Emma Hayes’ Chelsea win 8-0 to reignite WSL title race – Full Time with Jessy Parker Humphreys

With 88 minutes played, Manchester City must have felt like they had one hand on the Women’s Super League title. Lauren Hemp had put them 1-0 up against Arsenal and if it all stayed as it was, they would be heading into the final day with at least a three-point lead over Chelsea. Perhaps thoughts were even beginning to drift to the post-match tribute to their retiring captain, Steph Houghton.

But five hours later, it all looked very different. Two goals in three minutes from Sweden striker Stina Blackstenius gave Arsenal a surprise comeback win and provided a second chance to the one person City wouldn’t want it to fall to. Emma Hayes’ Chelsea refused to pass up the opportunity and put eight past an already relegated Bristol City.

In 90 minutes, Manchester City’s considerable goal difference advantage was obliterated. Chelsea knew they needed to win by seven to go level with City — they went one better. That left Hayes on the Kingsmeadow pitch telling fans it wasn’t “f***ing over”, only four days after she had essentially conceded the title to City following a 4-3 loss to Liverpool.

The atmosphere in south-west London had been particularly charged, with Chelsea fans not just saying goodbye to Hayes — who will become USWNT head coach this summer — but also long-time servants of the club, England forward Fran Kirby and Norway defender Maren Mjelde. Add Arsenal’s late goals to the mix and before kick-off, it was fair to say the whole of Kingsmeadow was focused on one thing — scoring goals.

It took a while for Chelsea to get going — just a Guro Reiten penalty and Sjoeke Nusken’s scrambled finish in the first half — but the intensity cranked up after the interval as Reiten, in particular, pulled out all the stops. The Norway winger has struggled to recapture her form from last season but in the space of 72 minutes on Sunday, she more than doubled her WSL goal count for the season, taking her tally from three to seven. Aggie Beever-Jones also chipped in with two more to take her total in the league to 11. Lauren James is the only English player with more in the league.

As Chelsea fans chanted, “We want nine”, it was a raucous feeling compared to the tenor of the Joie Stadium earlier in the day. You would not believe that, in many ways, it remains advantage City, with Gareth Taylor’s side still holding a three-point lead over Chelsea. Hayes’ side’s game in hand is away to Tottenham Hotspur in nine days.

However, the swing in goal difference means that if Hayes’ side beat Spurs, City would have to improve on Chelsea’s final-day scoreline by more than two goals. Both sides are playing away, with City heading to Aston Villa and Chelsea visiting Old Trafford to face Manchester United, who could face their own version of Arsenal’s dilemma: a positive result might gift their rival the league title. Arsenal went gung-ho regardless and City’s hopes could depend on United doing the same.

What you might have missed

While eyes were firmly glued to the title race, up at Prenton Park, Liverpool were trying to secure a surprise fourth-placed finish. Having taken a shock three points against Chelsea midweek, their match against Manchester United was a more sedate affair but no less successful. Jenna Clark’s first-half header — once again from a corner after they scored three in that fashion against Chelsea — secured all three points for Matt Beard’s side.

It means Liverpool have taken an impressive 12 points from their fixtures against the other teams in the top four, having done the double over United as well as getting wins against Chelsea and Arsenal. That is more points from the top four than league leaders City have managed. Manchester United, meanwhile, have managed to accumulate only five points from all six of the top-half teams.

Goal of the week

Everton full-back Sara Holmgaard unleashed a stunning strike against Tottenham to put her team 2-0 up. Despite the opposition eventually pulling it back to 2-2, Holmgaard’s finish was an exceptional demonstration of a player who has really come into bloom towards the end of the season.

The 25-year-old Denmark international has stepped into the absence left by Gabby George’s last-minute departure to Manchester United and now looks firmly settled in the WSL. After a tough season for Everton, Holmgaard is one of several bright sparks for Brian Sorensen and his team going forward.

Moment of the week

Aston Villa manager Carla Ward announced this week that she would be stepping down at the end of the season. The 40-year-old has been at the club for three seasons, having been recruited after an impressive stint at Birmingham City, but decided to move on from the role to spend more time with her family.


Villa have not always had an easy run of it this season, but the club have stayed loyal to Ward. Despite failing to win any of their first five matches this season, it was clear there was plenty of credit from her fifth-placed finish last year, with the club trying to persuade her to stay.

They won 1-0 away at Brighton thanks to an Alisha Lehmann goal in Ward’s penultimate match.

Elsewhere in Europe

Title races were wrapped up in Germany and Spain where Bayern Munich and Barcelona won their leagues.

Eintracht Frankfurt also put themselves in pole position to secure Germany’s third Champions League spot with a comprehensive 3-1 win over rivals Hoffenheim, who are four points behind in fourth with two games to play.

In France, Paris Saint-Germain lifted the Coupe de France after beating Fleury 1-0 despite having French defender Thiniba Samoura sent off in the 66th minute. Netherlands forward Lieke Martens scored the winner seven minutes later.

Coming up next

All eyes turn to this weekend’s FA Cup final as one of Tottenham or Manchester United will make history by becoming a brand new winner of the trophy at a sold-out Wembley.

(Top photo: Tom Dulat – The FA/The FA via Getty Images)

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