Man City boss Gareth Taylor not getting carried away after big win at Chelsea

By Sports Desk February 16, 2024

Gareth Taylor played down the potential significance of Manchester City’s accomplishment after Khadija Shaw’s first-half strike was enough to secure a 1-0 victory over Chelsea and draw them level on points with the Women’s Super League leaders.

Though they needed to win by at least two goals at Kingsmeadow to climb above Friday night’s opponents, City also matched the Blues’ 28-goal difference, meaning Emma Hayes’ side remain leaders solely by virtue of their 41 goals to second-placed City, who have 36.

Despite the victory dramatically increasing his side’s chances of unseating the four-time defending champions, Taylor viewed it with measured optimism, quick to emphasise what he still sees as a long road ahead with much room for improvement.

He said: “I’m really pleased, proud of the players. I thought we defended incredibly well, and we’ve got eight games to go. We’re excited about the challenge.

“It’s a big step, but that’s all it is. It’s three points and we move onto the next. It’s a big step for us, there’s no doubt about it. I think we’ve kind of gone under the radar a little bit this season.

“I think we’ve tried to play our game as much as we possibly can, but we’ve added a bit of steeliness and determination to our defending now, we’re trying to improve our set plays. The signs are good. It’s just hard work from the players.”

Shaw’s WSL-leading 14th goal came in the 14th minute of the contest at a sold-out Kingsmeadow after Chelsea skipper Erin Cuthbert gave away the ball to an impressive Jess Park, who in turn provided the striker.

The hosts thought they had a penalty when Mayra Ramirez was brought down by Alex Greenwood, who on replays appeared to clip the back of the January signing’s ankle without touching the ball, but, with no VAR, Chelsea’s shout was ultimately dismissed.

Hayes disagreed with referee Abigail Byrne’s decision, claiming Ramirez sustained a “cut all the way down and inside of her ankle”, but was more disappointed in Chelsea’s decision-making and finishing.

City’s victory snapped a 33-match unbeaten streak at Kingsmeadow, but Hayes – who will depart the Blues at the end of this season to take up her new post as head coach of the United States Women’s national team – was hardly losing sleep over the statistic.

“It’s not the sort of thing you’re going to put on my tombstone,” she joked.

“I think I’ll be remembered for the medals we get at the end of the year, and my focus is on that rather than how many fans were here, or how many wins we’ve had here. For me it’s not interesting.”

Leicester are first up for Chelsea after the international break, followed by a reunion with Taylor’s side in their Conti Cup semi-final on March 7.

While Hayes is no doubt keenly aware of how Friday’s loss affects the remainder of the WSL season, she insisted her attention rarely turns to the table itself.

She added: “It’s close. It always has been. I’ve never felt it any different way so I don’t pay attention to it. I don’t spend time looking up or down a league. It’s like wasting time.”

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    Real Madrid were fortunate to call upon Toni Kroos for a decade, said Los Blancos manager Carlo Ancelotti, after the Germany midfielder bade farewell to a sold-out Santiago Bernabeu.

    Veteran Kroos played his final league game for Madrid on Saturday, with a goalless draw against Real Betis hardly befitting of his illustrious time with the LaLiga champions.

    The 34-year-old will still have one more appearance to come for Los Blancos in next Saturday's Champions League final against Borussia Dortmund at Wembley Stadium.

    Yet having played for a final occasion at Madrid's storied home ground, Ancelotti was quick to praise Kroos.

    "One of the greatest, obviously," Ancelotti told a press conference. "A very high-quality midfielder, with a fantastic character, with a small ego, very humble and always at the service of the team, very altruistic. What luck to have had him for 10 years.

    "To do better than Kroos has done, in this team, is very complicated. He has made a very strong decision [to retire], because nobody could have imagined it, but he has shown a lot of character and to say goodbye like that is great.

    "It is the farewell of a great football character and, I repeat, we have been lucky to have him here. Football has enjoyed a great player."

    On his 306th LaLiga appearance, a tally bettered by only one other German (Bernd Schuster, with 316), Kroos bowed out in typical style, having the most touches (122), creating the most chances (three), playing the most passes (110) and completing the most passes (107) of any player on the pitch.

    "I can only say thank you to all the Madridismo, to the club, to my team mates, to the stadium," Kroos told reporters after his Madrid farewell.

    "I've always felt at home during these 10 years. I couldn't ask for more. They have been 10 unforgettable years.

    "I was pretty strong until I saw my children, that moment killed me."

    Kroos will end his playing days with the upcoming Euro 2024 tournament, where he will hope to guide hosts Germany to glory on home soil.

  • WSL 2023-24 season recap: Hayes departs after making history as Man City miss out WSL 2023-24 season recap: Hayes departs after making history as Man City miss out

    The 2023-24 season was one of the best to date for the Women's Super League since its inception.

    The drama of the title race going down to the final day; all three domestic trophies being won by different sides and record attendances across the league - fans have been filling stadiums and proving women’s football has an exciting future.

    Chelsea went into the season as defending champions of the WSL and FA Cup, and looking to make history by securing a fifth consecutive league title. Emma Hayes and her team have dominated over the last ten years and this season looked set to be no different. 

    The Blues got there in the end, but it wasn't easy...

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    A shock reverberated around the women's game in November when Hayes announced that, after 11 years in charge, she would be leaving Chelsea to join the US Women’s National Team as coach.

    Hayes is the most decorated manager in Chelsea's history, and transformed them into serial winners domestically. She departs the WSL as the manager with the most games (212), most wins (151) and the fourth-best win rate (71.2 per cent - minimum 50 games managed).

    Her legacy will be more than just the 16 trophies she won, including the WSL title this term.

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    Millie Bright, Chelsea's captain, had labelled the team as "mentality monsters", and that was certainly a fitting tag, as the champions scored four first-half goals to dash any lingering hopes Man City had of winning the title.

    Hayes' final triumph came despite star striker Sam Kerr suffering an ACL injury in January, though Colombia forward Mayra Ramirez arrived from Levante for a British record transfer fee of £384,000 plus a further £42,000 in potential add-ons.

    Ramirez proved her worth, grabbing two goals in a first half in which she was unplayable and a delight to watch. Fran Kirby, meanwhile, came on to score on her final WSL appearance for Chelsea, and leaves the Blues as their all-time leading goal scorer (63) and assister (33) in the competition.

    City only managed a 2-1 win away to Aston Villa, meaning the WSL title was settled on goal difference for just the second time after Liverpool finished ahead of Chelsea in the 2014 season, with the Blues goal difference of +53 this campaign the fourth best in the competition’s history.

    The champions also scored the most goals by a team in a single WSL season (71).

    Hayes reflected on her special time at the club in her first interview as the USWNT boss.

    Speaking to the USWNT media channel, she said: "I am proud of the fact that I could leave that club in a better place and one that I hope continues to compete. But for me, the challenge of competing for World Cups, for the Olympics, and the dream of coaching a team that I have always wanted to get the opportunity to do. I simply couldn't turn it down."

    So close, yet so far, for City

    City once again came so close to bursting Chelsea’s bubble and spoiling Hayes’ party. However, after it being in their own hands, a 2-1 defeat to Arsenal in the penultimate match gave the advantage back to Chelsea.

    Gareth Taylor's team City became the first team in WSL history to win 10 away games in a single season, with their only failure to win on the road coming at Arsenal in November.

    City missed plenty of chances in that game, and their bad luck in front of goal correlated with the injury to Khadija 'Bunny' Shaw against West Ham.

    Shaw missed the final three league games, having become the first player in WSL history to record a goal or assist in 10 consecutive appearances (15 goals, one assist).

    The Jamaican was prolific for City, scoring 21 times in 18 appearances, securing the Golden Boot award. Shaw was also named Football Writers Award Footballer of the Year and the WSL Player of the Year. She even became the second-quickest player to score 50 WSL goals, behind only Vivianne Miedema. Kerr is the only other player to have netted 20+ goals in back-to-back seasons, meanwhile.

    Yet City still fell short of what would have been their first title since 2016. They have now been runners-up six times (five times to Chelsea), four more than any other side. 

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    United were featuring in the FA Cup final for the second consecutive year, having not reached this stage before 2023, and headed into the tie against Tottenham as favourites. They lost 1-0 to Chelsea in the 2022-23 final and did not want history to repeat itself.

    They duly banished last year's demons in front of a packed Wembley, with an emphatic 4-0 win.

    Ella Toone's eye-catching strike in the first half set the tone before a goal for Rachel Williams and Lucia Garcia's double added gloss to a convincing scoreline, despite Beth England hitting the crossbar for Spurs.

    United became the 18th different winner of the women’s FA Cup. 

    Gunners have their say

    Arsenal pushed Man City and Chelsea all the way this season and although in the remaining few weeks they struggled to keep pace, they did have their say on both their rivals’ seasons endings.

    The title race was effectively lost for Man City after they lost 2-1 in the dying minutes of their clash with Arsenal.

    Similarly, the Gunners also got the better of Chelsea with a last-minute winner in the League Cup final, with Arsenal having won that trophy in successive seasons.

    Striker Stina Blackstenius scored on both occasions, netting three important goals to secure silverware for Arsenal, frustrating Chelsea and ultimately ensuring City went empty-handed for another season. The Swede has 43 goals in 83 appearances for the Gunners and these big moments helped secure her a new contract.

    So long, but maybe not farewell

    The WSL has had some legends grace it over the years. World Cup winners and European champions have rocked up in the competition and it has become arguably one of the most sought-after leagues to play in.

    But Hayes' was not the only shock departure.

    Arsenal striker and the WSL's all-time leading goalscorer Miedema announced she would be leaving the Gunners at the end of her contract on a free transfer. With 125 goals and 50 assists for the Gunners over a seven-year period, the Dutch European Championship winner is bowing out a legend.

    She has been out for most of the season, recovering from an ACL injury, but it's a shock to see such a talent allowed to leave. 

    Many clubs in the WSL and around the world will relish the chance to have Miedema, who is only 27, pull on their shirt next season.

    This season has been one of fond farewells, great goals, and record attendances. Next season promises to be continue the trend.

  • 'Who knows what will happen?' - Celtic loanee Idah unsure of future after Scottish Cup matchwinner 'Who knows what will happen?' - Celtic loanee Idah unsure of future after Scottish Cup matchwinner

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    The Norwich City loanee, who arrived from Carrow Road in February on a deal until the end of the season, was the hero at Hampden Park as the Scottish Premiership champions completed the double in dramatic fashion.

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