Chelsea Women have done it again! For the fourth year in a row, the Blues are Women’s Super League champions. And here’s the story of another glorious campaign for the Blues…
The title race went down to the final day of the season, but our 3-0 win at Reading officially crowned us Women’s Super League winners for 2022/23 and ensured we claimed the trophy for an unprecedented four consecutive year.
However, things did not start quite as smoothly as that might suggest. On the opening day of the campaign, newly-promoted Liverpool gave our rivals hope they could pry our fingers off the trophy by beating us 2-1. The match saw all three goals scored from the penalty spot in addition to a controversial Chelsea strike being disallowed.
Emma Hayes’ side quickly proved that defeat was an anomaly rather than a sign of things to come ¬– and displayed their resilience and ability to bounce back from disappointment against title hopefuls Manchester City at Kingsmeadow.
In an eye-catching 2-0 victory, the performance was much-improved and thoroughly composed, even if goalkeeper Ann-Katrin Berger emerged as the hero of the day with a string of impressive saves in front of a sell-out crowd.
That turned out to be the first of nine consecutive league victories for the Blues; the memory of the opening-day defeat was quickly banished and our title credentials were underlined. And the winning run included big back-to-back victories that will have sent shivers down the spines of our rivals near the top of the WSL.
The first was a confidence boosting 3-0 thrashing of Tottenham Hotspur in a London derby played in front of a big crowd at Stamford Bridge, a day given added poignancy by Hayes’ return to the dugout after missing several games following emergency hysterectomy surgery.
Better was to follow as Chelsea fans in attendance at our next match – away to Leicester City – were treated to a goal-fest as we ran away 8-0 winners, our biggest league victory of the season. By the final whistle at Leicester, the recovery from the early stumble in Liverpool was complete, with the Blues now sat at the summit of the table.
While not as eye-catching, and only worth a solitary point, perhaps just as important was our late equaliser against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium in our first match of 2023.
It wasn’t the result the Blues would have hoped for when making the journey across the capital following the winter break, but when Sam Kerr scored an 89th-minute header to level the score at 1-1 with her 11th goal of the campaign, it felt a moment that could prove crucial as it denied the Gunners the chance to draw level at the top of the table and maintained our three-point advantage.
We played just one more league fixture before the end of February, with domestic and European cup matches taking precedent to give our rivals the chance to take the upper hand, at least temporarily. But when we did return to the fight, we picked up where we had left off.
After beating Tottenham and Brighton, it was time for a tense match against our closest title challengers Manchester United. There was plenty on the line. Yet as is so often the case, it was Chelsea and Kerr who came out on top; the Australian latched onto Lauren James’ fine pass and netted an audacious lob to settle a cagey top-of-the-table clash 1-0.
It still wasn’t plain sailing for the Blues, although it was a different Manchester side which inflicted the next setback, as arguably the most competitive WSL title race to date gathered pace.
With a growing injury list to contend with, Hayes’ side succumbed to an early onslaught away at Manchester City at the end of March, with two goals in the opening 30 minutes resulting in a 2-0 loss. It was our first league defeat since the opening and knocked us down to third in the table, although we were still only a point off top spot with a game in hand.
In typical style, we bounced back emphatically. Aston Villa were our victims and were brushed aside with a 3-0 win away in Walsall. The icing on the cake came in the second half when Kerr completed the scoring with her landmark 50th goal in the Women’s Super League.
We continued to keep pace with the WSL leaders and stayed within striking distance thanks to a series of victories, including a late Kerr goal to secure revenge against Liverpool following our loss on the opening day.
Having played fewer games than our rivals, we knew the destination of the title was in our own hands going into the home straight. Maximum points in our final five fixtures would guarantee top spot.
The Blues set about that task ruthlessly. Thumping wins over Everton (7-0) and Leicester (6-0) were recorded before our game in hand arrived in the form of a trip to West Ham United. Again, we made quick work of our opponents, coming home with a 4-0 victory and, most importantly, returning to top of the table with a two-point lead to defend.
Our final home game of the WSL campaign came against Arsenal – and it was an emotional one as captain Magdalena Eriksson and Pernille Harder said goodbye to supporters at Kingsmeadow. They made sure to sign off with an important 2-0 victory, with Eriksson scoring our second goal on the day.
That evening, title challengers Manchester United were a couple of minutes from dropping points against Man City, which would have crowned us champions. But a late winner kept the race alive into the final round of matches.
It proved only a temporary delay to Chelsea’s coronation as Women’s Super League champions, though, as we did our job on the last day by beating Reading and ensuring we ended the season sat at the top of the table for the fourth year in a row.