Leicester looked the most likely to score during a fast-paced opening quarter of an hour. Firstly, Freya Gregory picked up possession, moving into the box and firing wide of the far post with a left-footed drive. Jemma Purfield's corner was then met by Sophie Howard, who headed it onto the roof of the net.
Another Purfield set piece, this time a free-kick, again picked out Howard, who forced Ann-Katrin Berger into a save, before Sam Tierney had two shots blocks on the line and Gregory's effort was also cleared off the goal-line in a frantic period of play.
A further two corners came in from Purfield but after Abbie McManus met the second, the hosts were finally able to clear the danger. The game turned on Howard’s harsh sending off, however, with the Scotland international shown a straight red card for her challenge on Jonna Andersson.
The home side quickly took control, almost applying the finishing touch when Sam Kerr pulled the ball back to Fran Kirby in the box, but McManus got a block in, before Harder's effort was cleared by Tierney.
Harder did open the scoring on 24 minutes, racing through and slotting the ball beyond Demi Lambourne, providing a crucial first breakthrough for the reigning WSL champions.
Chelsea’s potent attacking duo combined again when Kirby rose highest from Kerr’s cross, heading well wide of City’s goal, as did Harder just after the half-hour mark.
With just under 10 minutes to go until the break, Harder scored her and Chelsea’s second, tapping home from close range after Kerr slid the ball across the box for the forward.
Ji So-Yun then fired in a curling left-footed strike that almost clipped the crossbar, but Leicester remained two behind at the interval.
The first chance of the second half fell to Kerr but she headed wide from Kirby's out-swinging corner. Leicester looked to fight back at the other end as Gregory got past half-time substitute Drew Spence down the left, but no one was able to turn home her low cross.
Emma Hayes’ side were quickly on the counter-attack, searching for further goals. City needed Lambourne to make a smart save to deny Kirby, rushing out and diverting the shot behind.
Missy Goodwin was introduced into the action for her second appearance in a Leicester City shirt, replacing Gregory who was taken off after receiving a knock, but the relentless Chelsea continued to press for more.
Harder slipped the ball towards Kerr and she prodded it past Lambourne to add their third on the hour-mark. Just four minutes later, Ji curled in a superb fourth, picking out the top corner.
Jessie Fleming’s deflected effort then tested Lambourne, who did well to keep out the Canadian international. Kerr soon hit the post from Kirby’s cross when it looked easier to score, though the offside flag was raised to save her blushes. Kirby went for goal herself minutes later, taking Harder’s knockdown in her stride, but failed to find the target.
Again, it was Kerr with the next chance to find the net, dragging a shot wide from Harder’s cutback, but the Denmark international would not have to wait long to set up a fifth, heading the ball back across the box for Aniek Nouwen to head home on 78 minutes.
Kerr did score a brace in the end, tapping home from Fleming’s cross just four minutes later to add the sixth goal of what turned into an even more comprehensive victory when substitute Bethany England headed past Lambourne, getting on the end of Kerr’s cross with five to play.
The Foxes were under the cosh once they went down to 10 players.
It was a really bright start from the visitors, who were playing with real intent and confidence during the opening stages. Had they taken the lead at that point, it might have been a different story, but the red card changed the game and Chelsea were dominant from that point onwards.
Where do we stand?
The England international scored Chelsea's final goal of the afternoon.
Leicester exit the 2021/22 Vitality Women's FA Cup at the fifth round stage following defeat at Kingsmeadow.
The cup holders made their player advantage count to great effect in the second half.
City’s next Barclays FA Women’s Super League fixture comes away to Manchester United, at Leigh Sports Village, on Saturday 5 March (12pm kick-off).
City: Lambourne; Howard (s/o 16'), McManus (c), Brougham; De Graaf, Tierney (Barker 70’), Pike, Purfield; O’Brien, Flint, Gregory (Goodwin 59’).
Subs not used: Harris, Smith, Robinson, Bailey-Gayle, Devlin.
All times GMT.
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