WSL matchday 20 round-up: Champions v chasers and relegation decider

Manchester City play Chelsea in Women's Super League title decider - WSL matchday 20 round-up

A generic image of women playing amateur football. Photo taken from Pexels.com

A week full of “Super League” controversy saw the Womenโ€™s Super League play out some of the most important battles of the season.

Manchester United faced Tottenham as they compete with the other North London side, Arsenal, in the hunt for the final Champions League place. Bottom-of-the-table Bristol City faced fellow strugglers Aston Villa in a match that seemed certain to all but seal one of the sides’ relegation from the WSL and champions Chelsea faced challengers City in a match that has been billed as the title decider.

Manchester City v Chelsea

The match was a must-win for City if they hope to be named WSL champions come the end of the season, while it was described as a must-not-lose for Chelsea as they looked to remain in the driving seat for the title.

Both teams came into the game in similar scintillating form, each boasting a record of five consecutive league wins heading into the biggest game of the season.

Despite early pressure from the challengers, it was Chelsea who struck first in the 25th minute through Sam Kerr. A corner from Erin Cuthbert found the head of the Australian as she headed home from the edge of the six-yard box. However, the lead was only to last for a matter of minutes as City responded before the half-an-hour mark. Forward Chloe Kelly tapped home a cross from youngster Lauren Hemp.

The parity between the clubs didnโ€™t last long either. In the 34th minute, Sam Kerr was brought down by the Manchester City goalkeeper before Pernille Harder converted the resulting spot kick.

Chelsea resistance held strong for the remainder of the half as City looked to draw level. It took until the 75th minute for City to even the score once again. A failed clearance from Millie Bright and left Hemp with a simple finish.

The result ensures that with two games to go, barring any major slip ups against Everton and Tottenham, it looks like the title will be heading to West London for successive seasons.

Manchester Utd vs Tottenham

Manchester United played host to Tottenham as they looked to continue their battle with Arsenal for the final Champions League place. Meanwhile, Tottenham were looking to win the three points that would confirm their place in the WSL for next season.

Ella Toone put United ahead within the first 10 minutes as she converted from Kirsty Hansonโ€™s cutback. She then turned provider for American World cup winner Kristen Press, who headed home in the 19th minute to put the Red Devils 2-0 up.

Jess Sigsworth then found the back of the net following a scramble in the six-yard-box before Toone completed the scoring for Manchester United, converting from the penalty spot.

Toone missed the opportunity to complete her hat-trick, after hitting bar in the 70th minute. United continued to pepper the Spursโ€™ goal before Alanna Kennedy scored a consolation goal for the visitors in extra time, a free-kick from distance that found the top corner.

The result saw United overtake Arsenal and move into third place, even if it was only for a matter of hours.

Arsenal vs Brighton

Arsenal continued their march towards next season’s Champions League with a 2-0 victory over Brighton. After a solid run of games, which included a victory over champions elect Chelsea, Brighton found themselves comfortably in mid-table, not threatened by relegation but unable to finish higher than their current sixth position.

It was a match dominated by the North London club. Arsenal controlled the game, holding over 70% of possession, and having five shots on target whilst limiting their opponents to only one.

Vivianne Miedema had an uncharacteristically poor game in front of goal, squandering several chances in the early stages of the game. It was not until Jordan Nobbsโ€™ volley squirmed underneath the Brighton goalkeeper, Megan Walsh, in the 27th minute, that Arsenal took the lead.

Nobbs then doubled her score and her personal tally in the 77th minute when she rounded off an Arsenal counterattack with a simple tap into an open net following some great work between Miedema and Beth Mead.

The result saw Arsenal tighten their grip on the final Champions League spot and extend their club-records run without conceding to seven in all competitions.

Aston Villa vs Bristol City

Aston Villa met Bristol City in a decisive fixture in the relegation battle. The teams sat bottom and second from bottom respectively before kick-off, with Bristol, having played one game more than their hosts for the day.

It was a lightning start for the Villains as they took an early lead through an own goal from Meaghan Sargeant. They then doubled their lead going into half time as Natalie Haighโ€™s header looped over the Bristol goalkeeper.

The second half was a reversal of the first, it saw Bristol hammer the Villa goal until Faye Brysonsโ€™ spectacular volley found the top corner, giving her team a glimmer of hope with 15 minutes remaining.

It was not until the 95th minute that Bristolโ€™s Ella Mastrantonio converted from a goalmouth scrap to secure a point for the visitors.

What does all of it mean?

The draw between City and Chelsea mean City have missed the opportunity to take control of the title race whilst the Londoners have one hand on the title with only two games to go.

Manchester Unitedโ€™s dominant display against Tottenham mean that they kept up the pressure on Arsenal in the race for third place, although their victory over Brighton leaves them in a good spot to claim that final European spot.

0Meanwhile, at the foot of the table, Bristol and Villa occupy the spots at the bottom of the WSL table with just 12 points apiece, but Villa’s superior goal difference and game in hand give them the advantage over the Robins in the relegation battle.