Blue Moon Rising
Champions-elect Manchester City won the Women’s Super League One title in style by completing the double over closest rivals Chelsea in front of a record-breaking crowd at the Academy Stadium.
There now only remains the formality of one last home game against Birmingham City before the Sky Blues are officially crowned FA WSL 1 champions for 2016.
Ahead of this tie, the expectation was that it would be a close affair between the league’s best two sides. But Chelsea – packed with internationals – seemed unsettled by a noisy, partisan crowd who created an atmosphere that was just as valuable as having an extra player on the pitch and the likes of Karen Carney, Ji So-Yun, Gemma Davison, Eniola Aluko et al – despite plenty of possession – rarely troubled City stopper Karen Bardsley who was well-protected by the meanest defence in WSL 1.
And as the match kicked off, City were happy to sit back and allow Chelsea to come at them knowing that they had the best record in the league having conceded just three goals all season.
Skipper Steph Houghton with the unflappable Jen Beattie alongside are the mainstays of that defence and they were again superb yesterday with the unassuming Kiera Walsh once more playing a pivotal role.
Up front, my player of the match was Toni Duggan who featured in both City’s goals and who was a constant thorn in Chelsea’s side all day.
In the four games played since the August Bank Holiday all five goals scored have come from a set-piece of some kind. On three of those occasions, it was Duggan who supplied the ball for others to score with pin-point accurate crosses.
Yesterday Duggan’s cross came from a corner after thirty five minutes which picked out Jill Scott in the packed Chelsea box and her glancing header managed to find the bottom corner of the net via the head of Katie Chapman.
In the second half City’s plan was to attack Chelsea from the off in search of a killer second goal and that arrived five minutes after the break.
As Lucy Bronze raced on to a slide-rule pass from Jane Ross, Gilly Flaherty couldn’t avoid bringing her down in the area and Duggan calmly sent Spencer the wrong way from the spot.
As the game played out, City’s control grew and despite some half-chances for Chelsea the Sky Blues should really have increased their lead.
It would be fair to say that in recent games City have been wasteful at times in front of goal from open play and that trend continued yesterday as Parris and Asllani both wasted golden opportunities to score.
But when the final whistle went all that didn’t matter as the stadium erupted in cheering and singing.
Reflecting on this season, it has been a rollercoaster ride of emotions for everyone. From devastating sadness that has affected many people inside and outside the club to immense happiness for all those who want to celebrate the club’s success. So it will be an unforgettable year for very different reasons.
But this chapter in Man City’s history is not yet concluded. There is still the Continental Cup final on the horizon and the Champions League journey is about to begin. So there are still many more memories to come.