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Man City beat Villa but miss out on WSL title to Chelsea on goal difference
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Eleanor Crooks
Press Association
Mary Fowler (right) scored Manchester City’s opening goal (Mike Egerton/PA)
Mary Fowler (right) scored Manchester City’s opening goal (Mike Egerton/PA)

Manchester City defeated Aston Villa 2-1 but lost out on the Women’s Super League title to Chelsea on goal difference.

City had matters in their own hands until a late salvo by Arsenal two weeks ago ended their 14-match WSL winning streak, and Chelsea took over top spot thanks to an 8-0 hammering of Bristol City and a 1-0 win over Tottenham.

That meant City arrived at Villa Park knowing they needed to win by three more goals than whatever Emma Hayes’ side managed at Manchester United.

But Chelsea were two up before City had created a real chance and, although goals from Mary Fowler and Lauren Hemp either side of a strike from Rachel Daly gave them three points, the four-time defending champions’ 6-0 victory meant the anticipated drama never materialised.

Villa were guaranteed to finish seventh but were eager to end on a positive note for departing manager Carla Ward, who has been in charge for three years and has established the side in the WSL.

Ward wants to spend more time with her daughter Hartley and the four-year-old accompanied the Villa boss onto the pitch for a pre-match presentation of a framed shirt and a bouquet of flowers.

One of the biggest cheers of the day, meanwhile, came in the 66th minute when former England captain Steph Houghton entered the pitch for her final appearance before retirement, taking the City armband from Alex Greenwood.

It was the home side who had the first opening, a flying Daly heading just over from Kenza Dali’s cross.

City were forced into an early change, former Villa midfielder Laura Blindkilde Brown replacing the injured Laura Coombs, and the visitors made the breakthrough in the 21st minute when Hemp set up Fowler for a neat touch and volley into the bottom corner.

That came moments after Alanna Kennedy had headed against the top of the crossbar from Chloe Kelly’s free-kick, and the rest of the first half was a story of what might have been for Gareth Taylor’s side, who badly missed top scorer Khadija Shaw.

Good work from Blindkilde Brown set up Jess Park for a shot straight at Anna Leat, while a strong run from Kerstin Casparij ended with Hemp having a goal-bound shot superbly blocked by Sarah Mayling.

City hit the woodwork again in the 38th minute when Park’s ball into the middle was met by a half volley from Blindkilde Brown against the bar, before Leat produced a brilliant save right at the end of the half to push Park’s shot over.

The visitors tried to create some urgency at the start of the second half but the goals would not come and, moments after Houghton’s arrival, the defender was beaten for pace by Daly, who cut in from the left and coolly found the bottom corner.

That sparked City back into life and Leat produced two fine saves, Daly headed off the line and Fowler volleyed just over before Hemp finally put the ball into the net with 13 minutes left.

They knew their chance had gone, though, and City’s players hung their heads at the end of the hollowest of victories.


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