Chelsea Ladies have clinched a second domestic Double in the past three-and-a-half years after Tuesday evening’s win in the West Country secured the WSL1 title with a game to spare.
The goals came at either end of the match, the first scored early on by Drew Spence with a well-directed header, with Jonna Andersson shooting high into the net in the closing minutes to make the win safe when found by a Fran Kirby cut-back.
There was still time for an excellent shot from Ji So-Yun, who had assisted for the first goal, to be pushed onto the bar before the celebrations began in earnest on the final whistle.
We had already lifted the Women's FA Cup after beating Arsenal 3-1 at Wembley Stadium and this, our fourth victory on the bounce, completes the perfect fortnight for Emma Hayes and her squad, although the manager missed her side's crowning as champions for health reasons as she nears the end of her pregnancy.
With a trip to the semi-finals of the Women's Champions League, the best continental run in our history, also achieved this year, it has been a quite remarkable campaign for the Blues. The aim, of course, will be to surpass that effort in Europe next season, but now it's all about celebrating a quite wonderful achievement.
With Hayes not travelling, assistant manager Paul Green took charge of a much-changed team from the starting line-up which beat Sunderland 2-1 on Saturday. Hedvig Lindahl replaced Carly Telford in goal, playing in front of a back three of Millie Bright, Maren Mjelde and Gilly Flaherty. Hannah Blundell returned at right wing-back in place of Erin Cuthbert and Ji came in for Maria Thorisdottir to partner captain Katie Chapman in midfield, with Andersson retaining her place at left wing-back. Our front three also saw two changes, as Spence and Ramona Bachmann came in Gemma Davison and Eniola Aluko, partnering Fran Kirby in attack.
The Blues almost got off to the worst possible start when our former striker Millie Farrow was gifted a chance at goal following a misplaced pass. The Bristol No.29 had time and space to pick her spot, but she sidefooted her finish wide.
That let-off acted as a wake-up call for the visitors as we immediately strung together an excellent move which ended with Bachmann crossing for Spence, whose near-post header just missed the target.
Bristol didn't heed that warning, though, as a few minutes later the same player headed us in front. The creator was Ji, who deftly floated a cross towards the penalty spot and this time Spence made no mistake with her finish. She had opened our account for the season with a header against Bristol at Kingsmeadow and here, with the WSL1 title up for grabs, she was on target once again.
The game should have been done and dusted before the first 30 minutes had elapsed, as the Blues created chances at will. Ji was looking to get into the box at every opportunity and she forced a save from Baggaley with a fierce drive, and the keeper made an even better stop with her feet to keep out Bachmann, who had raced clear on goal.
Blundell, too, was looking a big threat down the right and there were a couple of opportunities in quick succession which came from a twinkle-toed run by our wing-back. However, the finishing didn't match the build-up and Bristol made it through to half-time with only a one-goal deficit – although the home side very nearly found themselves on level terms when Farrow forced another excellent save from Lindahl.
After a fair amount of goalmouth action in the opening period, the second half began with neither side able to get on the front foot offensively. The Blues seemed content with that, though, knowing that even a draw would be enough to seal the title.
One opportunity was created by a short-corner routine, which we had plenty of joy from in the first half, with this latest effort leading to a shot on target from Kirby that Baggaley did well to hold on to.
In a bid to freshen things up, Green made two substitutions in quick succession, introducing Davison and Cuthbert, and the latter almost had an immediate impact with two chances in quick succession. The first saw her agonisingly miss out on applying a sliding, finishing touch to a teasing cross, and then she smashed a volley just off target.
We weren't having it all our own way, though, and a Bristol substitute almost made a telling contribution as Liv Fergusson called Lindahl into a smart double save. The Swede was far from busy across the 90 minutes, but she was still required to make several interventions to keep the clean sheet intact.
With time running out, the destination of the title looked pretty secure, but Andersson made sure with yet another goal in what has been a brilliant half a season from the Swede, who joined us in January. Kirby was the instigator, running away down the right before squaring for our No.20 to confidently slot home. That confirmed what we already knew: Chelsea are the new WSL1 champions!
The final assignment of the season for the Blues comes on Sunday, when we travel to Prenton Park to face Liverpool. The 12.30pm kick-off looked for many a week as if it would be the decisive game of our league campaign; instead it is merely the first opportunity to see the newly crowned champions of England in action.
What an incredible season it has been. Chelsea Ladies: WSL1 title winners for the second time!
Chelsea (3-4-3) Lindahl; Bright, Mjelde, Flaherty; Blundell (Aluko 86), Ji, Chapman (c), Andersson; Spence (Cuthbertt 67); Bachmann (Davison 70), Kirby
Unused subs Telford, Thorisdottir, Eriksson, Rafferty
Scorers Spence 9, Andersson 88
Bristol Baggaley, Matthews, Turner (c), Kerkdijk, Dykes, Palmer, Biesmans, Arthur (Estcourt 51), Daniels (Humphrey 80), Hemp, Farrow (Fergusson 73)
Unused subs Watson, Brown, Estcourt, Allen, P Wilson
Referee Amy Fearn