As the 2021/22 WSL season edges closer to its dramatic conclusion, gameweek 19 served to ramp up the pressure in both the title race and the battle for the third and final Champions League spot.
Arsenal and Chelsea are pushing each other every inch of the way to the finish line and the same is true of Manchester City and Manchester United as they fight it out for third.
All 12 clubs were in action across six games this weekend, free of the Covid-19 postponements that have affected a few recent fixtures.
Everton started the season with hopes of upsetting the top three and challenging for a Champions League place. But this goalless draw with the WSL’s bottom club actually mathematically secured their top flight status for 2022/23 after a poor seven months.
The visitors peppered the Birmingham goal with shots but only five of 18 were on target. For the hosts, it was only a third league game of the season that didn’t end in defeat, with Championship football beckoning even if it’s not quite confirmed just yet.
Manchester City continued to put pressure on neighbours Manchester United in the hunt for the WSL’s third and final Champions League qualifying place, with victory over an often tough and stubborn West Ham side a welcome hurdle to clear in their run-in.
Georgia Stanway set the tone with an early goal, with City’s advantage doubled in the second half by Khadija Shaw, who started in place of Ellen White. The Hammers, meanwhile, failed to muster a single shot on target in 90 minutes.
Manchester United stay ahead in the race for the top three as a result of Leah Galton’s second half strike against Brighton. It proved to be the only difference between the sides, with the Seagulls packing the midfield and defending resiliently for large periods of the match.
United did also have a penalty appeal waved away, struck the post and saw an effort scrambled off the line, all from unlucky forward Martha Thomas. They were deserved winners in the end and were able to withstand some late Brighton pressure to hold on.
Arsenal temporarily returned to the summit of the WSL on Sunday afternoon thanks to a one-sided win against Leicester, who had shipped nine goals against Chelsea just last weekend and appear to be running out of steam at the end of a maiden top flight season.
Beth Mead got the ball rolling for the Gunners just two minutes in. But the Foxes, who managed only one shot all game, actually stayed in it until the closing stages. Two goals from Vivianne Miedema, an own goal and one from Tobin Heath in the space of 16 minutes eventually killed it off.
Ramona Petzelberger popped up as Aston Villa’s hero for the second week in a row, scoring the winner late on against Tottenham at The Hive. The German had bagged a late equaliser against Reading to secure a point last weekend as well.
Tottenham’s already fading Champions League hopes are now pretty much extinguished. They are 10 points adrift of the top three and while two games in hand would give them an opportunity to partially close that gap, they must face Chelsea twice and Arsenal in their final five fixtures.
Chelsea matched Arsenal’s result to reclaim the lead in the WSL only a few hours after losing it, cruising to a 5-0 win against a Reading side that had surprisingly beaten them earlier this season. There was no mercy from the champions, who dominated from start to finish.
The opening goal didn’t come until the closing stages of the first half when Jessie Fleming broke the deadlock. But that was followed by second half braces from both Bethany England, who is thriving at the moment, and WSL golden boot leader Sam Kerr.