It was the final day of the WSL campaign and all matches kicked off at the same time. Less than two hours later Chelsea were crowned League Champions for the second successive year, Brighton would achieve their best ever league position at the expense of Bristol City who were relegated. Spurs would win for the first time in eleven matches, while Villa would do something Everton couldn’t all season – get a point off a top four side. West Ham didn’t manage to get that elusive home win, but against Manchester City was that really much of a surprise? We’re doing it slightly differently this week. Here’s a minute-by-minute on how week 22 played out in the Barclays’s Women’s Super League…
Although Birmingham were sat on fifteen points in the table above, it was already common knowledge that the Football Association had deducted one off their total for fielding Ruesha Littlejohn against Reading, during a time when she should have been serving a suspension. This meant the Blues could now be relegated if they lost to Spurs and both Villa and Bristol City won their final matches.
The matches were all scheduled for 2:30pm and all held a minute’s applause for former Doncaster Belles and Leeds manager Julie Chipchase, who died on the 4th May 2021.
Blues in Control Early…
2′ GOAL: Chelsea score the first goal of the day. Jess Carter’s corner from the right swings out to the edge of the penalty area, midfielder Melanie Leupolz hits it on the half volley and it squirms under Grace Moloney. Chelsea 1-0 Reading
At Victoria Road, Manchester City’s Sam Mewis has an early effort saved by MacKenzie Arnold.
6′ GOAL: There’s not much more than pride on the line for Manchester United or Everton but Ella Toone gives the home side an early lead. Christen Press combines with Jane Ross to engineer a cross from the left and Toone arrives at the far post to side foot a beautifully controlled half-volley back across the keeper. It’s an audacious moment of quality from a young player who’s had a terrific season. Manchester United 1-0 Everton
Vixens Already ‘Staring Down the Barrel’…
7′ GOAL: Despite a confident start, disaster strikes for Bristol City. They fall behind after a short corner between Inessa Kaagman and Ellie Brazil catches them snoozing. Kaagman clips the return ball into the six-yard-box, Sophie Baggaley can’t gather and it drops to Maya Le Tissier who squeezes her volley through a crowd of bodies from close range. The Seagulls haven’t lost from a winning position at home since November 2019. Not the sort of thing City fans will want to hear about. The goal moves Brighton above Reading into 6th spot. Brighton 1-0 Bristol City.
10′ Manchester United are looking for a second goal. Press bursts down the left, cuts and crosses for Toone but her header is comfortably gathered by Sandy MacIver.
11′ Janine Beckie beats the Hammers’ offside trap to get on to Esme Morgan’s through ball, but the Canadian is too casual with the finish and Arnold does enough to repel off her body for a corner.
12′ City’s Ellen White fires over the bar a minute later. West Ham 0-0 Manchester City.
Bristol City look very nervous. They are giving away a lot of free kicks – a mixture of frustration leading to poor decision making, and being overly aggressive.
16′ There’s not huge amount happening at Birmingham versus Spurs. The hosts only need a point to be assured of WSL survival. Spurs are safe and may well be ‘on the beach’ already. Spurs forward Jessica Naz gets a couple of pretty standard stops out of Hannah Hampton.
Sam Mewis has another ‘sighter’ but it doesn’t trouble Arnold in the West Ham goal.
Villa holding firm… just
19′ Beth Mead threads Vivianne Miedema into the penalty area but she doesn’t get enough on her shot and is denied at close range by Lisa Weiß.
Chelsea are pushing for a second goal. Sam Kerr, Pernille Harder and Fran Kirby all have efforts blocked.
21′ ‘Fliss’ Gibbons gets to by-line and tees up Kayleigh Green who can’t keep her half volley down. It’s a let off for the Vixens. Brighton 1-0 Bristol City
21′ At Leigh Sports Village Everton register a shot on goal, but Claire Emslie’s effort is saved.
22′ It might be goalless at Dagenham but this is a lively affair. West Ham central defender Hawa Cissoko breaks down field, plays Kenza Dali into space on the left, carries her run into the box and volleys just wide at the back post from the French midfielder’s cross.
23′ Beckie’s corner from the right travels all the way to Caroline Weir on the edge of the penalty area, but her drive takes a nick and crashes off the cross bar. Ellen White gets to the rebound but can’t finish it off with her head. West Ham 0-0 Manchester City
24′ City chances keep coming – Mewis heads wide from Alex Greenwood’s corner.
In Solihull Georgia Brougham gets her head on Rebecca Holloway’s ball in but can’t direct her effort on target. Birmingham City 0-0 Tottenham Hotspur
29′ Everton’s Izzy Christiansen tries a left foot drive that drifts away from the goal.
City having one of those Days…
30′ It just won’t go in for City at the moment. Lauren Hemp and Weir combine to fashion another cross from the left. Beckie’s header has the power but not the direction. They need goals and lots of them if the situation changes at Chelsea…
32′ Mewis and Beckie get City moving down the right. The Canadian sends in a ball to the back post, Hemp heads it back across goal for Weir but somehow Hammers’ captain Gilly Flaherty clears off the line. West Ham 0-0 Manchester City
36′ Villa are still holding out at Meadow Park, but have a scare when Kim Little is picked out in all sorts of space on the corner of the six-yard box, controls the ball off her chest but can’t beat Lisa Weiß on the volley. Arsenal 0-0 Aston Villa
37′ Back to the People’s Pension Stadium and Bristol City’s best chance of the first half falls to Charlie Wellings 8-yards out. The attacker’s effort is deflected and picked off by Cecilie Fiskestrand at her near post.
In the same minute, Brighton work their way in behind the Bristol City defence but Baggaley does well to deny Ellie Brazil with with her legs. Brighton 1-0 Bristol City
39′ PEN: Greenwood chips a lovely ball in behind the West Ham defence which White is on to in a flash. She nutmegs the onrushing keeper but is off balance and tumbles. Referee Kirsty Dowle points to the spot. Arnold looks bemused. It’s a soft one, but this must be Manchester City’s moment..
40′ SAVED: Sam Mewis steps up to take the penalty, strikes it well enough but Arnold has done her homework on the American and springs to her right, clawing the ball away. West Ham 0-0 Manchester City
41′ Still no joy for Arsenal. Leah Williamson’s cross from deep is inviting, but Miedema is leaning back when she heads it and the ball sails past the upright. Arsenal 0-0 Aston Villa
Title Race all over by Half Time?
43′ GOAL: Perfect timing from Emma Hayes’ side as they double their lead just before the break. Kirby plays Kerr into the left channel, the Australian crosses and Kirby arrives, letting the ball run across her so the she can guide her shot into the top left hand corner. Chelsea 2-0 Reading
44’ Everton’s best moment of the first period comes with a minute left. Christiansen plays Emslie into space in her own half and the winger sprints half the length of the pitch before firing narrowly over the bar.
HALF TIME: At half time, Bristol City are headed for the Championship and Chelsea are going to be crowned WSL Champions…
SECOND HALF KICKS OFF…
46′ Fara Williams nearly halves the deficit at Kingsmeadow when her low drive from the left of the penalty area nearly creeps inside the near post. Keeper Ann-Katrin Berger is wide awake and gets across her goal to make the stop. Chelsea 2-0 Reading
47′ Aston Villa come out with more attacking intent. Forward Stine Larsen has an effort blocked. Arsenal 0-0 Villa
47′ A positive start to the second half by Birmingham. Harriet Scott puts Blues’ striker Claudia Walker in space down the right. She hares into the penalty area and hits a shot that flashes just past the post. Birmingham City 0-0 Tottenham Hotspur
49′ Spurs look to get something going themselves. Lucy Quinn’s effort from the edge of the area goes high and wide of the top corner.
Going from bad to worse for the Vixens
51′ At the Peoples’ Pension Stadium it’s been all Brighton again since the restart. Lee Geum-min tees up Inessa Kaagman, but the Dutch midfielder fires just over the cross bar.
52′ GOAL: But the hosts don’t have to wait long to double their advantage. Brazil crosses from the left, Emma Koivisto miscues her volley but the ball rolls invitingly towards Lee Geum-min who lashes home off the underside of the cross bar. The visitors have it all to do to avoid falling into the abyss. Brighton 2-0 Bristol City
53′ West Ham’s goal is living some sort of charmed life. Manchester City have a corner from the left. Esme Morgan rises but her header canons off the cross bar; Mewis is on the seconds and powers… against the bar again… Arnold eventually tips away for another corner. West Ham 0-0 Manchester City
The Gunners continue to fire blanks at Meadow Park. Jill Roord’s fine run through midfield doesn’t have the quality of shot from distance to match.
55′ Bristol City interim boss Matt Beard needs to make something happen, so he goes with a treble substitution. Forward Abi Harrison, midfielder Aimee Palmer and attacking loanee Emma Bissell are sent on to alter the pattern of the game.
56′ Arsenal are ramping up the pressure on Villa’s goal. Lotten Wubben-Moy gets on to Katie McCabe’s cross from the left, but the defender can’t guide her looping header on frame. Arsenal 0-0 Aston Villa
56′ Reading’s Brooke Chaplen has a shot blocked.
Meanwhile, at Leigh Sports Village, Everton are trying to find their way back into the match. Hayley Raso has an effort charged down, then Izzy Christiansen’s effort is saved by Mary Earps.
57′ A quick counter attack and Everton’s Hayley Raso plays Emslie into the right channel. The Scot has power and accuracy on her drive but keeper Earps has done her maths and makes a good parry low to her right. Manchester United 1-0 Everton
Surely that’s it?
57′ GOAL: Millie Bright hits a long clearance down field. Kerr is in a foot race with Deanna Cooper and gets to the ball first. The striker waits for support and it isn’t long before partner in crime Fran Kirby shows up. A simple sideways ball, Kirby gets it out of her feet and rifles past Moloney from 20-yards. The Blues hit Reading for five earlier in the season. Can they do it again? Chelsea 3-0 Reading
58′ Clearly satisfied that the title is safe, Chelsea boss Emma Hayes now begins to rest players ahead of next weekend’s Champions League Final. Harder, Niamh Charles and Ji So-yun have all run their race. Erin Cuthbert, Jonna Andersson and Guro Reiten take to the field. No rest for the Royals just yet, then…
61′ Manchester City boss Gareth Taylor is also making a change at Victoria Road. US midfielder Rose Lavelle enters the fray replacing Janine Beckie. West Ham United 0-0 Manchester City
61′ United manager Casey Stoney decides it’s time for some changes. Leah Galton replaces Lucy Staniforth and Kirsty Hanson comes on for Jane Ross.
A Lifeline for Bristol City…
61′ Is there a way back for Bristol City? Jemma Purfield has plenty of time to hang up a cross from out on the left touchline, Yana Daniëls heads it back across goal and substitute Abi Harrison bundles the ball in from close range. There’s life yet in the Bristolians. Brighton 2-1 Bristol City
63′ Millie Bright sets up Kerr who brings a good save from Moloney low to the keeper’s right.
65′ Reading respond. Brooke Chaplen’s clever back heel sets up Dan Carter inside the penalty area but the Royals striker, slightly off balance, can’t get her foot around she shanks wide of the right hand post. Chelsea 3-0 Reading
65′ Jordan Nobbs and Mean combine to put Miedema in on goal again. Villa keeper Lisa Weis doesn’t know much about it but saves the Dutch striker’s snap shot with her chest. Arsenal 0-0 Aston Villa
66′ Tottenham go close at Damson Park following a dead ball routine. Centre forward Rachel Williams gets on Angela Addison’s cross but can’t direct her header on target from a tight angle. Birmingham City 0-0 Tottenham Hotspur
Oh, Now You’re Just Showing Off…
71′ GOAL: Reading have a throw on the right near the half way line. Guro Reiten wins the ball, finds Kirby who spreads the ball to Erin Cuthbert. The Scot cuts inside and gives it back to Kirby, who chips the ball over the Royals’ back line for Kerr who volleys past Moloney – a brilliant Chelsea goal. Chelsea 4-0 Reading
71′ GOAL: Spurs take the lead at Birmingham with an inspired moment of skill from Kit Graham. She picks up the ball from Shelina Zadorsky with her back to goal, beats Ruby Mace with a drag back, feints to wrong foot Brougham and get the ball on her left foot before hitting a low drive across Hampton from the edge of the penalty area. Birmingham 0-1 Tottenham
Now the Blues are at risk if Bristol City can somehow score two more without reply at Brighton. Villa, meanwhile move above their cross-city rivals into tenth place.
71′ United forward Christen Press treats everyone to a drag-back and Cruyff turn that bamboozles two defenders before fizzing a drive just inches wide of MacIver’s right hand post.
74′ Bristol City’s Ebony Salmon takes on three defenders, looks like she’s run into a cul-de-sac but digs out a shot that whisks narrowly past the post. Brighton 2-1 Bristol City
Five Star Chelsea
75′ GOAL: The Blues are in no mood to let up and underline their dominance today (and this season) with a fifth goal. Guro Reiten sends in a corner from the right, Kerr’s header at the back post is parried by the keeper but Cuthbert bundles the ball in from close range.
75′ GOAL: As the Londoners are putting up a five goal margin finally Manchester City get on the board. Lucy Bronze robs Cissoko on the right, heads for the by-line and clips in a cross that White prods in on the full. It’s no more than they deserve in this match but City aren’t going to win the WSL today. Chelsea have been too good. West Ham United 0-1 Manchester City
The Game’s Up for Bristol City
77′ GOAL: Brighton win a free-kick around three yards from the ‘D’ of the opposing penalty box. Inessa Kaagman appears to be aiming for the keeper’s top left corner but there’s a deflection off the wall, Baggaley is wrong footed and the ball sails into the other side of the goal. Having just had their best spell of the match it’s a cruel blow for the visitors. Brighton 3-1 Bristol City
81′ Weir drives in a dangerous low ball from the left. White gets in front of her marker and applies the deftest of touches but the ball just misses the far post.
83′ PEN: City are awarded another penalty at Victoria Road. This time Cissoko trips Lucy Bronze. Substitute Rose Lavelle steps forward and chooses to go the same way as her compatriot Mewis earlier – with the same result. Arnold has double penalty saves.
87′ Brighton attacker Ellie Brazil gets in behind the City backline but can’t keep her effort down.
88′ At the other end Salmon takes on two defenders, cuts inside from the left but also drives over the bar. Brighton 3-1 Bristol City
United midfielder Toone nearly gets her second of the afternoon for United, curling just past the post from 20-yards after good work from substitute Hanson.
89′ GOAL: Toone does get her name on the box score again, but this time it’s an assist. She swings in a corner from the left that Hanson powers in from close range, completely unchallenged. Turns out it’s the final goal of the Super League season. Manchester United 2-0 Everton
Lavelle is not going to add to City’s tally with a minute left. Arnold foils her again.
90′ Around the time the time the ref’s watch hit 90 minutes Arsenal had had 80% possession against Aston Villa. In stoppage time Vivianne Miedema centres but Jill Roord can’t guide her header inside the right hand post…
FULL TIME: Chelsea are Champions for the second successive season, although this one has got to feel better than a ‘points per game ‘ award. Sam Kerr wins the Golden Boot with 21 goals. Ann-Katrin Berger takes the Golden Glove as best goalkeeper. Reading say goodbye to Fara Williams who is retiring from the game, and Angharad James – who now heads Stateside to North Carolina Courage. Chelsea (1st) 5-0 Reading (7th)
“We lost one game, I am glad we lost that game, you are never too good to lose and it keeps you on the edge of performance all the time. My team are showing many sides again, and this [today] was another brilliant result. There is great strength in depth and this no doubt is my favourite title. In some people’s eyes we didn’t really win it last season. We were given it on a points-per-game scenario so this is validation of that, that we are the champions, and the players really wanted to demonstrate that. I have had to manage Covid and a dressing room of people who have not been home in more than a year. That has been hard to keep them going when they are homesick or they are struggling. People think having strength in depth is an advantage but you try to manage them and you will see how challenging it is day in day out to keep top players on the bench.”Emma Hayes, Manager, Chelsea, via chelseaFC.com
FULL TIME: Their draw with Chelsea in week 20 always looked like the moment that City lost their grip on the WSL title, but games still had to be won and Gareth Taylor’s side did their part. They secured 55 points which is the highest total for a runner-up in the league’s ten years. West Ham failed to win a single match at home in the league all season. Olli Harder has a difficult job ahead of him to get this squad in better shape for next season. West Ham United (9th) 0-1 Manchester City (2nd)
“The margin for error is very tight. To lose the title by a couple of points and one defeat, we’d been on a tremendous run as well. We just need more time, we need more time and we’ve seen real improvement, especially in the way we play. We’ve run a very good team very close by playing our way and by playing with good exciting football, with pace, scoring goals. It’s just constant improvements, even if we were successful and won the league this season we’d still be looking to improve, we’re always looking to get better.”Gareth Taylor, Manager, Manchester City, via mancity.com
FULL TIME: The Villans survive their first season in the women’s top flight, but they parted company with first team boss Marcus Bignot and Coach (and former manager) Gemma Davies the following morning. It wasn’t meant to be for the Gunners today but manager Joe Montemurro watched his last match in tenure knowing they’d already secured Champions League football for next season. Now all eyes will be on who the club appoints to replace him. Arsenal (3rd) 0-0 Aston Villa (10th)
“When you’re in the mix of it, you don’t really have time to think about the league and the situation that you are in. We had an objective to qualify for the Champions League and we did that very well. It’s starting to come to an end, which is quite sad. I will miss this football club and I will miss this ground and I’ll miss being part of the WSL. The players have been brilliant to manage, I can’t speak highly enough of every single one of them. We have had ups and downs but we have all worked together on this little journey that we have all been on together.”Joe Montemurro, Manager, Arsenal, via fawslfulltime.co.uk
FULL TIME: Casey Stoney’s United close their campaign with three victories on the spin, finishing just a point shy of Arsenal. The Red Devils have shown Everton just how much work there is still to do to trouble the top four. The Toffees didn’t get a point from any of their loftier rivals all season. Manchester United (4th) 2-0 Everton (5th)
“There’s lots to be proud of in terms of the league campaign. We are unbeaten against the teams below us and that’s a real positive. It shows professionalism and consistency but we need to push on if we want to achieve the ambitions we have set out. There’s an evident gap between us and the top four. We need to continue to work at the culture. There’s got to be a little bit more of a killer instinct. As a team, I feel we’re on a cliff edge and it’s about the ones who are brave enough to jump and have a bit of faith. It’s about taking those ones with us who are brave enough and making sure we are competing for Champions League spots next season.”Willie Kirk, Manager, Everton, via evertonfc.com
FULL TIME: It’s all over at Birmingham, who haven’t managed to win a league match in this calendar year. They are safe for another season, though. Spurs win for the first time in eleven. They had to wait all season for a Kit Graham special, but when it finally arrived it was a cracker. Boss Rehanne Skinner is going to have to figure out a way to get more out of this squad next season. Birmingham City (11th) 0-1 Tottenham Hotspur (8th)
“This season has been a success. If I had to sum it up – the last 10 months have felt like 10 years, I feel like I’ve grown and I’ve developed. I wouldn’t have changed a single minute of it, surprisingly, because I think that the real tough times have allowed me to develop from a leadership point of view, from a management point of view. I think the way I now handle things has drastically improved – I used to be quite a hot-head but I’m actually quite relaxed now. It has been fascinating, it really has but from the moment I sat in the garden and considered taking this job to now – best decision I ever made because it really has been fascinating and one I’ll never forget.”Carla Ward, Manager, Birmingham City, via fawslfulltime (pre-game)
FULL TIME: Bristol City are relegated. They won the fewest games, lost the most and conceded 72 goals (more than three per match on average). Their awful start to the season couldn’t be recovered and they couldn’t beat any of their main rivals when it really mattered during the run-in. Brighton enjoyed their best ever league finish and points total. They were well beaten by the Vixens earlier in the season but weren’t about to let that happen again. Brighton & Hove Albion (6th) 3-1 Bristol City (12th).
“Obviously we’re devastated, you can see by the reaction after the game. The players have left everything on the pitch today – it’s not through the want of trying but unfortunately, we couldn’t cross the line in this relegation battle. It’s frustrating but we’re a young team and we’ll learn from experiences like this. I think you if you look at the games where we could have got more points, the West Ham game especially and Birmingham away. We were in front and then have been pegged back, and we’ve had some unbelievable chances in those games to win it. It’s not about today, it’s about the whole season. We can’t change it now, once it sets in and tomorrow is a new day, we have got to make sure that we learn from some of things that have happened this season, and we go again.”Matt Beard, Interim Manager, Bristol City, via BCFC.co.uk