Gareth Taylor says that Manchester City will "come back fighting" after losing out on the Women’s Super League title on the final day.

City beat Aston Villa 2-1 thanks to goals from Mary Fowler and Lauren Hemp on Saturday, but ultimately fell just short, missing out to Chelsea on goal difference.

Emma Hayes led the Blues to a fifth consecutive WSL title with a 6-0 thrashing of Manchester United at Old Trafford, having made up their inferior goal difference with an equally impressive 8-0 win over Bristol City two weeks ago. 

Taylor has reflected on a "mix of emotions" after narrowly missing out on being champions.

Speaking to BBC Sport after the game, he said: "I feel really proud of the team's performance. The mad thing is we could have maybe scored double figures today quite easily. That's the difference.

"To win 18 games in the season and still come up short is not easy but we have. It's been a big push from the team, we've worked incredibly hard, and we'll come back fighting."

When asked what lessons City can take from this season, Taylor added: "We need to improve in all areas. We have to have potentially better options from the sidelines. I think that's really key.

"I'm so enthusiastic about the way we played today. A lot of the stuff we did was really good. That's what inspires me to get up in the morning and fight for next season's title."

Goalkeeper Khiara Keating became the youngest-ever Golden Glove winner in her breakout season, as the 19-year-old kept nine clean sheets in 22 league games and conceded just 15 goals in total.

While disappointed about Saturday’s outcome, Keating looked back on the highlights of her season.

She said: "Obviously we are disappointed. We wanted to go out and win a trophy today. We knew what we had to do, and we didn't quite get it done.

"Hopefully next season in the Champions League we can show what we're about and go and win some trophies.

"From a personal point of view, my breakout season had a lot to prove at the start of the season, everyone was kind of.. Not doubting but wondering what I'd be like. I hope I've shown everyone what I can do.

"Gaz [Taylor] put his faith in me to go and play how I play and that is what I needed to go out there and do what I did this season."

Lianne Sanderson believes Chelsea will get over the line in the Women's Super League (WSL) title race this weekend.

Chelsea manager Emma Hayes previously declared the WSL title race as "done" following her side's 4-3 defeat to Liverpool in early May, but two wins since and a loss for title rivals Manchester CIty against Arsenal mean her team head into the final game top and with a superior goal difference.

Chelsea's goal difference of +47 to City's +45 could prove crucial as Hayes' side take on Manchester United this weekend looking to clinch the title.

City, meanwhile, travel to take on Aston Villa looking to overturn the goal difference deficit, but Sanderson feels Chelsea will get the job done.

"Obviously it's great for the neutral. For the fans, it's fantastic," Sanderson told Stats Perform.

"I think Emma Hayes obviously kind of somewhat accepted defeat a couple of weeks ago, which was surprising. Sometimes your emotions get the better of you. Emma Hayes is one of the best coaches in the world.

"Manchester City have had the best year I think they've had since Gareth Taylor has been there, taking over from Nick Cushing.

"It's going to go down to the wire. Personally, I still think Chelsea might do it."

With Sanderson predicting City to miss out on the WSL title, Sanderson feels Taylor's job should have come under more threat than it has.

"I've said many times that Gareth Taylor, I think hasn't come under as much pressure as he probably should have," Sanderson said. 

"I think if he was in the men's game it would have been interesting because they've not qualified for the Champions League, they've been knocked out of preliminary rounds and those types of things."

However, Sanderson also gave Taylor credit for his persistence in what has occasionally been a challenging tenure.

"It's been interesting, but fair play to Gareth Taylor because he's persevered," Sanderson added. 

"They've had loads of players over the years, you know Carli Lloyd, Rose Lavelle, the list could go on and it just hasn't really worked out, not due to those players, but sometimes you must find the right balance. I think finally, they found the right balance."

Despite having her impressive run of form cut short due to injury, Jamaica International and Manchester City striker Khadija Shaw did enough prior to the season-ending surgery, and so it comes as no surprise that she is up for the coveted Barclays Women's Super League Player of the Season award.

Shaw, who recently copped the Football Writers' Association (FWA) Women's Footballer of the Year award, is no stranger to accolades, as she was named 2022-23 Player of the Season for Manchester City, and also pocketed a couple Player of the Month prizes since joining the club in 2021.

In fact, it is Shaw's impressive goalscoring exploit that not only propelled her to being the club's all-time leading striker, but also places City at the summit of the WSL standing, heading into their final assignment away to Aston Villa on Saturday May 18. However, their hope of clinching the title remains on edge, as they have played a game more than second-placed Chelsea.

Both Shaw and goalkeeper Khiara Keating, who has also been nominated for Barclays Women’s Super League Player of the Season award, have impressively helped Gareth Taylor’s side relentlessly pursue a second-ever league title with a string of outstanding displays.

Shaw, 27, has scored 22 goals across 25 appearances in all competitions this term – with 21 of those coming in the WSL. She recently became the Club’s all-time leading scorer with 68 goals – which she has since extended to 72 before a foot injury prematurely ended her season.

Meanwhile, Keating has performed beyond her years in the 19-year-old’s breakthrough campaign for Taylor’s team – playing every league minute in 2023/24.

The England youth international has been an integral part of the best defensive record in the division with City conceding only 14 league goals so far this term. What’s more, outstanding is that Keating has maintained nine WSL clean sheets which is the most so far across the competition.

Shaw's unmatched scoring ability, and Keating's shot stopping exploit resulted in both being placed on the short list for prestigious annual honour, alongside Niamh Charles (Chelsea), Grace Clinton (Spurs), Lauren James (Chelsea), Jutta Rantala (Leicester), Elisabeth Terland (Brighton) and Lotte Wubben-Moy (Arsenal).

Manchester City approached Sunday's Women's Super League fixtures with the title race firmly in their hands, their meeting with Arsenal giving them a chance to put one hand on the trophy.

City's chances of a first WSL title since 2016 had received a massive boost in midweek as rivals Chelsea suffered a stunning 4-3 defeat to Liverpool.

That result sent shockwaves through the league and left the Blues' hopes of a fifth straight WSL success hanging by a thread, so much so that boss Emma Hayes declared the title race to be over.

Chelsea entered the weekend six points behind City with a game in hand, with Gareth Taylor's team also leading the way on goal difference by seven goals and potentially needing just one win to take the title.

However, this rollercoaster of a season took yet another turn on a super Sunday for the ages.

The early kick-off

It was an emotional start to the day at the Joie Stadium, as City waved goodbye to club legend Steph Houghton ahead of their final home game of the season, giving her a guard of honour for a decade of service in sky blue. 

As expected, the game matched the electric atmosphere created by a record crowd of 5,409 fans, with both teams looking to get on the front foot in a high-octane start to the game.

Lauren Hemp proved once again why both Taylor and Sarina Wiegman put so much faith in her, receiving a lay-off from Leila Ouahabi and finding room to smash her shot into the corner 17 minutes in, leaving Manuela Zinsberger with no chance.

Hemp has now contributed to at least one goal in each of her last four WSL appearances (two goals, three assists), but she and her city team-mates would rue their missed opportunities after a dominant first half.

After the interval, Arsenal showed why they had been so close to Chelsea and City for much of this campaign.

Substitute Stina Blackstenius, having denied Chelsea their first opportunity of silverware in the League Cup final, was also the villain of City's story, poking home from close range after City failed to deal with a corner after 89 minutes.

The drama was not done there, though, with Blackstenius delivering an even bigger blow to City's title chances three minutes later. Kim Little floated her pass over the hosts' defence, and the Swede was totally unmarked as she headed home two minutes into stoppage time.

Arsenal have now scored eight goals via substitutes in the WSL this campaign, a tally only bettered by Manchester United (nine). The Gunners have also scored 14 goals in the final 15 minutes of games, with United (16) the only team with more in that period. 

City boss Taylor cut a disappointed figure after the game, telling BBC Sport: "I always said I thought it would go to the final game and it's never changed. We knew what we had to do.

"We will pick ourselves up. We've always reacted well to negative results. We wanted to be in control and we've lost a little bit of that, but we still have one more game.

"It's not easy. You've seen today how the momentum can be in your favour and quickly be taken from you.

"Chelsea opened the door the other night and we've opened it back again a little bit. It is what it is, but nothing has changed in our thought process."

Arsenal have now won 13 points from losing positions in the WSL this season, more than any other team. Jonas Eidevall's side just fell short of being involved in the title picture themselves, but their win on Sunday kept rivals Chelsea in with a realistic shot of glory.

"Those sorts of things, we can't really control," he told BBC Sport. "It just shows what we are as a team and that we never give up.

"We put in a really strong performance and now it's up to other teams to put in strong performances. It's not really any of my business who is going to win."

The late kick-off

Later on Sunday, it was Chelsea's turn to provide an emotional farewell, with Emma Hayes taking charge of her final game at Kingsmeadow as she prepares to take the United States job after 12 years with the Blues.

Hayes was welcomed to the field with rapturous applause, looking emotional as she held the hand of her son Harry, surveying the home crowd for the final time as Chelsea manager. Sunday's match also represented a home send-off for the club's leading goalscorer Fran Kirby and defender Maren Mjelde, both of whom will leave this summer.

Having suffered Champions League heartache and seen their title hopes dented in a week to forget, Hayes' team had nothing to lose against already-relegated Bristol City, and that is exactly how they played.

Hayes made six changes to her lineup and the tiredness that plagued Chelsea in midweek was gone, the Blues never looking back once they went ahead through Guro Reiten's sixth-minute penalty.

Sjoeke Nusken struck a scrappy second before the in-form Aggie Beever-Jones added a third shortly after the break. Reiten then added a fourth with a screamer from outside the area. 

Knowing the importance of goal difference after City's slip-up, Chelsea continued to throw players forward. Macario slid in Reiten to clinch her hat-trick from a tight angle, and after Niamh Charles had made it 6-0, the Norwegian added her fourth of the game with another rasping long-range strike.

Reiten then turned provider and crossed for Beever-Jones to head in Chelsea's eighth. Beever-Jones has now contributed to eight goals in her last five league games (six goals, two assists), stepping up after injuries deprived the Blues of key players.

Chelsea were clinical with their 20 shots, scoring eight goals in a WSL game for the first time since beating Leicester City by the same scoreline in December 2022 to put Wednesday's defeat firmly in the rearview mirror.

Now one better off than City on goal difference, Chelsea know a victory over Tottenham in their game in hand on Wednesday will take them top ahead of the final set of fixtures on Saturday.  

Hayes addressed the home faithful at Kingsmeadow with her players watching on after the game, rowing back on her earlier claim that the title race was over.

"Let me be clear. It is not over," she declared. "There is no time for sentimentality. All work drinks are cancelled, there is a title to be won.

"You know what? That group of players taught me something so special this week; that you never ever give up. This is what it means to be Chelsea."

Speaking to Sky Sports, Hayes added: "We wanted to make sure it was a game to remember for the fans.

"That shows when you have belief. I said to the players that if Man City slip up, we had to be ready. Today was another opportunity to get closer to something that was slipping out of our grasp.

"If you told me at the beginning of the day Arsenal would beat City in the last five minutes and we would win 8-0, what are the odds of that? I'm super proud. Days like today are everything Chelsea represents."

The Opta Supercomputer still makes City favourites after a dramatic day, though, giving Taylor's team a 55.1 per cent chance of breaking Chelsea's dominance and spoiling Hayes' leaving party.

After struggling to find her footing when she just arrived at Manchester City, Jamaica international Khadija 'Bunny' Shaw, revealed that it was the advice of Lucy Bronze and Raheem Sterling, coupled with hard work, that assisted in her now being the club's record goalscorer.

Since her transfer from Bordeaux in 2021, Shaw has cemented her status as one of the game’s most clinical strikers during her spell with Gareth Taylor's side so far. In the process, she smashed a number of records, including most goals scored by a Manchester City women’s player in a single season -31 in the 2022-23 campaign -before becoming the club's all-time leading goalscorer with 72 goals overall.

However, she wasn't always confident that she would have accomplished those feats, as she pointed out how guidance from former Manchester City pair Bronze and Sterling put her on the path to history in sky blue, after a difficult early period at the Joie Stadium.

“When I came here initially, I was struggling a bit,” Shaw revealed on The Women's Game Podcast with Sam Mewis.

“One day I was coming in from training and Lucy [Bronze] was coming in as well and she asked, ‘are you okay?’ and I said ‘I just can’t get the way they play, I can’t get it right’. City play a specific type of way and I was saying when we were walking in from training ‘I cannot get this right’. I didn’t know if here was for me.

“She started laughing and she was like ‘you focus on what got you here, the bits you do well that got you here, there’s something they saw in you that got you here’. At that moment I was like ‘wow’. I then called Raheem [Sterling] and I said the same thing to him. He was just laughing and said, ‘when I came from Liverpool I struggled a bit, they play a certain way so trust the process, believe in what you’re doing and believe in yourself’," she added.

From there, the 26-year-old Shaw said she continued to put in the work, both on and off the field until her performances came together.

“I put the comments from both Lucy and Raheem together and it made sense. I told myself to continue working and watching the videos, see how I could improve my game and seeing how best I can help the team. By doing that, it helped a little better day-by-day. Couple of weeks later I called Raheem and said, ‘it’s working!’ He was laughing and said, ‘I told you, you’ve just got to believe in yourself and do all the right things and focus on you first and foremost before you can focus on anything else’," Shaw shared.

Although her 2023/24 campaign was cut short due to a broken foot, Shaw will finish the campaign with 22 goals and five assists. And she credits her sparkling City success to her dedication on the City Football Academy training pitch.

“I just kept at it and believing in myself. The confidence comes from scoring goals and as the games come, I’m thriving," she ended.

Manchester City could become Women’s Super League champions for the first time since 2016 if they can overcome Arsenal on Sunday at the Joie Stadium. 

However, results would need to go their way for this to happen and Chelsea, who meet Bristol City in the late kick off, will have to lose or draw for City to be crowned champions this weekend.

Arsenal, who have already secured a Champions League qualification spot, will want to spoil City's party with a victory that would take a tight title race right to the final game of the season. 

The Gunners have been formidable this season against top opposition and they have won more points in games involving the top three teams in the WSL this season (6 points) than both Man City and Chelsea (4 points each).

Recent history between the two sides shows City will need to muster a performance worthy of champions to beat an Arsenal side who already have silverware to their name this season. Beating Chelsea in the League Cup in Emma Hayes’ last season is a feat they want to replicate against City. 

Arsenal have won their last two games against City in the WSL by a 2-1 scoreline and could become just the second team to win three in a row versus the Citizens in the competition after Chelsea, who did so between November 2021 and September 2022.

Gareth's Taylor's squad, however, shows no signs of letting up this season, with their consistency worthy of a championship-winning season. 

Man City have won 14 straight league matches this season, with last week's 4-0 win at Bristol City moving them a step closer to the title. Arsenal, meanwhile, have won four, drawn one and lost one in their last six. 

Hosts City have been almost flawless in front of their own fans this season with eight wins, one draw, and just one loss in 10 home Women's Super League contests.

City are hoping to extend a seven-match home winning streak dating back to November 2023, when an emphatic 7-0 win over Tottenham started this streak.

In league matches away from home this season, Arsenal have earned 17 points from 30 available (W5 D2 L3), so some would consider this the main reason they find themselves out of the title race at this stage. 

They have recorded just two clean sheets on the road this season, their worst such total in a single campaign since 2014 (also 2).

A Blue Wall for City 

A steadfast defence has made City almost impossible to beat, as they have not conceded more than once in any of their last 15 WSL games since a 2-1 away loss to Arsenal in November 2023. The last team to concede multiple goals in one or fewer matches across a single campaign were Chelsea in 2019-20 (once).

Khiara Keating has had a superb season in goal for City, keeping nine clean sheets in 20 appearances and conceding just 10 times.

Keating has faced 18.6 expected goals on target (xGOT), giving her a stunning goals prevented figure of 8.6 – she has kept out over eight more goals than would have been anticipated based on the quality of her shot-stopping – while she has a mightily impressive 81.8 save percentage.

In comparison, Arsenal’s goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger has struggled for form this term and conceded 16 goals from an xGOT of 14.9, giving her a goals prevented value of -1.1. Essentially, she has conceded one goal more than would have been anticipated based on the quality of chances she has faced.
 
Zinsberger has recorded five clean sheets, with a save percentage of 65.2 way down on the number of Keating – statistics that prove the importance of an elite goalkeeper if a team is to challenge for the title. 

Attack is the best form of defence and City, who knew goal difference could be the difference between themselves and Chelsea this season, have been ruthless in front of goal. 

However, they will have to see out the crucial last two games without the injured Khadija Shaw, who despite being ruled out for the rest of the season still looks nailed on to win the golden boot race with 21 goals for the season.

The Jamaican has greatly exceeded her 12.3 xG and has proven herself as one of the best strikers to play in the league's history.

Ones to Watch

Having scored four goals against Arsenal, Lauren Hemp has only netted more often in the competition versus Aston Villa and Everton (5 each); only two current WSL players have scored more times in the competition versus the Gunners: Toni Duggan (7) and Rachel Williams (6).

Behind Shaw, Hemp is City’s next top scorer, with nine goals from 19 games. Those goals have come from an xG of 5.1, proving Hemp’s finishing ability. Indeed, only Shaw (24) has more goal contributions for City this season than Hemp (16), who has also provided seven assists.

It is Chloe Kelly who leads the way for City when it comes to chances created, with 45 – six more than Hemp’s tally (39). 

Kelly has now recorded both five goals and five assists for the second WSL season running (5 + 5 in 2023-24, 5 + 9 in 2022-23); since her first season in the competition for Manchester City in 2020-21 the Englishwoman has recorded more WSL assists than any other player (28).

Arsenal's signing of Alessia Russo at the start of the season seems to have paid off in her goal return. Russo has netted on 10 occasions, including three match-opening goals. 

The attacker ranks fourth among the league's top scorers and has had 71 shots, more than any other player in Arsenal’s squad this season.

She has scored in each of her last three WSL appearances and, having never previously netted in four straight in the competition, now has the chance to set a personal record. The Arsenal forward has also now matched her goal return from last season at Manchester United by reaching double figures. 

Despite being injured at the start of the season, Beth Mead has had another excellent campaign, directly contributing to 11 goals (eight goals, three assists).

The Gunners midfield will be looking to dominate the game. Victoria Pelova, in her first full season for Arsenal, has been the heart of the midfield with Kim Little. When it comes to assists, Pelova leads the way for Arsenal with five, having created 26 goalscoring opportunities for her team-mates.
 
But all eyes will be on Manchester City, who have won each of their last 14 WSL games, the joint-longest winning streak in the competition’s history alongside Arsenal’s run of 14 victories between March and November 2022. 

Man City know a 15th win would not only break that record, but also put them on the brink of glory – they have the opportunity to become champions in their own hands and Taylor’s side are close to wrapping up a historic season. 

Gareth Taylor has urged Manchester City to step up and seize their moment in the Women’s Super League title race.

Chelsea returned to the summit on goal difference on Wednesday night with a 3-0 win over Aston Villa but Taylor’s team will play twice before the current champions get the chance to add to their 46-point tally.

While Chelsea switch their attention to Champions League semi-final action with Barcelona over the next two weekends, City host West Ham on Sunday before they travel to Bristol City on April 28 with the aim of being six points clear going into May.

Taylor told a press conference: “Wednesday night changed things around a little bit again but of course we play now two games before Chelsea play again, so it is an important moment for us to step up and do our bit.

“That is all we will do. Attack the next game, give it our very best and do what we can.

“Yeah, I’m excited about this next period and think it is a great opportunity for us.

“If we had looked at that at the beginning of the season, knowing that most of the time the WSL goes to the final game, I think it is a fantastic position for us to be in.

“We’ve worked so hard and we don’t want to lose that opportunity. We want to continue with it and take it all the way.”

City will have first-choice Khiara Keating in goal after she was able to shake off the knee issue which forced her to leave England national team duty earlier this month.

 

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A Women’s FA Cup final dress rehearsal will also take place on Sunday when Manchester United host Tottenham.

Grace Clinton will be a notable absentee due to the terms of her loan at Spurs from United and she will also be unavailable at Wembley on May 12.

Tottenham head coach Robert Vilahamn has made no secret of his desire to keep the England international beyond this season-long loan but his opposite number Marc Skinner talked up his future hopes for Clinton in a United shirt.

Skinner said: “When we signed Grace two seasons ago, it was that we saw this level of potential for sure.

“It’s really interesting talking to people around her and so on, there is still loads more we can give to her and we can keep adding to her.

“But I can’t stress this enough, the whole reason she went on loan was to be able to do that.

“We couldn’t give her the minutes that needed her to be able to do that but she has now proven she is in that space, she has had that exposure and I look forward to welcoming her back to do that for Manchester United.”

Sunday’s other fixture will see third-placed Arsenal host Leicester with the Gunners eager to close the gap on Chelsea, which stands at six points with four fixtures left to play.

It was a memorable March for Jamaican international Khadija 'Bunny' Shaw and Manchester City in the Barclays Women’s Super League, as they completed a clean sweep of the league’s monthly awards.

Shaw’s remarkable strike against Liverpool scooped the Goal of the Month prize, while her teammate Jess Park was named the WSL’s Player of the Month for the first time in her career. And with City winning all four of our league fixtures across March, it comes as no surprise that Gareth Taylor was also named Manager of the Month.

In a performance of superlatives, it was Shaw’s spectacular first half strike against Liverpool that handed her the WSL Goal of the Month prize. On that goal, Shaw picked up play from Laura Coombs and cleverly flicked the ball around the onrushing Gemma Bonner to create space for a well-struck effort, from about 25 yards out, which nestled into the top corner of Liverpool’s net for her 18th goal of the WSL season.

Shaw followed that up with a second half header, as she took another step towards this season’s Golden Boot.

With five WSL goals in four games, the prolific 27-year-old striker was only just pipped to the Player of the Month award by her teammate Park, but the Jamaican would still reach another impressive milestone in her career to date during March.

Indeed, her strike against Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium saw her surpass Georgia Stanway as the Club’s record goalscorer, with her tally now standing at 70 goals in just 83 appearances.