7 things from women’s football: The WSL title race is back on! Barça, Bayern seal titles

Barcelona and Bayern Munich wrapped up their respective domestic titles, while Paris Saint-Germain picked up another Coupe de France trophy. In the Women’s Super League, a hectic three minutes at the end of Manchester City vs. Arsenal preceded a goal-fest at Chelsea that breathed life back into the title race.

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Although Man City have kept themselves in the title hunt with some consistent performances, the worry all season has been the threat of an injury to one of their flying front three which could disrupt the flow of the most proficient attack in the WSL.

That fear was realised last month when WSL leading scorer Khadija “Bunny” Shaw picked up a foot injury which ruled her out for the last few games of the season and although City still have three world-class attackers — in Lauren Hemp, Chloe Kelly and Mary Fowler — the team haven’t looked right without the prolific Jamaican leading the line.

Knowing that a win against Arsenal on Sunday would catapult them toward a first WSL crown since 2016, City looked good in the first half and managed to keep their opponents pushed back. But Hemp’s first-half strike wasn’t enough as a revitalised Arsenal dug in after the break and Stina Blackstenius struck twice at the death to snatch all three points.

City’s lack of ideas and inability to hold on — for the second time this season — against the Gunners showcased a naivety that could cost them the trophy if Chelsea win their final two games.

Chelsea’s final season under manager Emma Hayes has been far from vintage and it’s clear how mentally and emotionally exhausting it has been. Still struggling for clutch goals without the injured Sam Kerr, the blows have come thick and fast over the last month: from losing the Conti Cup in extra time to Arsenal, to being knocked out of the FA Cup semifinals by Manchester United, to their draining Champions League semifinal exit across two legs against Barcelona.

In action twice this week as they play fixture catchup, the Blues were chaotic in the 4-3 defeat to Liverpool in midweek and, after the game, Hayes tried to relieve the pressure on the shoulders of her players by conceding the title.

But, following Arsenal’s late helping hand in Manchester, Chelsea took to the pitch at Kingsmeadow for Hayes’ last Chelsea home game knowing that they could get back into the picture and ripped into the already relegated Bristol City.

Powered by four goals from Guro Reiten, the 8-0 win handed Chelsea a +1 goal difference advantage over City that could prove crucial in the final standings. The Blues sit three points adrift with a game in hand against Tottenham on May 15, and a win there would put them in control of title race on the final matchday.

Matt Beard’s Liverpool have been inconsistent but, after a wobbly first campaign back in the WSL last term, we have seen some of their best this season. The spirit and belief was on show in the 4-3 win over Chelsea in midweek and then when heavy legs could have been a factor against Manchester United on Sunday afternoon, the Reds stood firm to take control of fourth spot with a 1-0 win.

Liverpool wasted a few chances in the first half, but managed to hold on to the lead claimed given to them by Jenna Clark just before half-time as United ran out of ideas. There will always be work to be done for any team looking to challenge the traditional top three in the WSL, but the Reds have taken a seismic step this season.

Saturday was the start of the Liga F title party for a Barcelona side who have only dropped two points — a draw at home to Levante — this season.

Although a little weary from the season, a much-changed Barcelona team came out 4-1 winners against Granada to secure the title with four matchdays left. Now, the job will be to keep their focus and try once again to go the entire season unbeaten.

Sandwiched in between is the small matter of the Copa de la Reina final against Real Sociedad on May 18, followed by the Champions League final against Lyon on May 25, before the last weeks of Liga F are concluded. There will be little in the way of respite for some of Barcelona’s players over the summer with more Euro qualifiers and the France Olympics, so staying the course over the next month will be no easy ask as they seek the treble.

Like Barcelona, there has been an inevitability about unbeaten Bayern Munich winning the Frauen-Bundesliga this season. They have been more consistent, managing 17 wins and three draws from their 20 games, while challengers Wolfsburg have struggled to get over the line. And, though the She Wolves picked up a convincing 5-1 win against Köln on Friday night, Bayern made sure of the title the following day with a 2-1 win against Bayer Leverkusen.

The team haven’t always hit the heights under Alexander Strauss this season, but once again did what was necessary to claim all three points. Next season, they will be even stronger as Wolfsburg star midfielder Lena Oberdorf will be swapping green for red in a €450,000 summer transfer.

Indeed, there could be a new era of dominance in the Frauen-Bundesliga; a second-successive title for Straus feels very much like the tip of the iceberg.

There was also an inevitability about Roma claiming the Serie A title, which they did on April 26 after Juventus lost to Inter Milan.

Since then the team have celebrated their success, but have taken their eye off of the ball in recent games and haven’t looked at their best defensively. Although the champions have not struggled to score goals, netting 10 in their two games last week, they have also conceded eight. And against both Sassuolo (6-5) on Wednesday and Inter (4-3) on Sunday, they needed late winners to keep their unbeaten streak going.

Under Alessandro Spugna, the Giallorosse have been deeply entertaining, but this week has taken it to almost pantomime levels. Roma will now have to refocus quickly with a Coppa Italia final against Fiorentina on May 24, though after topsy turvy season, few can blame them for their lack of concentration now that the title has been secured.

In a weekend that saw plenty of silverware handed out across Europe, PSG claimed their fourth Coupe de France title. It was not the best performance from PSG (how often have we said that this season?) against Lyon’s semifinal conquerors Fleury, but France’s perpetual bridesmaids did what was necessary for a 1-0 win.

The only goal of the game came through second-half substitute Lieke Martens after the Parisiennes had already been reduced to 10 players following a second yellow card for young defender Thiniba Samoura. Regardless, it was a win that should stand PSG in good stead heading into the inaugural title-deciding playoffs in Division 1 Feminine, where they will likely face Lyon in the final.

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