Carney Takes Title Fight to the Wire
Carney takes title fight to the wire
A Karen Carney brace was enough to give Blues a 2-1 win at Manchester City to ensure the title race was taken to the final game of the season. Blues made one change from their last outing, with Abbey-Leigh Stringer coming in for Emily Simpkins in midfield.
Knowing league leaders Chelsea were at home to already relegated Everton, a win was the only realistic chance of remaining in the title race, and Blues took the lead after fifteen minutes. Jo Potter collected a loose ball following a spell of Blues pressure, and her exquisite left foot pass found skipper Carney in acres of space inside the area, and she duly lobbed Karen Bardsley to put Blues ahead. Mel Lawley forced a fine save from the England keeper later on in the half, while Chelsea Weston was required to nod a Steph Houghton header off the line, but the finest chance of the half fell to Linnett, but her effort from just inside the area drifted wide of Bardsley`s goal.
City came out for the second half positively, and had chances to equalise through Toni Duggan who was denied firstly by the crossbar, and then by a superb last ditch Mannion challenge, but the inevitable goal came with half an hour remaining, and it was a stunning strike to beat Becky Spencer from Jill Scott, who latched onto a ball 25 yards out and struck a powerful drive into the top corner.
At this point you could have excused Blues feeling sorry for themselves, considering the bad luck they have been dealt over recent weeks, but this side is made of strong players, and the team spirit drove them on and they stepped up another level. Stringer forced a decent save from Bardsley, before being replaced by last weekend`s super sub Keryakoplis, who teed up Linnett for another chance, only to be denied once again, but with only four minutes remaining, Blues received the stroke of luck they had deserved.
Bardsley`s goal kick fell straight at the feet of Linnett, and she put a perfect through ball into the path of Carney, who took two touches to control and slip the ball across the keeper into the back of the net to send the Blues bench into raptures. City pressed hard for the remainder of the match, with Spencer having to save from Duggan, but the Midlands side held on for a crucial three points.
As expected, Chelsea brushed Everton aside, winning 5-2, so Blues remain two points behind their title rivals, but Liverpool could only draw away at Arsenal, which means the three teams go into the last game of the season with a chance of lifting the WSL trophy. Chelsea have to be favourites still, as they travel to Man City, with their opponents no doubt having one eye on their Continental Cup Final in only a weeks` time. Should they lose to City, Blues, who host Notts County, would secure their first WSL title with victory, but Liverpool could also win the league should results go their way and they defeat Bristol Academy in Merseyside.
Whatever happens this weekend, it has been a tremendous season for Blues, and invaluable experience will have been gained by the young players in the group for future seasons. We can only win our game and hope Man City can do the business, and no doubt the vast majority of the Blues crowd will be glued to their phones trying to get updates from the other matches.
Blues: Spencer, Weston, Mannion, Harrop, Carter, Potter, Stringer (Keryakoplis 70), Allen, Carney (c), Lawley, Linnett. Subs not used: Baggaley, Sergeant, Westwood, Torkildsen, Wellings
Man City: Bardsley, Houghton, Harding, McManus (Lipman 75), Brougham, Walsh, Hassett, Scott, Christiansen, Flint (Johnstone 65), Duggan. Subs not used: Brooks, Young
Referee: Paul Graham
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