As the Women’s Super League 2019/20 season have officially been terminated due to the coronavirus pandemic and preparations have been made for women’s football to return for the 2020/21 campaign.
The WSL season was concluded and Chelsea were rewarded as champions for this season. The majority of clubs opted for basic PPG with promotion and relegation for the WSL.
Let’s reflect on Chelsea’s journey that has led them to become crown WSL champions by having played only 15 games. The game that stood out with huge significance was their win over Manchester United in Kingsmeadow last November.
Blues’ 1-0 win over United showed promising signs of Emma Hayes’ side being rewarded for their hard work, effort and resilience to see the game off and ended Manchester United’s five-game winning run through Maren Mjelde’s decisive spot kick in a record attendance of 4,790 at a non-Premier League stadium.
Prior to this game, the visitors were the newly-promoted side in the top tier of women’s football and made an impressive start to their first WSL campaign – showing their capabilities as to why.
The visitors’ backline planned to frustrate the hosts and almost caused an upset at Kingsmeadow.
The Blues chances were restricted and had their first meaningful chance came from Ramona Bachmann. It was all down to So-Yun Ji who created a space for Bachmann’s effort which Mary Earps palmed behind.
The start of the second half saw the home side close in breaking the deadlock. Chelsea forward Erin Cuthbert half-volley effort over the top of the United defence but went wide with only keeper Earps to beat.
Blues forward Bethany England as well as many other attacking talents were all failing to get past the meanest defence and simply missing something special which Sam Kerr can bring to the team.
Blues manager Emma Hayes brought on Fran Kirby who marked her century of Chelsea appearances before kick-off, presented with a shirt.
Clearly no surprise to see Chelsea missing Kirby presence on the pitch after an injury-hit campaign last year. Kirby had a fantastic World Cup as she continued her fightback from injury.
She slowly eased into the Chelsea side by Emma Hayes towards the end of last year, and her return reminded the club just how important she can be this season.
Kirby made an immediate impact as a substitute and getting into dangerous areas as she helped the Blues to win a penalty after a collision with Millie Turner who crunched through the back of her.
Hayes eventually looked to her star just after the hour mark, replacing Guro Reiten in a somewhat surprising like-for-like change. But less than one minute later, Kirby made the difference.
The referee made no hesitation to give the Blues a penalty. Mielde found the bottom left-hand corner despite Earps’ best efforts.
Casey Stoney’s side were unlucky not to earn a point when Ella Toone’s first-time volley from Jess Sigsworth's cross tipped on the underside of the bar by Berger. It hit Berger back on the way down and bounced agonisingly close to the line before Bright hooked to safety.
Berger’s crucial save somehow stayed out and proved to be a matchwinning save as the Blues secured three points on another historic day for Chelsea Women.
This game proved to be a vital win as the home side were far from their best but managed to get the job done and show signs of champions.
Player of the match- Lauren James (Manchester United)
Despite being on the losing side, not many players had a better game than United forward Lauren James.
The 18-year-old played brilliantly across the front line by starting down the middle and featured on the flanks to help the team to the best she can.
James focused primarily on Chelsea’s right-hand side, causing Jonna Andersson serious problems with her expert dribbling skills.
She had completed more take-ons than any other player in the Women’s Super League – being successful with 16 of her 23 attempts before kick-off.
Lots to learn from James and has the time on her side to improve her finishing which she could get called up in the England senior team.
Chelsea’s Bethany England spoke to VAVEL UK’s Mitul Samji:
“It was quite a tough battle; it showed the game was quite close between the two teams.
“I don’t think in the first half we really got out of second gear. I think we did well to stay in the game.
“Thankfully we went in at half-time 0-0, United had a good few chances, but we found our second gear, got on top and the subs who came on made a good difference.
“The bench won us the game today and that penalty was vital for us.”
Speaking after the match, Chelsea boss Emma Hayes said:
“It was a tight game against a side who are difficult to break down, aggressive and made the pitch small.
“When you play these games after the international break, they are quite tough and Manchester United looked more fresher than us.”
“As the game progressed, my plan was to bring to Fran Kirby come on into the game like this. She is getting sharper as we’ve seen today. I am happy for Fran’s performance she put in.”
“This game was screaming out for her. Myself and the team are committed to bring Fran back to their best as she is a special player.”
Manchester United head coach Casey Stoney said: “I’m really proud of my players’ performance.
“I’m just disappointed for them, they’ve come and had a go and we’ve created good chances, yes we need to be more clinical.
“We have to move forward and reflect and we’ll review the game straight away. And now the focus turns to Leicester.”