said.
“But it was them who dominated us in midfield and they really took the game to us, and fair play to Chelsea because they thoroughly deserved the win and they are the best team in this league.”