Chelsea celebrated being crowned Women’s Super League One champions with a game to spare after racking up their fourth successive win. The jubilant scenes on the pitch at full-time made particularly splendid viewing for Emma Hayes, with the Chelsea manager, who is 35 weeks pregnant with twins, watching the victory over Bristol City from the comfort of her own home.
Between popping the champagne corks and holding aloft the trophy – their second in 11 days after victory in the FA Cup – Chelsea made sure Hayes was part of it.
“Her spirit was here, we Facetimed her as soon as we could and she was in bed, very excited,” Eni Aluko, the Chelsea forward, a late substitute in the 2-0 win, said. “For Emma to have led this team to a double pregnant I think says everything about her character and who she is. It’s a great message to all women around the world, in whatever they are doing, that women can do it.”
Drew Spence’s first-half header and a Jonna Andersson strike were enough to seal the title in a game from which they required only a point; simply avoiding defeat was always going to be enough on a balmy evening in Bristol. Chelsea were never really required to turn on the style and, an early Millie Farrow effort aside, they never looked like ceding the chance to seal the crown.
Chelsea had stormed to a 6-0 win on the opening weekend of the season in the reverse fixture but the Vixens were determined to prove they are a totally different animal these days – they had won their past two league matches, against Everton and Yeovil Town. In the end Chelsea’s class shone through, with the retiring captain, Katie Chapman, particularly influential.
For Chelsea, who also reached the Champions League semi-finals, this sealed another double to go with the one from 2015, and they in turn ousted Manchester City from the throne this time around. “It’s an amazing achievement, we’ve done it again,” Aluko said. “Two doubles in three years is amazing. I am filled with pride; this team has gone up another level this season. I’m just so proud of my team-mates, the club. This team expects silverware and we’ve delivered it.”
In Hayes’s absence her assistant Paul Green led the team alongside the first-team coach, TJ O’Leary, and he revealed they were in contact with the 41-year-old throughout. “She was glued in watching at home, occasionally on the phone to give her opinion on things, through one of the coaching staff,” Green said. “She was heavily involved as normal and I’m delighted we have delivered the double for her, given all her hard work. It’s special circumstances, medical teams wouldn’t allow her to travel to our last two away games but I think she’s done brilliantly well to get to this point. The players took care of themselves really.”
After the final whistle Hayes tweeted: “Get in. A pleasure to watch that from home. Champions of England, we know who we are.”
The trip to Prenton Park to face Liverpool on Sunday will provide her team with a chance to toast a brilliant double-winning campaign and to finish the 18-game WSL 1 season unbeaten. Victory here ensured a fifth trophy under Hayes – and a second in quick succession after sealing the FA Cup against Arsenal at Wembley.
In truth Chelsea never looked like losing, with the quality of Ramona Bachmann, the Swiss winger, and Fran Kirby, the PFA player of the year, shining through. A sloppy backpass by Millie Bright afforded Farrow, the former Chelsea striker, a great chance inside five minutes but she poked wide.
That jolted Chelsea out of cruise control. Bachmann combined with Spence early on, the latter heading wide before a similar move resulted in the opening goal after 11 minutes. Ji So-yun swept a ball into the box from the right and found Spence, who glanced her header into the net, beyond Sophie Baggaley, the City goalkeeper, who will have been disappointed not to keep it out. After a slow start, that goal settled any nerves, with Chelsea finding their stride.
After the break Gemma Davison, another Chelsea substitute, added further guile in search of a second, which came two minutes from time through Andersson, at the end of a low-key second half. Maren Mjelde, the Chelsea defender, made a bruising but fair challenge on Lauren Hemp, while Hedwig Lindahl was forced into a smart stop to deny Liv Fergusson, The City head coach Willie Kirk’s first roll of the dice, a leveller. “We made it difficult for them tonight and we actually had chances to take the lead,” Kirk said. “It was fine margins and we didn’t take our chances.”
But when Kirby danced along the right flank, it spelled danger. She picked out the on-running Sweden defender Andersson and, with a rasping shot from distance, Chelsea had wrapped up the title.