Manchester City went top of the Women’s Super League after winning their penultimate game of the season to put pressure on an absent Chelsea, whose own fixture was delayed until Wednesday to allow them to play their Champions League semi-final second leg instead.
Chelsea thrashed Bayern Munich 4-1 to overturn an aggregate deficit from the first leg but will return to WSL action in midweek a point behind new leaders City.
City’s 4-0 win over Birmingham was a 13th win in their last 14 WSL games. Player of the season contender Chloe Kelly began the rout with two goals inside the first 23 minutes. Caroline Weir went on to miss a penalty in the second half, before later goals from Esme Morgan and Sam Mewis, another WSL player of the season nominee, made it a handsome victory.
Sadly, the game was marred by what appeared to be a second half injury to Kelly, who was stretchered off with her knee in a brace.
Chelsea now trail City by a point and will have the opportunity to return to the top ahead of the final round of fixtures next week when they play their game in hand against Tottenham on Wednesday.
Despite the highs of reaching the Champions League final for the first time, Emma Hayes’ side will have to quickly re-focus to ensure that contest doesn’t become a banana skin.
Further down the standings, Arsenal ensured that now only an impossibly big goal difference swing next weekend will prevent them from securing the third Champions League place at the expense of Manchester United.
The Gunners were seriously tested by Everton, though. Katie McCabe gave them a first half lead, but when Megan Finnigan equalised, in the process becoming the first player to score against Arsenal in the WSL since February, the game looked to be heading for a draw. But when McCabe was brought down in the penalty area deep into stoppage time, Kim Little converted from the spot for the win.
The victory was a crucial one for Arsenal as Manchester United were also victorious, grinding out a narrow 1-0 win decided by a late own goal against bottom club Bristol City.
Missing out on the newly lucrative and revamped Champions League will come as a major disappointment to a United side that led the WSL for a significant portion of the season and had still remained in the top three until recently.
Injuries, particularly to star forward Tobin Heath, have not helped and it represents a second campaign in which United appear to have run out of steam after a strong start. Five defeats in their last 11 WSL games compared to taking almost maximum points from their first 10 tells a story.
The defeat to United leaves Bristol City needing to win their final game of the season next weekend away at Brighton to have any chance of staying up, and hope Aston Villa also lose against Arsenal.
Villa were unable to fully secure their WSL status for next season, with a 0-0 draw against West Ham only enough to take them two points clear of Bristol. The result effectively guarantees that the Hammers will avoid relegation, though, thanks to a vastly superior goal difference than the Robins. Birmingham, despite their loss to City, are also safe pretty much now safe for the same reason.
The other game of the week saw Reading leapfrog Brighton as both clubs jostle for the final place in the top half of the table. Fara Williams opened the scoring for Reading in what was the penultimate game of her illustrious career before retiring this summer. Danielle Carter doubled that lead, only for Lee Geum-min to net a quick double to make it 2-2 at half-time.
Natasha Harding sealed a 3-2 win for Reading early in the second half.
2020/21 WSL results – gameweek 21
Aston Villa 0-0 West Ham
Chelsea p-p Tottenham
Everton 1-2 Arsenal
Bristol City 0-1 Manchester United
Reading 3-2 Brighton
Manchester City 4-0 Birmingham
Chelsea will face Tottenham on Wednesday evening, with the final day of the 2020/21 WSL season to be played next weekend on Sunday 9 May at simultaneous 2.30pm kick-offs.