Impetus’ Ben Gilby was at Kingsmeadow to see Chelsea lift their third straight Barclays FA Women’s Super League title. But it needed a major second-half comeback. He captures the drama in words and photos (8/5/22).
Above: Chelsea lift the FAWSL title. Photo: Chelsea FC.
Chelsea have lifted the Barclays FA Women’s Super League title for the third season in a row after a sensational second-half performance which saw them come from 2-1 down to see off Manchester United.
Emma Hayes’ side went into the game knowing a win would give them the title. Anything less would see it go to Arsenal.
Manchester United were aware that if they could spoil the party and Reading did them a favour in Berkshire, they could deny Manchester City the final Champions League spot. So, it was all on the line in front of a raucous Kingsmeadow.
The Red Devils were the better side in the first half. Leah Galton was hugely influential across the pitch and Martha Thomas was buzzing around making herself a nuisance. A clever defensive setup forced Chelsea on the back foot.
With 13 minutes played, United took the lead as Thomas headed home – you could not say it was not a surprise.
Five minutes later, Erin Cuthbert smashed home a leveller, but that was as good as it got for the Blues in the opening 45. They were forced into playing long balls forward and gave away possession cheaply. Ella Toone’s deflected strike from Galton’s ball in ensured that United went in at the break in front.
At this point, the league title was going to Arsenal on goal difference, but Emma Hayes got her team in the dressing room and made some crucial changes.
On came Beth England and Ji So-Yun. England’s influence was notable from the start of the second period, linking with Sam Kerr with the Matilda becoming more prominent as a result.
Within a minute of the restart, Chelsea were level. A ball in from the right found Kerr who laid the ball back for Erin Cuthbert. The Scot’s shot was blocked but rebounded to the Australian superstar who hit an absolute rocket first time on the volley into the net from the edge of the 18 yard box.
Just five minutes later, the Blues were in front as Ji played in Pernille Harder along the left. Guro Reiten ran across the Dane to get onto the end of her squared ball to roll the ball home.
Kingmeadow was at maximum volume all afternoon, but the noise was reaching levels that have rarely been reached in the 32-year history of this stadium.
With Chelsea now absolutely flying, the ultimate was reached with another sensational strike from Kerr. Reiten headed the ball forward to the East Fremantle-born star who had her back to goal, just outside the ‘D’. Kerr chested the ball down, turned, and saw United keeper Mary Earps positioned well to the left of the goal. In an instant, Australia’s all-time leading scorer lifted a stunning volley into the right-hand side of the net.
Sam Kerr has scored some stunning goals in her life. But the two at Kingsmeadow this afternoon take some beating.
The remaining 25 minutes of the match were generally a procession on the pitch and a party in the packed stands. The introduction of departing club legends Ji and Drew Spence brought a clear desire for the pair to sign off at Kingsmeadow with a goal, but it was not to be.
This was a game of quality. Whilst both teams were not at their best simultaneously, there was so much to enjoy. Chelsea showed that, when it really matters, they know how to win matches against the better teams. This is the step that Manchester United need to take in order to finally play Champions League Football.
Ben Gilby’s EXCLUSIVE photo gallery from Kingsmeadow:
Teams: CHELSEA (3-5-3): Berger, Carter, Bright, Eriksson, Charles, Cuthbert, Ingle, Andersson, Harder, Kerr, Reiten. Substitutes: Musovic (GK), Nouwen, England, Ji, Fleming, Mjelde, James, Spence, Adullina.
Scorers: Cuthbert 18′. Kerr 46′, 66′. Reiten 51′.
MANCHESTER UNITED (4-2-3-1): Earps, Battle, Ladd, Thorisdóttir, Blundell, Groenen, Zelem, Thomas, Toone, Galton, Russo.
Scorers: Thomas 13′, Toone 25′.
Referee: Abigail Byrne.