Liverpool retained their Super League crown on Sunday in the most dramatic finish ever seen to an English women’s football season.
Three teams went into the final day of the campaign with a chance of taking the title, and the Reds were lying third – three points behind leaders Chelsea and a point below Birmingham City.
As well as needing results to go their way, the reigning champions also required a three-goal swing in goal difference. But they held their nerve to win 3-0, with all their goals arriving in the second half, while Chelsea lost 2-1 at Manchester City and Birmingham drew 2-2 with Notts County.
Liverpool’s manager Matt Beard, formerly with Chelsea, said: “It’s been a surreal afternoon with the way things went in every match, but I’m so proud of the girls for the way they finished the season off.
“I didn’t want to know how the other games were going, but our fans kept shouting out the other scores. Our game finished first and we were able to watch Chelsea finish theirs on the TV, and it was just fantastic for us when that final whistle went at Man City.
“To be honest, I went into the afternoon thinking we wouldn’t win the league. But we were magnificent and Chelsea didn’t do it again in a big game – that’s happened to them a number of times this season, whereas we’ve always delivered on the big occasions.”
Beard’s opposite number at Chelsea, Emma Hayes, who took over from him two years ago and has led this season’s title challenge after her team finished second from bottom last term, said: “We’re gutted. The girls are devastated and there’s no consoling them at the moment.
“We took too long to get going today, we were nervy and gave away two sloppy goals. We’re devastated to miss out on the title, but finishing second means we’re in the Champions League next season and that’s a monumental achievement for the club.”
A first major trophy had beckoned for Hayes’s team at the start of the afternoon, and they were given an early boost as Birmingham quickly went two goals behind. But they then suffered the same fate, goals by Jill Scott and Toni Duggan putting Manchester City in firm control.
It got worse as Birmingham drew themselves back to 2-2 with goals either side of half-time while also missing a penalty. And worse still for Chelsea as Liverpool scored through Natasha Dowie and Lucy Bronze to open up a two-goal lead early in the second half.
A Fara Williams penalty then assured victory for the Reds, but Chelsea’s hopes were revived as Gilly Flaherty pulled a 71st-minute goal back and they were then handed an advantage when City defender Abbie McManus was sent off 13 minutes from time. But while Liverpool strolled to victory, Chelsea were unable to make late pressure count.
Birmingham also had chances to score a third goal that would have won them the title. “It was so frustrating,” said their disappointed manager, David Parker. “One goal has been the difference between winning the league and missing out on a Champions League place.
“We’ve done really well this season, though. There are far more positives than negatives we can take from it and we’ll come back stronger next year.”Reuse content