Quadruple-chasing Chelsea crowned WSL champions, Bristol City relegated to Championship

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·31-min read
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Chelsea are WSL champions for a second season running - GETTY IMAGES
Chelsea are WSL champions for a second season running - GETTY IMAGES
  • Chelsea secure back-to-back titles and a record fourth WSL crown

  • Sam Kerr wins golden boot after scoring 21 goals in the league

  • Bristol City slip into Championship with 3-1 loss at Bristol City

Chelsea 5 Reading 0

In emphatic style on a near-perfect day for Chelsea, her side wrapped up what she called her “favourite title” and the “hardest” to have won so far, but there was still one element of sadness for manager Emma Hayes: That her side’s sensational performances over the past 35 weeks of a gripping Women’s Super League title race have not been witnessed first hand by their supporters.

As the champagne was being sprayed after Chelsea’s comfortable 5-0 victory at home to Reading, with Queen’s ‘We are the champions’ reverberating around Kingsmeadow, word got around that a handful of loyal fans were waiting in the car park. Quickly, the players and staff ran to a security gantry behind one of the corner flags to lift the trophy aloft and dance in front of their supporters, to whom Hayes dedicated their record fourth WSL title.

“I’m so gutted for the fans, this team is amazing and they haven’t had a chance to experience anything with them in the stadium. This, for sure, is about them,” Hayes said. “Football without fans just isn’t the same. That’s why I dedicated this to everyone at home, and not just the fans, our families, all the players and staff’s families, they’re the ones sitting at home while we still get to come to work and enjoy all these highs. I can’t wait to see them again. Some of them were outside, some waited a couple of hours. I’m so glad they did.”

Inside the stadium, Hayes’ team produced as comprehensive a display as they could have wished for to wrap up the title before the hour mark and remove any danger of a final-day slip up that could have allowed second-placed Manchester City to pounce.

The title is Chelsea’s ninth major trophy, all of which have come under Hayes and all since 2015, in what has been a hugely successful past six seasons. Their fourth league crown adds to their two Women’s FA Cups, two League Cups and 2017’s Spring Series and they have established themselves as the most successful British women’s team of the professional era so far.

Fittingly, after a season which has been defined by their instinctive, lethal partnership up front, Sam Kerr and Fran Kirby combined seamlessly yet again against Reading, with Kirby scoring twice after Germany midfielder Melanie Leupolz’s early opener, before Kerr and substitute Erin Cuthbert completed a repeat of the scoreline seen in January’s reverse fixture.

Having won 18 of their 22 WSL games in a remarkable campaign to finish two points clear of fierce rivals Manchester City, Hayes’ team remain on course for a potential quadruple of major honours this term, the third of which could come when they meet Barcelona in next Sunday’s Champions League final.

“I haven’t been able to talk about the Champions League final because you have to win the league title,” said Hayes, who has been in charge since 2012. “Knowing you’re coming into the last game and it’s in your hands, it’s the only place you want to be. I wouldn’t want to be in another team’s dressing room, hoping someone slips up.”

Another trophy for Emma Hayes and her team - PA
Another trophy for Emma Hayes and her team - PA

Any chance of Chelsea slipping up looked slim within moments of kick-off. There was not even a hint of nerves about any Chelsea player in the warm-up, but if there were any, they were extinguished inside 68 seconds as Leupolz scored the fastest goal of the entire WSL campaign, losing her marker on the edge of the box and firing in first time from Jess Carter’s right-wing corner.

Kerr and Kirby then linked up for the second shortly before half-time, as Kerr raced onto her strike partner’s through ball and then cut the ball back straight into Kirby’s path for the former Reading youngster to fire into the top corner. They paired up yet again for Chelsea’s third and Kirby’s second after the break, when she powered in from the edge of the area from Kerr’s square ball.

Their roles were reversed for the confident fourth, as Kirby cheekily lobbed the ball into the box for the assist and the Australia striker volleyed in. That stylish goal was her 21st of the season in 22 games as she claimed the WSL’s golden boot, finishing three goals ahead of last season’s winner, Arsenal striker Vivianne Miedema. Scotland’s Cuthbert bundled in their fifth, and by keeping things tight at the other end, Chelsea keeper Ann-Katrin Berger claimed the ‘golden glove’ prize with the most clean sheets [12] of any goalkeeper in the division this term.

Fran Kirby and Sam Kerr were at their goal-scoring best again - GETTY IMAGES
Fran Kirby and Sam Kerr were at their goal-scoring best again - GETTY IMAGES

Reading’s best effort saw forward Danielle Carter fire just wide, as they finished seventh in the table, but their afternoon will be remembered as that of legendary midfielder Fara Williams’ final appearance at the end of a 20-year playing career which saw her become England’s most-capped footballer, male or female.

Williams was presented with a shirt by Hayes before kick-off in a typically classy gesture, but afterwards the celebrations were all Chelsea’s, and Hayes added: “When they’re sat, grey and old, it’s going to be these things they talk about. Winning, winning. We don’t tire of it. For all my players, I’m not sorry for what I’ve put you through this season. I’m happy, because to put this in your cabinet, it’s another reason why Chelsea are the best team in the country and I’m just grateful to be given the opportunity to lead them.”

Chelsea (4-3-3): Berger; Charles (Andersson, 58), Bright, Eriksson, Carter (Blundell, 69); Leupolz (Fleming, 69), Ingle, Ji (Reiten, 58); Kirby, Kerr, Harder (Cuthbert, 58).
Subs not used: Musovic (g), England, Spence, Telford (g).
Goals: Leupolz 2, Kirby 43, 57, Kerr 71, Cuthbert 75

Reading (4-5-1): Moloney Leine, Cooper, Bartrip, Roberts (Eikeland, 79); Harding, Rowe, Williams, James, Carter; Harries (Chaplen, 45).
Subs not used: Jeon, Nayler (g), Flores, Childerhouse.

Referee: Stacey Pearson (Somerset).

Bristol City relegated to Championship

By Robert Dunford, at the People's Pension Stadium

Brighton 3 Bristol City 1

Bristol City interim manager Matt Beard admitted his side could not quite do enough to avoid relegation, after defeat against Brighton at Crawley.

The 43-year took over from Tanya Oxtoby on maternity leave in January, with the side earning just two points over the first ten games, yet was unable to ultimately prevent relegation to the Championship.

Needing a win at the People’s Pension Stadium, defeat against a disciplined Brighton left both players and Beard himself distraught at falling short.

Bristol City have been relegated after four seasons in the top flight - Getty Images
Bristol City have been relegated after four seasons in the top flight - Getty Images

He said “It’s tough to take. We knew the consequences today if we didn’t win. Obviously I’m upset and disappointed with what happened.

“The players haven’t left anything out there today, they’ve given blood, sweat and tears ever since I came in January. They’ve fought for absolutely everything.

“It was a big occasion for us today, we’ve got a very young squad. There are times over the season when we’ve been in good positions.

“We’ve proved that we can play at this level, and the players deserved to be at this level. When I came in everyone had written the club off.”

The fate of Bristol City was ultimately set after less than seven minutes, when goalkeeper Sophie Baggaley failed to hold onto an Inessa Kaagman cross, allowing Maya Le Tissier to net her first goal of the campaign.

If a second goal was to come in the game, it was more likely to fall to the hosts. Ellie Brazil ran through on goal after a long ball on 37 minutes, but Baggaley was able to stick a boot out to block her finish.

The home side continued to pressure after the restart, and doubled the lead their general play deserved seven minutes after the restart.

Lee Geum-min showed good movement and fired home off the crossbar, a finish that seemingly condemned Bristol City to relegation.

To their credit, the visitors pressed for a foothold into the game, and substitute Abi Harrison guided the ball home from less than three yards out on the half hour mark to keep some glimmer of survival hopes alive.

However, any notion of a dramatic turnaround were extinguished with 14 minutes left, when a Kaagman free kick deflected off the Bristol City wall and past an outstretched – and agonised – Baggaley.

Brighton finished in their highest position in their third Women’s Super League season, and manager Hope Powell was content at a professional approach in a potentially tense encounter.

She said “I’m really pleased at the way we managed the game. That was the talking point this week, that we could get dragged into a dogfight.

“Today we managed it, we played the way we wanted to play, we knew that they would come at us.

“On reflection I’m very pleased with our own performance, one of all the players that stayed relatively calm.

“Next season is going to be really challenging. The players want to continue looking up, but they’re still learning.

“We want to build on what we’ve done.”

Brighton and Hove Albion (4-2-3-1): Friskerstrand; Koivisto, Williams, Le Tissier, Gibbons; Kaagman, Simpkins; Brazil, Green (Bance 90), Whelan; Geum-min.
Subs not used: Walsh, Roe, Kerkdijk, Connolly, Heroum, Jarrett, Symonds, Olding.
Goals: Le Tissier 7, Lee 52, Kaagman 71.
Booked: Geum-min, Green.

Bristol City (4-2-3-1): Baggaley; Bryson (Palmer 54), Sargeant, Evans, Purfield; Humphrey (Bissell 54) Skeels (Allen 88); Pike, Daniels, Wellings (Harrison 54); Salmon.
Subs not used: Haland, Palmer, Wynne, Collis, Woolley.
Goal: Harrison 61.
Booked: Salmon.

Referee: Amy Fearn.

Man City runners up for fourth year in a row

By Molly McElwee, at Dagenham and Redbridge Stadium

West Ham 0 Manchester City 1

Gareth Taylor said his Manchester City team would be gunning to have the WSL title in their hands next season, after Chelsea's win on Sunday decided their fate as runners up for the fourth year in a row.

It had the potential to be a thrilling final day of the season, City still in with an outside chance of snatching the title if Chelsea had stumbled against Reading. But despite pinging 22 shots at West Ham's goal, City's 1-0 win was never likely to be enough, and Chelsea's decisive 5-0 victory gave them no chance in the end.

It was no consolation that Ellen White's lone goal brought City to 55 points - a record tally for league runners up - and the deflation was etched on the players' faces at 90 minutes. But Taylor was more positive in his reflection.

"To get that points total without winning the league is just telling you the level you're operating at," he said. "The margin for error is very, very tight. To lose the title by a couple of points and one defeat - we've been unbeaten since October, on a tremendous run. I think we just need more time.

"We ran a very good team very close by playing our way - with exciting football, pace and scoring goals. Even if we were successful and won the title, we'd still be looking to get better. We want it in our hands next season, that's tremendously difficult to do."

In a match punctuated by countless City chances and three shots off the crossbar - not to mention two missed penalties - it was perhaps a moment off the field that told the story of this match.

Ellen White scored Man City's only goal despite a hatful of chances - GETTY IMAGES
Ellen White scored Man City's only goal despite a hatful of chances - GETTY IMAGES

A tannoy announcement eight minutes informed those at Dagenham and Redbridge Stadium that Chelsea had gone ahead in south west London. With one fell swoop the stadium announcer dealt City's hopes of lifting the trophy the heaviest of blows and there was a momentary slump of shoulders.

With the odds stacked against them in the league standings, their depleted bench was another sign of City's fleeting fortunes: skipper Steph Houghton and Chloe Kelly already out with injuries, goalkeeper Ellie Roebuck was also unexpectedly absent on Sunday after turning her ankle in training.

When Mackenzie Arnold's brilliant save then denied Sam Mewis from the spot five minutes before half-time - after 40 minutes of constant pressure in the West Ham box - you sensed it was not City's day. News filtered through minutes later of Chelsea doubling their lead and affirmed that feeling.

It did not stop Taylor's side's relentless search for the goals they needed, but City's second half would bring more close, but not close enough efforts. Mewis and Esme Morgan both hit the crossbar in quick succession, and substitute Rose Lavelle would miss a second penalty thanks to more Arnold heroics - in potentially her and USA team-mate Mewis's final league matches in a City shirt, as rumours swirl of their summer departures.

The home team put up a fight, centre half Hawa Cissoko in particular, showing how they survived a torrid relegation battle to finish ninth. But Bronze got the better of her for City's eventual breakthrough, her cross allowing birthday girl White to volley home in the 75th minute, for a flat end to a scintillating season.

White, who was captaining City in Houghton's absence, was far from satisfied by the goal. Her heated exchange of words with her West Ham opposite Gilly Flaherty - a former team-mate - in the closing moments of the match was uncharacteristic and summed up City's overall frustrations. It was a flat end to a scintillating season.

West Ham (5–3-2): Arnold; Barker (Kiernan 73), Fisk, Flaherty, Cissoko, Pacheco; Vetterlein (Mustafa 82), Longhurst, Denton; Dali, Brynjarsdottir
Subs not used: Brosnan Bookings: Cissoko.

Manchester City (4-3-3): Benameur-Taieb; Bronze, Morgan, Greenwood, Stanway; Mewis (Coombs 73), Walsh, Weir; Beckie (Lavelle 61), White, Hemp (Park 90+1).
Subs not used: Keating, Davies, Dahlkemper.
Goal: White 75.

Referee: Kirsty Downie.

03:50 PM

Emma Hayes speaks

"To win it outright silences those who said we only won it last year because of the points-per-game ratio.
My son asked me this morning if I would bring home a medal today. He’ll wear it all tomorrow, let’s hope he doesn’t throw it in the bin."

This is the best squad, the best title, the best opposition. I cannot wait for the Champions League final. I don't know how many sleeps there are, but we are ready."

03:46 PM

Fran Kirby reaction

“The performance today wasn’t out best. The character in this team is incredible.”

Adds that she's "loved every minute" of this Chelsea season and "found a new love for it" following her return from illness.

03:41 PM

Chelsea lift the trophy

The champagne is popped, streamers flying and the trophy is held aloft by each member of Chelsea's squad.

This is trophy No 2 following the League Cup earlier this season. Next up, the Champions League final next Sunday. The FA Cup is still within their grasp too. The quadruple is very much still on.

03:38 PM

Nine of the best

More from Tom Garry at Kingsmeadow:

This is Chelsea's ninth major trophy as a club, all of which have come under Emma Hayes and all of which have come since 2015. It's been an incredibly successful past six years for them. This is their fourth league crown, adding to two Women’s FA Cups, two Conti [League] Cups and 2017’s Spring Series. Is more to come next week in the Champions League final?

03:37 PM

Kerr and Kirby = goals, goals, goals

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03:35 PM

Verdict from Tom Garry at Kingsmeadow

Chelsea were so comfortable this afternoon, the final whistle was not greeted by the same delirious celebrations we saw here last week when they beat Bayern Munich. Things are quite calm. This title has been their title realistically since their 2-2 draw away at Manchester City last month. They're the complete team and they fully deserve to remain as champions.

03:33 PM

Bristol City slip into the Championship

Matt Beard couldn't pull off an unlikely escape act as Bristol City slide into the Championship with a 3-1 defeat at Brighton.

Manchester City saw two penalties saved, but ended up overcoming West Ham 1-0 to finish runners-up for a second season running.

Meanwhile, at Arsenal, Joe Montemurro signs off with a goalless draw at home to Aston Villa.

Birmingham slip to a 1-0 loss at Spurs to finish 11th in the table. Manchester United secure fourth spot with a 2-0 win over Everton.

03:30 PM

Kerr clinches golden boot

Sam Kerr wraps up the golden boot, scoring 21 goals this campaign with Viv Miedema runner-up on 22. Ann-Katrin Berger secures the golden gloves with her 12 clean sheet of the campaign.

03:27 PM

FT Chelsea 5 Reading 0

Chelsea are champions again! They secure back-to-back titles with a much-deserved and dominant victory over Reading. Kerr and Kirby the heroes of the day.

03:25 PM

90 + 2 mins - Chelsea 5 Reading 0

The hosts aren't done yet. Cuthbert's deflected effort goes out for a corner and denies them of a sixth goal. They keep the heat on Reading from the flag kick before Cuthbert is penalised for a handball on the edge of the area.

03:21 PM

88 mins - Chelsea 5 Reading 0

Kirby latches on to a super floated through ball from Cuthbert. Left of the area, the England international doesn't think about going for glory and the chance of a hat-trick. She opts to square it, trying to find her buddy Kerr in the middle, but the ball is cut out.

03:13 PM

Prolific

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03:12 PM

Another penalty save at West Ham

Arnold does it again. This time saving Rose Lavelle's spot-kick. That's two penalty saves from the West Ham keeper this afternoon.

03:09 PM

75 mins GOAL Chelsea 5 (Cuthbert) Reading 0

It's brutal now as Chelsea look to score with every attack. From a deep corner, Kerr heads at goal, the keeper parries to Cuthbert who manages to scramble the ball over the line despite Moloney's best efforts to claw it away.

03:08 PM

Ellen White makes the breakthrough

Man City have broken the deadlock at West Ham through Ellen White, but it won't make a jot of difference at the top of the table.

Meanwhile, Brighton have notched a third against Bristol City to lead 3-1.

03:06 PM

Verdict from the stands

Tom Garry at Kingsmeadow:

Chelsea are playing champagne football now. The lobbed assist from Fran Kirby is sublime, the volley home from Sam Kerr is excellent. Confidence is flowing through this team. Reading keeper Grace Moloney gets a touch but there's nothing she can do. The only question now is, how many will Chelsea score? And that one could be significant in the race for the golden boot, too. That prize appears to be Sam Kerr's now, three clear of Vivianne Miedema with fewer than 20 minutes remaining.

03:04 PM

71 mins - GOAL Chelsea 4 (Kerr) Reading 0

Kerr takes her WSL goalscoring tally to 21 for the campaign and no prizes for guessing who tees up the Aussie. Yep, you guessed it. A looping ball from Kirby down the middle which Kerr sticks her right boot out and lifts the ball over Moloney. She's beaming from ear to ear, pointing at Kirby in gratitude. That's now 12 league goals they've combined for alone this season.

03:01 PM

Double change for Chelsea

Carter and goalscorer Leupolz are replaced by Blundell and Fleming with just over 20 minutes to go and now one eye on the Champions League final against Barcelona in seven days' time.

02:58 PM

65 mins - Chelsea 3 Reading 0

Carter goes close for Reading! Chaplen backheels into the path of the former Arsenal midfielder but she can't snatches at the chance and knows she should have done better.

02:56 PM

63 mins - Chelsea 3 Reading 0

Bright dispossesses Carter and goes on a rampaging run into the Reading box seeking the ball out from Kerr on the left-hand-side. The Australian changes tact and goes for goal herself rather than creator, but Moloney gets down low to block the danger.

02:52 PM

Is the comeback on?

Bristol City pull a goal back at Brighton.

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02:50 PM

57 mins GOAL - Chelsea 3 (Kirby) Reading 0

Kerr holds off her marker and latches on to a long ball forward. The Australian international squares the ball to the threatening Kirby on the edge of the area. The England forward dribbles, head down and then floats the ball across the keeper into the top right-hand corner. Kirby's got to be player of the season, hands down.

Update from Tom Garry:

Somebody call the engraver... The title is staying here at Kingsmeadow. If there's going to be any late drama on this final day of the WSL season, it's going to have to be in the relegation battle. Kerrby have wrapped up Chelsea's fourth WSL title.

02:49 PM

56 mins - Chelsea 2 Reading 0

Best chance of the match so far for Chaplen who checks her run in the box, switches the ball from her right to left foot. But it allows Erikksen time to make the block and deny Reading's forward.

02:47 PM

One last big effort

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02:43 PM

Brighton double their lead

Bristol City concede a second goal at Brighton. Matt Beard's side need to score three goals and hope results go their way to stand a chance of safeguarding their WSL place. It would be the comebacks and all comebacks.

02:39 PM

47 mins - Chelsea 2 Reading 0

Leupolz finds space in the centre circle and lays the ball off to Ingle. The midfielder bursts forward and finds Charles on the right-hand side. Charles takes the ball to the byline but floats her deliver into the side-netting.

02:37 PM

Back underway around the grounds

Bristol City have 45 minutes to save their season, while Chelsea are all smiles as they return to the start of the second half. A group huddle later, a raise of the arms, and they're 45 minutes away from clinching another WSL trophy.

02:21 PM

HT Chelsea 2 Reading 0

Emma Hayes' side have one hand on the WSL trophy after a dominant first-half. Man City haven't been able to break the deadlock at West Ham, while Bristol City trial Brighton 1-0 at the break.

02:20 PM

45 +2 mins - Chelsea 2 Reading 0

Fantastic sweeping move from Chelsea on the stroke of half-time as their free-flowing attack destroys Reading's back line. Moloney saves from Harder to keep the scoreline at two.

02:16 PM

43 mins - GOAL Chelsea 2 (Kirby) Reading 0

Great link up play between Kirby and Kerr as the latter slots a ball into the middle and Kirby places it perfectly into the top right-hand corner. Classy finish.

Verdict from Tom Garry:

The pair of them have combined breathtakingly well all season long so it is only fitting that Sam Kerr should set up Fran Kirby for another goal today. The latter finds the top corner to put Chelsea 2-0 up and turns straight to celebrate with the Australia star. It's their dynamic duo which has fired Chelsea to the title.

02:15 PM

Man City miss from the spot

Sam Mewis can't convert a penalty as Arnold punches away. Missed opportunity.

02:13 PM

40 mins - Chelsea 1 Reading 0

Chelsea back on the front foot, and have appeals for a handball on the edge of the area turned down. Goalscorer Leuploz collects the ball on the right hand side and crosses into the middle, but the ball floats long.

02:08 PM

Still goalless at West Ham vs Man City

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02:06 PM

33 mins - Chelsea 1 Reading 0

Hearts in mouths time for Chelsea fans as Carter puts her side under pressure by playing the ball back to Berger with Reading players closing in. The Chelsea shotstopper boots it to row Z. Reading keep on the heat from the ensuing throw-in. Best passage of play from the visitors now.

02:03 PM

29 mins - Chelsea 1 Reading 0

Patience build up play now from Reading as they keep hold of possession and play through from the back. Rowe receives the ball on the edge of the area and tries to play in Harding, but the pass is too heavy.

Update from Tom Garry at Kingsmeadow:

Chelsea fans have just endured a slightly worrying moment, just a week before the Champions League final of course, with inspirational captain Magdalena Eriksson down on the field receiving treatment. However, thankfully for Emma Hayes' team, she's soon back into the action. It appears to have simply been a nose bleed. Everybody can keep calm...

01:55 PM

22 mins - Chelsea 1 Reading 0

Great block! Leine is at full stretch to deny Kirby an effort at goal and double Chelsea's lead from a deep centre from Bright. Still all Chelsea.

01:50 PM

17 mins - Chelsea 1 Reading 0

Chelsea still exerting their control on this match. Erikssen floats a ball in from the right, deep to the back stick where Kerr bats her marker and heads across goal towards Harder. Harder goes up with her marker, but she's muscled - fairly - out of the way.

01:48 PM

Fastest league goal of the season

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01:46 PM

13 mins Chelsea 1 Reading 0

Williams trying to pull strings in the middle of the park. This update from Tom Garry at Kingsmeadow:

In the final game of her remarkable, 20-year professional career, Fara Williams just casually pinged a 60-yard diagonal ball perfectly into the path of Wales' Tash Harding down Reading's right wing. Class is permanent.

01:42 PM

Bristol City trailing at Brighton

Not looking good for Bristol City's battle against the drop. They're trailing 1-0 at Brighton.

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01:40 PM

7 mins Chelsea 1 Reading 0

Visitors now starting to get into proceedings, they force a first corner which Williams delivers, but Chelsea clear their lines.

01:38 PM

5 mins Chelsea 1 Reading 0

Still dominate play from Chelsea, pinning the visitors in their half. Kirby gets close to the byline, but can't pull the goal back into the danger area.

01:35 PM

2 mins GOAL Chelsea 1 (Leuploz) Reading 0

Carter whips in the corner and it lands on the edge of the area to Leupolz who fires the ball past the crowded area and into the back of the net. The perfect start for the league leaders.

Reporter Tom Garry at Kingsmeadow writes: It's taken Chelsea fewer than 90 seconds to open the scoring, as Melanie Leupolz calms any early nerves. Chelsea attacked right from the off with intent, purpose and determination.

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01:33 PM

1 minute Chelsea 0-0 Reading

Emma Hayes' side are straight on the attack from the whistle and force an early corner.

01:31 PM

Ready for kick-off

About to get underway at Kingsmeadow and around the grounds.

01:28 PM

Update on Roebuck

Reporter Molly McElwee who is at West Ham vs Man City has this update on Roebuck's absence today:

"There was collective surprise in the Dagenham and Redbridge Stadium press box earlier when teams were announced and Ellie Roebuck was absent from City's starting XI. Her unfortunate rolling of her ankle at the gym in training this week is a huge blow for City, who have been anchored by Roebuck this season and who are already without Steph Houghton in their backline. It means she will likely miss out on the golden gloves award this season too. Karima Benameur-Taieb replaces her and is making her first ever WSL start."

01:26 PM

Barcelona crowned champions in Spain

Chelsea's Champions League final opponents next Sunday evening have been toasting their own league title success today. Will Emma Hayes' side be following suit in just over 90 minutes time?

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01:08 PM

A minute's applause before kick-off today

Doncaster Rovers Belles icon Julie Chipchase will be honoured before kick-off around the grounds today with a minute's applause following the 60-year-old's death this week.

Chipchase, who died following a short illness, was a pioneering player who went on to coach many of the current England senior players while working with the national set-up youth teams.

12:43 PM

Down at the bottom

Problems continue to hamper Birmingham. Deducted a point to draw them back into the relegation scrap today, they only have one available sub for today's clash with Spurs - goalkeeper Sophie Whitehouse.

And here's the Bristol City starting line-up hoping to secure three needed points at Brighton.

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12:39 PM

No Roebuck for Man City

Surprise in the first XI for City's vital trip to West Ham with goalkeeper Ellie Roebuck missing the clash. Karima Benameur Taieb is in-between the sticks.

Meanwhile, for West Ham, Gilly Flaherty makes her 150th WSL appearance.

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12:35 PM

And Chelsea XI

Largely as you'd expect with WSL top goalscorer Sam Kerr leading the line.

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12:34 PM

Reading team news is in

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12:24 PM

Time to say goodbye

It's sure to be an emotional day for England legend Fara Williams and Arsenal manager Joe Montemurro who will both be signing off from the WSL today.

An end of an era for the women's game, with England's most capped player - of either gender - Williams hanging up her boots after a remarkable career on and off the pitch.

Ahead of her retirement, the 37-year-old spoke to Oliver Brown about her illustrious career that saw six years of her earlier life spent living on the streets.

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Meanwhile, Montemurro departs Arsenal after three and a half years in charge to spend more time with his family.

The Australian led the club to their first WSL title in seven years in 2019. The 51-year-old cited being away from his family behind his decision at the end of March, but said it “felt like the right time” to step away from football “in the context of where I am as a coach”.

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12:00 PM

Down to the wire

Afternoon all. So, 246 days after the 2020/21 season got underway, it all boils down to one Super Sunday in the race for the Women's Super League title, and to determine who will be relegated.

After 21 matches played, Chelsea head into the finale knowing that back-to-back titles is in their hands. Two points clear of nearest rivals Manchester City, and with the advantage of home surroundings too for their clash with Reading, it looks unlikely that Emma Hayes' seemingly indomitable side will falter at the last hurdle.

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Should they drop points at Kingsmeadow, Gareth Taylor's City side know they must overcome West Ham by four clear goals to leapfrog Chelsea on goal difference and clinch their first title since 2016.

At the other end, Bristol City are two points adrift at the foot of the table and know they have to win at Brighton and then hope Aston Villa lose to Arsenal or Birmingham suffer defeat at home to Tottenham.

Bristol City's interim manager Matt Beard boldly said in his pre-match press conference on Thursday that he would 'prefer to be in our position that Aston Villa's with their opponent'.

"I know managers, people at other clubs, everybody said [earlier in the season] they thought Bristol City were going down. We've upset the apple cart. The players and staff have been amazing to get ourselves in this position," he added.

Birmingham were pulled back into the relegation mire with a point deduction last Friday for fielding an ineligible player in the league last month.

Carla Ward's side sit one place above Aston Villa on 14 points, with a point at home to Spurs enough to safeguard their place in the WSL next season.

As well as the final league placings, the race for the golden boot goes down to the wire, with Chelsea's Sam Kerr leading the way with 20 goals and Arsenal's Vivianne Miedema just two behind the Australian international.

The golden glove award could yet be shared between Man City goalkeeper Ellie Roebuck and Chelsea's Ann-Katrin Berger. Both have kept 11 clean sheets each this campaign.

Stay with us as we bring you build up from around the games and keep you up to date with all the goals from the six fixtures. Is there a final twist in the season to come?

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