Jessy Parker Humphreys is back with the biggest talking points of a weekend that highlighted how tight it is at the top.Embed from Getty Images
Spectacular Chelsea comeback sees off first tricky Spurs fixture
When you know you likely have to win every remaining game of the season to win the league, seeing your goalkeeper sent off after half an hour tends not to be in the script. Chelsea were forced to play close to an hour with only 10 players on the pitch after Ann-Katrin Berger was sent off for clattering into Rachel Williams as she ran through one on one.
They have looked easily rattled at a number of points this season, and drawing 1-1 against Tottenham after Sophie Ingle’s early own goal, it seemed like this might become the game where the title got away. Yet a half-time tactical switch from Emma Hayes to move into a 4-4-1 system boosted their midfield and truthfully, in the second half, you would not have known they were a player down.
Of course it was Sam Kerr who put Chelsea ahead, heading in her 17th WSL goal of the season from Jonna Andersson’s cross. There was even time for Jessie Fleming to score a spectacular goal from 30 yards out and give the Blues a comfortable two-goal cushion as it ended 3-1. Having beaten Spurs with 10 players, Chelsea will be hopeful for a similar result when restored to a full complement when Tottenham visit Kingsmeadow on Thursday.
… But Arsenal keep up pace as Mead and Nobbs join 50 club
With Chelsea pulling off the unlikely at The Hive, Arsenal went into their game against Everton knowing they also needed a win. They should have taken the lead much earlier than they did, with Stina Blackstenius scoring a goal that was miles onside only to see it bizarrely disallowed by the assistant referee. However, when they did finally score a goal that counted it was a spectacular one, as Leah Williamson played an extraordinary ball over the top of the Everton defence which was perfectly brought down by Caitlin Foord and slid past Sandy MacIver.
From then it felt like more goals would be inevitable for Arsenal (who managed 25 shots in this match), and the two extra ones were both special in their own way as Beth Mead and Jordan Nobbs scored their 50th WSL goals. Nobbs in particular looked ecstatic with her finish as she sealed the 3-0 win, having waited since December to finally join that club. Nikita Parris will hope that it means her time will come soon — she has been stuck on 49 WSL goals since April 2019.Embed from Getty Images
United let Champions League slip away at Villa
Aston Villa frustrated Manchester United in holding them to a 0-0 draw thanks to a desperate defensive performance which demonstrated their resolve to still move up the table at this stage of the season. For United though, there was a sense of deja vu as the draw all but guaranteed that Manchester City would secure the final Champions League place. For the second season in a row, United have failed to capitalise on their early-season fortune and will once again finish fourth.
There have been plenty of high points for Marc Skinner in his first season at the club but he will likely finish with a significantly lower points total than Casey Stoney. They were not short of opportunities against Aston Villa — in fact, the early-season draws with Tottenham and Everton were probably more costly — but given that this was the point of the year that it fell out of their hands, this will be the most disappointing of them all.
Basement Birmingham are going down fighting
It is a credit to the squad at Birmingham that they have not let the inevitable grind them down over the past couple of weeks. In the past two matches they have doubled their season’s points total with this weekend’s 3-1 win over Brighton feeling like another lifeline that will ultimately be futile. Birmingham would need at least four points (and hope Leicester lose all their matches) from their final three games to stay in the division. With two of those games being against Chelsea and Manchester City, who will also see them as must win, it seems likely that it is too little, too late. But they are undeniably still fighting, and limp Leicester will surely be a tiny bit nervous.
City confidence grows with straightforward victory over Leicester
There are not many people in December who would have thought that Manchester City could potentially finish the season with a Champions League spot and two trophies but it now looks like they will secure at least two of those things. City’s last six matches in the WSL have seen them collect 18 points, scoring 14 goals and conceding 0. A straightforward 4-0 win over Leicester coupled with Manchester United dropping points at Aston Villa means that Champions League qualification is now in their hands. With their final three matches all against bottom-half opposition, it seems they will sneak into third. Gareth Taylor has suggested that their performances in the second half of the season shows how much their injury crisis affected them, but at this point we will have to wait until next season to see if that is actually true.
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