Emma Hayes says ‘title race is done’ after Chelsea lose thriller at Liverpool

Emma Hayes says ‘title race is done’ after Chelsea lose thriller at Liverpool

No Continental League Cup, no FA Cup, no Champions League and, whisper it, possibly no trophy at all. Emma Hayes certainly thinks so, the Chelsea manager saying “the title is done”, after the Blues suffered a 4-3 defeat to Liverpool to hand Manchester City the advantage in the title race.

“I think the title is done,” she said. “Of course, mathematically it’s not, but I think the title is done. Our job between now and the end of the season is to keep pushing until the end, but I think it will be very difficult.”

It was end-to-end at Prenton Park, with four of the goals coming from the 80th minute onwards. Chelsea desperately needed a win to stay in the hunt, having suffered the disappointment of a Conti Cup final defeat to Arsenal, FA Cup semi-final defeat to Manchester United and Champions League semi-final exit to Barcelona.

“We knew they were a little bit vulnerable after how the last month has been for them,” said Liverpool’s manager, Matt Beard. “When you go in front and get pegged back against a team like Chelsea, to keep going and keep scoring is a great testament to the group.”

No team has lost three times in the WSL and gone on to win the league. This was Chelsea’s third defeat this season, six points now separating them from City, with the London side having one game in hand. City have to play Arsenal and Aston Villa but Chelsea have games against Bristol, Tottenham and Manchester United to come.

Hayes had made three changes to the side that suffered a frustrating 2-0 defeat at home to Barcelona, after a 1-0 win away, to end dreams of reaching a second Champions League final in the manager’s last season at the club. Notably, Millie Bright returned to the starting XI for the first time since an injury sidelined her in November, while Lauren James was omitted from the matchday squad through injury.

Gemma Bonner (centre) celebrates scoring Liverpool’s winner in added time.View image in fullscreen

The travelling Blues may be in a battle with City to retain their league title, but Liverpool have ambitions too, sights firmly on a possible fourth-place finish – they are level on 35 points with Manchester United, who they play on Sunday.

Beard made three changes to the team which earned a 1-0 win at relegated Bristol City on 20 April, including Gemma Bonner returning to the starting XI to make her 150th appearance for Liverpool.

It took less than 10 minutes for Chelsea to take the lead – Aggie Beever-Jones nodding in from a corner with red bodies disappointingly static around her.

The early goal had made it look like this would be an opportunity for Chelsea to make up the goal difference gap between themselves and City, but Liverpool’s struggle to be clinical in the first half was firmly dispelled in the second. They found the equaliser within six minutes of the restart, with Sophie Román Haug similarly unmarked for a corner and able to turn in.

The momentum was shifting, and Beard’s team took the lead in the 66th minute, Erin Cuthbert deflecting Bonner’s goalbound header in.

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No matter how exhausted Chelsea looked, they have fight, and a mistake from Teagan Micah helped them level with 10 minutes remaining, coming out to try and block substitute Guro Reiten’s cross and failing, with Beever-Jones on hand to ferociously lash in her second.

Aggie Beever-Jones lashes in a volley to draw Chelsea level at 2-2 in the second halfView image in fullscreen

Just one minute later Liverpool were back in front, substitute Leanne Kiernan rolling the ball past Hannah Hampton after a stunning pass from Ceri Holland from inside the Chelsea half.

Two minutes on, Chelsea were back level, Catarina Macario sweeping in Cuthbert’s cut-back, which was blocked but came back off Micah and in for an own goal.

In added time, Bonner scored again for the winner, glancing the ball past Hampton from another corner to give the home team all three points and deal a hefty blow to Chelsea’s title hopes.

“We looked exhausted, but I don’t make excuses,” said Hayes. “I want to remind our fans how much success we have brought over the years. It’s not to be this year but I’m sure Chelsea will continue to be at the top of the game.”

Source: theguardian.com