Two superb second-half goals from Sam Kerr helped Chelsea win the Women’s Super League title, beating Manchester United 4-2 at Kingsmeadow, as Arsenal finished a point behind second place after a 2-0 victory at West Ham.
After securing a fifth WSL title for Chelsea, Hayes described it as his best win to date, telling Sky Sports: “Relief, I say it every time we win. It’s over, hallelujah! We had to dig deep but we’ve been doing this all year.
“It’s by far the best. 2-1 in the first half, then won 4-2. We are champions thanks to the second half of the season. We know how to cross the line.
“We can do that, you can’t legislate that.”
But it was heartbreaking for Arsenal – who had spent 182 days at the top of the WSL table – and manager Jonas Eidevall described the team as “empty” after finishing second.
He told the BBC: “It’s very empty at the moment. I’m very proud of how the players handled the situation. We have been phenomenal.
“When you take 55 points, you know you can win it. We just feel empty that we didn’t.
“Obviously you can feel the atmosphere here at the stadium. You feel the tension during the game. You like it and it’s great to see how the players reacted under pressure. I loved it.
“Of course, it’s moving. It’s so hard to sum up right now. Part of me is so proud of what we have accomplished. We were close to being undefeated all season. Another part feels so empty not getting a trophy. is a test for us. We have to keep believing in it and improve our game next season.”
How Chelsea beat Arsenal for the WSL title
Chelsea did not make it easy on their way to a third consecutive WSL trophy – a record winning streak – after a poor first-half performance.
Martha Thomas dismissed Man Utd in just 13 minutes only for Erin Cuthbert to hit back with an answer five minutes later. But Ella Toone ensured the visitors would go into the break 2-1 with her goal in the 25th minute.
Arsenal were held to a goalless draw in the first 45 minutes but were top of the table on goal difference at half-time.
But again, Hayes made two title-winning substitutions early in the second half to turn the game around, introducing Beth England and So-Yun Ji for his final Chelsea appearance.
“The subs really impressed me,” said Kelly Smith sky sports. “Man United were all over Chelsea in the first half and they [Hayes] modified it slightly.
“She bought Ji to put her on the ball and dictate the tempo in the middle of the park. Then England up top to try and hold the ball and it really worked… His tactical choices in the second half really made the Game.”
Kerr scored the first of her stunning brace 47 seconds after the break as she made a half clearance into the top corner. Man Utd had struggled to manage the England center from the right flank.
Guro Reiten then put Chelsea ahead for the first time in the game shortly after. Ji placed Pernille Harder down left, with Reiten sending the cross past Mary Earps.
But the goal of the game – and perhaps of the season – came as Kerr wrapped up a stunning effort over Earps from range to seal Chelsea’s title. It was his 19th and 20th goals of the season, earning him the Golden Boot ahead of Arsenal’s Vivianne Miedema.
The Gunners scored their two goals at Chigwell Construction Stadium within six minutes, but it wasn’t enough.
Stina Blackstenius scored with her first touch in the 60th minute before Steph Cately added the second, but Jonas Eidevall’s side eventually finished within a point of second-placed Chelsea.
The result at Kingsmeadow also sees Man Utd finish the season in fourth place – boosted to third place by local rivals Manchester City, who beat Reading 4-0 on the final day. West Ham end the campaign in a respectable sixth place.
Hayes: The subs had the impact we wanted
Chelsea manager Emma Hayes told Sky Sports:
“I changed the form [at half-time] and Beth and Sam ran the channels very well. Ji So Yun has a calf injury and she really put her body on the line.
“We were too behind in the first half. We had 3 against 3 in midfield but we were passed. All the substitutes had the impact we wanted.
“I think Millie Bright has been amazing. Sam Kerr wins you games but Millie has been available in every game. This leadership when Magda Eriksson was absent was important.
“She’s not only a leader in the group, but she can always find another level in herself.
“You don’t win the league in the first game of the season, but to keep confidence high you have to believe in rotations.
“I miss my boy and can’t wait to spend a few months with him!”
Kerr wins WSL Golden Boot
It’s a second consecutive Golden Boot for Kerr after also scoring 21 WSL goals in the 2020/21 season.
Perhaps most impressive of his run is that none of his goals have come from penalties – all 20 this campaign have been from open play – as well as four assists.
This is on top of her Asian Cup Golden Boot, where she scored seven goals, and continues to rack up air miles during international breaks while playing for Australia.
Kerr said sky sports: “The first half, we played a little nervous, the second half, it was to play on the way we play. This is why we are champions. When we play like this, no one can stop us.
“I don’t care who scored! We won and that’s what matters. In fact, I visualized scoring crazy goals like that all the time. Guro aimed it at me and I had a pop. I didn’t even know the goalie was out.
“It was one of the best games I’ve played at Kingsmeadow. Manchester United fans have had it. I want to score as many goals as possible, I’m just doing what I can to win.”
Was this Miedema’s last game for Arsenal?
Transfer speculation continues to grow around Miedema’s future at Arsenal, and Sunday’s game could mark his final appearance for the club. She is out of contract this summer.
But the striker says she will now take a break before deciding on her future, telling the BBC: “I was focused on today. I will have a few weeks off and then I will make a decision.
“I speak with the club and Jonas Eidevall. I really want to win titles. This year, I haven’t won anything. If I feel like the club is moving in that direction, then maybe I stay for another year or two. now I haven’t made up my mind.”
Eidevall added: “All football clubs are watching the transfer window. The ambition is to be stronger for next season.
“Some of the things that Vivianne Miedema does are amazing. It was an outstanding performance. She’s at a level that no one else has in the league. Our ambition is the same, we want to keep it and will do everything we can to keep it.”
Eriksson: A team victory | Bright: We’re like family
Chelsea captain Magda Eriksson said Aerial sports: “It means a lot to win a league, but winning it this way is even more. We used every member of the team, everyone contributed. It’s a team victory.
“Other teams have had injuries and it showed on the pitch in their results. We had setbacks and injuries and although it wasn’t easy, we found a way to win. It’s the team, the girls help each other to win.”
Millie Bright told Aerial sports: “Really proud. Everyone says it’s like family and it really is. I absolutely love every one of them [team-mates]. The part of the game we hate is losing players.
“In those moments, we learned to behave with each other. We didn’t even get untidy. It was about executing it and following the fundamentals of the game plan.
“The beginning to the end was really difficult. I think all season our mentality has been to be brutal. It was really tight at the top, it was like a cup final. You saw from the results that it was 1-0 games and we found a way to win.
Erin Cuthbert said Aerial sports: “It means everything to everyone. We went through a lot and we kept going. A lot of the year we’ve been in the limelight, a lot of people writing us off in the middle of the season. But we never did.
“There is the mentality in the locker room of recovering games.
“We didn’t play a game in the first half, but we showed that it was up to us to win. We used the crowd, we needed it today. It was amazing.”