Kerr’s brace turns disaster to delight as Chelsea beat Man Utd 4-2 to win WSL title
By Paul Lagan at Kingsmeadow
Chelsea 4 v Man Utd 2
Sam Kerr scored a sensational goal to put Chelsea 4-2 up against Manchester United secure three points and give the west Londoners the WSL title in the most dramatic of occasions for the third time in a row.
Chelsea had to win, that would guarantee, the title with Arsenal breathing down their necks and hoping for a slip-up.
And a slip-up was on the cards - twice United took the lead as the home side found themselves shell-shocked in the opening 45 minutes.
But give huge credit for head coach Emma Hayes, who for the second game in a row, produced the game-changing substitutions. She did it at Birmingham recently which edged the Blues to a tight 1-0 win, she did it here at half-time, bringing on Beth England and Ji.
That changed the dynamic of the game, it improved the Blues intensity -suddenly they were holding the ball better, and scoring the equaliser within seconds of the restart certainly helped.
From then on, there was only none winner and they were wearing Blue.
Chelsea opened the game shakily, with United in possession of the ball and dominating the opening exchanges
Hayley Ladd was given the first yellow card of the game on 10 minutes for hauling back Sam Kerr when the Australian broke free on the halfway line.
United deserved their lead on 14 minutes when following a clipped free-kick, Martha Thomas was first to react and her header zipped past Ann-Katrin Berger.
Niamh Charles had a half minute later but she scuffed her left-footer wide of Mary Earps goal .
But parity was restored when attacking midfielder Erin Cuthbert latched onto a cleared corner and thumped a venomous half-volley, low and wide of Earps and into the back of the net.
But every time the Reds got close to the Chelsea penalty area, they posed a threat.
And so it proved to be, when on 28 minutes a deep byline cross was met at the far post by Ella Toone, who volleyed the ball past Berger to restore United’s lead.
The Blues looked uncharacteristically nervous on the ball, afraid to make a mistake.
With United plying a very high line, pressing Chelsea’s midfield as well, it looked as if United were forcing Chelsea into a counter-attacking policy, where a long ball was needed.
This was falling into United’s lap as their back four, was well marshalled by two ex-Chelsea players in Hannah Blundell and Maria Thorisdottir.
With the title on the line, Chelsea head coach made two bold substitutions, bringing on striker Beth England and Ji, with left back Jonna Andersson and midfielder Sophie Ingle making way.
Within 60 seconds the Blues water level, when superstar striker Sam Kerr, earned her status by smashing home the equaliser.
Six minutes later and the turnaround was completed when an attack on the left by Pernille Harder saw her clip the ball to in-running Guro Reiten, who stroked a low, right-footer past the helpless Earps to put the west Londoners in front for the first time.
Hayes made another substitution on 50 minutes Charles left the field as centre-back Aniek Nouwen came into the centre of the defence to shore that part up.
But Kerr was at it again, and the striker who almost single-handed has delivered when it was needed was at it again on 66 minutes, when, wide on the left she turned and unleashed a sensational 35-yard volley that smashed into the back of the Manchester United goal to open up a two goal lead.
Harder, still recovering from injury was replaced with 13 minutes left on the clock, and Jessie Fleming replaced her.
Despite the lead, and with Arsenal wining at West Ham, the thought of a United comeback was fresh in the minds of the sell-out crowd of 4,378.
Experience was what was needed and experience was aplenty on the pitch.
Hayes even showed the sentimental side of her nature, something that Rae;y gets an outing on match day.
With the game heading into seven minutes of added time, she brought on Drew Spence, who after nearly a decade in Blues was playing her final game for the club.
She, along with Ji and Andersson, will head to pastures new for next season.
For Hayes and the club, with the new owner just about to settle behind the big desk, the prospect of added revenue will bring in reinforcements to try and take the Blues to new heights and another tilt at the Champions League.
Teams: .Chelsea, Berger, Bright, Ingle, Carter, Reiten, Eriksson, Kerr, Charles, Cuthbert, Hrder, Andersson
subs, Musovic, Nouwen, England, Ji, Fleming, Mjelde, James, Spence, Abdullina
Man Utd, Earps, Thorisdottir, Blundell, Toone, Thomas, Zelenograd, Galton, Ladd, Groenen, Battle, Russo
subs, Baggaley, Harris, Moore, Boe Riss, Fuso Caldwell, Braun, Hanson, Smith
Referee: Abigail Byrne