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Women’s Football Chelsea retain WSL title

EMMA HAYES asked her players if “they like winning” after Chelsea secured back to back Women’s Super League titles.

Hayes’s side headed into today’s concluding round of fixtures two points clear of second-placed Manchester City and with a goal difference superior by three.

And they made no mistake in getting the win they needed as Melanie Leupolz, Fran Kirby’s double, Sam Kerr and Erin Cuthbert ensured the trophy remained with the Blues.

Chelsea were named 2019-20 champions on a points-per-game basis. When the season was halted by the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, they were a point behind leaders City with a game in hand.

This time around they settled matters on the pitch, securing the win that ensured City’s 1-0 victory at West Ham counted for nothing.

The title is the second trophy in a potential quadruple for Chelsea, who won the League Cup in February and face Barcelona in next weekend’s Champions League final. Hayes called on her side to take this winning feeling into that game and finish what would be a remarkable season for the club.

“It is a collaborative effort at Chelsea to get us here. We have cultivated something. We have a culture here to be the best — there is no complacency. I said to the players when they got their medals: ‘Do you like winning? Well do it again next week’. I understand how amazing Barcelona are, but so are we.”

Any nerves were banished as Chelsea got off to a fast start, taking the lead after just two minutes. Leupolz peeled off her marker from Jess Carter’s corner and fired her shot from the centre of the area through Reading goalkeeper Grace Moloney.

Hayes’s side were not at their brilliant best in the first half but were largely unthreatened by Reading.

As the visitors started to tire, it was a familiar combination who put the home side in full control after 43 minutes. A flowing team move set Kerr free and the Australian cut back for England’s Kirby to fire into the top right-hand corner.

“I’m really happy,” said Kirby. “The performance today wasn’t our best but we were ruthless when we needed to be. It is really special. After last season, we wanted to do it properly this year and we’ve done it. The character in this team is incredible.

“We pride ourselves on scoring goals and we also keep clean sheets. I love being part of this team. Sam Kerr has been on fire this year and has been a joy to play with. This trophy is for the fans — it has been hard to play without them. Everyone deserves this.”

The pair combined again 12 minutes after the break as Chelsea put the game beyond all doubt. Kerr held up a long ball over the top well and laid it off for Kirby to unleash a fine left-footed finish from the edge of the box for her 16th WSL goal of the season.

Kirby returned the favour after 71 minutes with a delicious lofted through ball for WSL top scorer Kerr to net her 21st league goal of the season and become only the second player to net over 20 in a campaign in the league’s history.

Kerr’s fine volley was the duo’s 12th combined goal of the season and their third of the afternoon.

Substitute Erin Cuthbert put the gloss on an emphatic win with Chelsea’s fifth after 75 minutes when Maloney could not hold a Kerr header and Cuthbert managed to scramble it in.

“To win the league outright silences anyone from the points-per-game from last season,” added Hayes. “My son will love this medal and will wear it all day tomorrow. This is the best squad and the best title in my time here, because of the threats and the opposition. I always felt we were leading the league, and that shows our dominance this year.

“I always think about winning the league, that is the bread and butter. It shows you are consistent as champions. To be in a position to win the quadruple, I am lucky to have these players. The winning just breeds around the whole place. I see it in my young players too. I am a very proud manager today, as always.”

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