Chelsea close in on WSL title with win over Arsenal
Last updated on .From the section Women's Football
Chelsea must wait to see if they will be crowned Women's Super League champions for a fourth successive season after victory over Arsenal took them within touching distance of the title.
Emma Hayes' side did their job superbly at Kingsmeadow, taking a first-half lead through goals from Guro Reiten and Magdalena Eriksson.
They were given a scare when Arsenal were awarded a penalty for handball by Sophie Ingle but skipper Katie McCabe dragged it wide from the spot.
That was Arsenal's chance to mount a comeback, coming shortly after Caitlin Foord had flicked an effort on to the crossbar.
Chelsea held on, using the fortress of Kingsmeadow to carry them to an 11th victory out of 11 at home in the WSL this season.
Manager Hayes said afterwards she would not be watching the Manchester derby but winger Reiten confirmed the players would tune in to see if they will become champions.
Reiten said: "We're definitely watching the game, it will be interesting, two good teams - you never know what will happen. We prepared ourselves by doing our bit."
• None Reaction as Chelsea close in on title
It was captain Eriksson's final home game in a Chelsea shirt after it was confirmed this week she will leave at the end of the season and she raced over to celebrate with the fans after scoring their second.
She poked in Sam Kerr's header before half-time, after Reiten had superbly slotted in the opener with a half-volley 20 minutes earlier.
The Gunners, who had been unbeaten in three WSL fixtures against Hayes' side under manager Jonas Eidevall, still have work to do to secure their qualification for next season's Champions League.
While Chelsea hope United drop points against City, Arsenal will wish for the opposite, as they sit three points above City in the final European qualification place.
Chelsea's achievements grow each year and they are so close to securing a Double after winning the FA Cup earlier this month.
Arsenal were considered Chelsea's final major challengers but a formidable home record - they have now won a record 15 WSL matches in a row on home soil - was always in the Blues' favour.
Their supporters arrived early, perhaps preparing for a day of celebrations, and had filled the stands long before kick-off.
Arsenal also had strong support in Kingston upon Thames with the rivalry between the teams being reflected in their chants.
It was the home support who were cheering loudest as the teams headed down the tunnel at the break with Chelsea deservedly 2-0 up after some slick attacking play.
Arsenal were not short of chances of their own - Stina Blackstenius was denied by goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger and Frida Maanum's powerful strike was tipped on to the post.
More chances came for the Gunners in the second half but Chelsea looked in control as they saw out victory.
Hayes' side were warmly applauded at full-time as they stayed to show their appreciation to the home support that has played such a key role in their title charge.
Chelsea's final game of the season is at bottom-of-the-table Reading on Saturday but they may not have to wait until then to be crowned champions.
Arsenal have had some wonderful battles with Chelsea in recent seasons but this was more one-sided than it has been previously.
"We started off slow," manager Jonas Eidevall said. "We were not taking decisions quickly enough to escape their pressure.
"That part of the game was the part I was most dissatisfied with. It was great to see the players in the second half because they were fearless, brave and really tired."
Riddled with injuries to key players, including four players out with anterior cruciate ligament knee injuries, Arsenal always faced a tall order to disrupt a Chelsea side hunting more silverware.
"Champions of England, we know what we are" were the words being sung by Chelsea supporters throughout and Arsenal have still not quite been able to reach the heights Hayes' side have since their last league title in 2019.
Instead, their aim is to finish the season inside the top three, which would be an achievement worth celebrating given the terrible injuries that have struck this campaign.
"It's been tough of course with injuries," added Eidevall. "My mindset has been that we need to do everything to finish as high as possible.
"Nothing changes with today's result."
They reached the Champions League semi-finals and will want to be there again next year. Victory next weekend against Aston Villa should secure that as long as they maintain their superior goal difference over City.