Brighton & Hove Albion dominated a Bristol City side who were unable to pull of the great escape and avoid relegation. In what was an extremely feisty affair, it was the home side that was able to take charge of the match. Goals from Maya Le Tissier and Lee Geum-Min set the side from the south coast on their way.
Bristol City, who looked frustrated and lacked composure throughout pulled one back through substitute Abigail Harrison. Just when they were looking like they might mount the miracle comeback, Inessa Kaagman's deflected free kick killed the match and the Robin's time in the Women's Super League.
Story of the match
Bristol City, in need of a win and other results to go their way, came out the blocks with energy and aggression and it took less than 90 seconds for the visitors to come close from a corner.
However, it was the hosts that drew first blood from their first corner in the seventh minute. Sophie Baggaley failed to properly clear a cross following a well worked short corner. The ball dropped to a grateful Le Tissier who rifled home.
Both sides continued to press and the challenges came flying in from both sets of players. But it was Brighton who were able to take control, pressing the City back line and not allowing them play through the lines.
Brighton came closest to scoring again as Ellie Brazil beat the City offside trap and had the entire half to run clean on goal, but her tame effort was well saved by a recovering Baggaley.
Despite the greater need for Bristol City, it was Brighton who again came out in the second half stronger. Their high press continued to cause problems for City and it was from their press that they grabbed.
Brazil's cross from the left wing was picked up at the far post by Emma Koivisto, who's sliding cross found Lee Geum-Min who smashed the ball in off the under side of the bar.
With the game slipping away from him, Matt Beard made a triple substitution and it made all the difference. Following some good work on the left from Ebony Salmon, Yana Daniels pulled back her cross and substitute Abigail Harrison tucked away.
With half-an-hour left on the clock, momentum had completely shifted. Salmon in particular looked completely energized, running at defenders, and creating opportunities for herself and her team mates.
With just under 15 minutes left, with the news that Tottenham Hotspur were now losing, Inessa Kaagman's free kick cruelly deflected off the wall and into the back of the net. The goal came at a truly awful time for City who were on top, killing their momentum and allowing Brighton to kill off the match.
Salmon came closest in the 88th minute will a lovely cut inside and drive, but it sailed narrowly wide along with any hope of avoiding relegation.
Despite a valiant fightback in the second half, Bristol City were unable to get the win that they needed to secure safety. In a season of uncertainty, the side had to cope with the added upheaval of head coach Tanya Oxtoby going on maternity leave. And while their performances and results dramatically improved following the arrival of Matt Beard, they had simply left themselves too far off their rivals.
While they will have to cope with the departure of players over the summer, chief among them will be Salmon, they have a strong set up and squad and will be looking to bounce straight back into the Super League.
Brighton capped off a brilliant season with a win that takes them into sixth and their highest ever finish in the Super League. Similar to City, the Seagulls were greatly improved in the second half of the season. While many will point to changes, such as the brilliant signing of Koivisto, the majority of the credit must lie with manager Hope Powell. The former England coach has transformed her side into a very effective pressing unit that is defensively superb.
Stand out player
The key match up for many before this game kicked off was the duel between Ebony Salmon and Maya Le Tissier, two of the biggest young prospects in the English game. There was no doubt who came out on top, as Le Tissier had a complete defensive performance. She not only set Brighton on their way to victory, but lead the backline superbly alongside Vanessa Williams. Bristol City side clearly were looking to play direct and find Salmon with balls over the top, but Le Tissier was equal to it showing equal parts defensive intelligence and grit.