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Sam Kerr’s double for Chelsea against Manchester United clinches the WSL title | Women’s Super League

Sam Kerr’s double for Chelsea against Manchester United clinches the WSL title | Women’s Super League

Two superb volleys from Sam Kerr helped Chelsea claim a third straight Women’s Super League title as the Blues came from behind twice to earn a thrilling 4-2 win over Manchester United.

With Arsenal a point behind the defending champions, the WSL trophy destination oscillated between north and south-west London as United pushed Chelsea hard in a crowded and sunny Kingsmeadow.

United striker Martha Thomas gave her side the lead that would send fans 25 miles to the northeast, where West Ham faced hopeful second-placed Arsenal. Chelsea fought back through Erin Cuthbert but the visitors regained the lead before the break through Ella Toone. Kerr’s brace, sandwiching a close effort from Guro Reiten, took his tally for the season to 20 and secured Chelsea a third consecutive title.

Emma Hayes had been typically dismissive when asked if she felt any pressure ahead of today’s game. “Look at the cost of inflation, look at the rising costs for people paying the bills, it’s far from a pressure, it’s a joy, I love my job,” the manager said. Chelsea.

The problem was that at Manchester United, Chelsea faced a team that had a chance of reaching the Champions League for the first time. After a shaky and injured start to the season, Manchester City had regained third place, with a two-point lead over United in fourth. Marc Skinner’s side needed a win against the holders and Reading to claw back points from Manchester City.

The United manager had said: “Not only do we have nothing to lose and everything to gain, this is a wonderful opportunity for us to go and show how energetic we can be at the end of the season”, and his side have started exactly as the manager hoped, with a montage of intensity from a side ready to push and shake things up at the top of the table next season.

In less than three minutes, a timely challenge from Jess Carter on Leah Galton spared the home side blushes during a sold-out and spirited Kingsmeadow. Shortly after, a Katie Zelem corner caused chaos in the Chelsea penalty area before the Blues cleared the ball.

Ella Toone celebrates Manchester United Women's goal against Chelsea Women
Ella Toone celebrates Manchester United Women’s score against Chelsea Women. Photography: Pedro Soares/SPP/Shutterstock

In the 13th minute, the visiting team took a shocking but well-deserved lead when a Zelem free-kick was returned through the head of Thomas to put Arsenal above the Blues.

If there’s one thing Chelsea have shown this season it’s courage, and United’s lead was short-lived. A long throw was whipped past Mary Earps into the corner by Cuthbert.

Despite Chelsea’s equaliser, United dominated down the middle and it wasn’t long before they regained their lead with Toone firing in Galton’s cross from the left.

If there was any further proof needed of Hayes’ ability to turn a game around, it came in the second half. Defensive duo Jonna Andersson and Sophie Ingle were swapped for Ji So-yun and Beth England and Chelsea instantly asserted their authority in midfield. It took just 50 seconds for Chelsea to equalize and the source was familiar, Kerr volleying into the top corner with all the fury she could muster.

Five minutes later they were back at the top of the table – a draw would not have been enough, with Arsenal now beating West Ham. Ji slipped the ball to Pernille Harder on the left and the Danish striker sent a low cross for Reiten to pass to the side.

Moving the Goalposts Chart
Artwork: guardian design

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With the stadium rocking and the momentum having swung towards Chelsea, an audacious goal from Kerr would extend their lead and strengthen their hold on the title. Earp’s pass was intercepted by Reiten, who directed it towards Kerr and the Australian striker, 25 yards out with her back to goal, cushioned the ball to her chest before turning and sending a volley in loop in the net.

No season can top the 2014 finale, but it came close. Then Chelsea crumbled, giving up a two-point advantage over Birmingham and a three-point lead over Liverpool, who came from third place to be champions on the final day.

Here Chelsea got themselves out of trouble as they have so often done during this title charge. Once they had usurped Arsenal at the top of the table, there was no way they were going to back down.

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