By Phil Spencer
Ann-Katrin Berger made a triumphant return to Chelsea’s side by keeping a clean sheet in their 2-0 Women’s Super League win over Manchester City.
The 31-year-old goalkeeper was diagnosed with a recurrence of thyroid cancer back in August, meaning that a return to football would take a back seat in order to focus on her recovery.
Berger is a popular member of Emma Hayes‘ side and shared news of her diagnosis in a club statement back in August.
In that statement, she wrote: “I wanted to update fans directly that unfortunately, after four years of living cancer-free, there has been a recurrence detected in my thyroid.
“I’ve said before that as a sportsperson you have to fight every day to be the best you can be and that’s something I will continue to do and I hope by sharing my journey, I can help others that find themselves in a similar situation.
“I am working closely with my club doctor and specialist in London and my treatment will start this week.
“I remain positive that my treatment will be as effective as last time and I’m looking forward to returning to the pitch and seeing you all at Kingsmeadow and Stamford Bridge.”
Thankfully just over a month after the statement, Berger was named in the starting XI for the WSL fixture with City at Kingsmeadow with the opportunity to do what she enjoys more than anything else.
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Berger certainly managed to do that with a stunning display that saw the Blues edge a victory in an entertaining encounter.
It was a bright start for the Blues, who broke through on goal within seconds of kick-off, however a ball from Millie Bright had just too much on it for Sam Kerr who was running in.
Lauren James came close to finding an opening with a low cross that was cleared by the City defence.
Chelsea could, and should, have made the breakthrough after 13 minutes when a mistake from Steph Houghton saw Kerr through on goal, but instead of shooting, she squared it to Fran Kirby who saw her effort blocked.
City also showed promising signs with Chloe Kelly and Bunny Shaw having efforts to give Berger something to think about.
Berger was then in action at her near post when some poor defensive play from Chelsea allowed Lauren Hemp to break down the left flank before forcing the German into a save.
However Chelsea’s breakthrough came just before the break when some fine play from Jessie Fleming and Guro Reiten led the ball to Kirby who struck home from close range.
Impressively, it was Kirby’s 21st goal in 21 starts for the Blues.
City did have the chance for an immediate reply through Laura Coombs, however, Berger kept her effort out with a wonderful stop.
The second half started with Chelsea firmly in control as James fired an effort wide of the mark from the right side of the area.
After dominating a fragile-looking City defence, Chelsea were awarded a penalty following a handball from Leila Ouahabi, with Maren Mjelde slamming home to make it 2-0.
City pushed forward in the final stages of the match to try and claim something, however it wasn’t to be as they made it two defeats in a row this term.
For Chelsea however, that win gets their season up and running and will no doubt be remembered as a huge afternoon for Berger who can celebrate huge victories both on and off the pitch.
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