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Chelsea Women defeat Tottenham to put themselves in WSL title driving seat

Chelsea women line up ahead of their WSL game

Chelsea women beat Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 in their penultimate game of the season to go back to the top of the league on goal difference.

Emma Hayes' side came into the game 3 points behind Manchester City with a game in hand and crucially, with a marginally better goal difference.

A first-half goal from Japanese youngster Maika Hamano, dubbed "the future of Chelsea" by her manager, was enough for Chelsea to take three points in Emma Hayes' last ever London derby.

Chelsea entered the game knowing the huge influence goal difference could have on the destination of the WSL title, with the urgency for goals clear from the first whistle.

Hayes had named an attacking line-up despite Lauren James being unable to take part from the start following injury, with Aggie Beever-Jones leading the line just days after receiving her first senior England call-up.

From the off, the visitors set up camp in their opponents half and early moments for Catarina Macario and Beever-Jones could and should have led to better chances.

The latter came after good work down the left by Guro Reiten, who as she has done all season, combined well with Niamh Charles to work the ball into the box.

It was via this outlet that a cross fell to Hamano who controlled the ball and unleashed a volley goalward, only to be blocked by the arm of Amy James-Turner.

To Chelsea's dismay, referee Emily Heaslip waved away their claims for a penalty, suggesting she believed the defender's arm to be in a natural position.

The pressure kept coming, mostly down Tottenham's right, with a foul on Reiten on the edge of the box being the closest right-back Ashleigh Neville had appeared to get to the Norwegian winger thus far.

Chelsea's pressure finally paid off on 36 minutes and unsurprisingly, it came via the left.

Striker Macario dropped deep and collected the ball in acres of space before turning and playing through Reiten, who seemingly had the freedom of East London.

Her whipped ball across goal demanded to be tucked away with the onrushing Hamano obliging and stretching to turn the ball home.

The goal was no more than Chelsea deserved and upped their goal difference over their rivals to +2.

The first-half finished with an injury to Spurs defender Luana Buhler which forced a reshuffle for the second period and inadvertently seemed to help the home side.

The tormented Neville was moved to left-back with Charlotte Grant entering the fray. The move seemed to shore up a defence that had been allowing Chelsea to run in behind at will and gave Spurs an attacking outlet they had until now, done without.

It was the Tottenham right back who combined with winger Celin Bizet to win her side several corners, the last of which, Chelsea failed to deal with.

Bjorn's attempted header put the ball into the path of James-Turner from just six yards out with only a last ditch Millie Bright block standing in between Spurs and an equaliser.

Despite the scrappy nature of the second half, Chelsea sought out further goals, with the introduction of James, Johanna Rytting Kaneryd and Fran Kirby underlining Hayes' desire to give her side as big a buffer over their rivals on the final day as possible.

Despite several half chances, the best of which saw Kirby blaze over from six yards out after good work by Erin Cuthbert, it never looked like a second goal was likely and Chelsea settled for a 1-0 win.

Hayes is due to step down following the final game of the season after 12 years at the helm and will be hoping that she is able to leave having won her fifth successive WSL title.

Hayes said: "We're in a great position for the title and that is all you can ask.

"We've been given a second chance and I've always said, when you're given a second chance, make sur you don't ask for a third.

"Is a two goal buffer going to be enough? I don't care."

Defender Natalie Bjorn was pleased to earn a clean sheet. She said: "We defended really well and Musovic didn't really have to make many saves."

On what the result means for her side's title hopes, Bjorn was hopeful that a win on the final day would get Chelsea over the line.

Bjorn said: "It is going to be tough and we know that it is probably going to come down to goal difference.

"But I think that if we beat United, it should be job done."

The clean sheet was aided by the return of captain Millie Bright, who completed just her second 90 minutes since being ruled out with injury in November.

Bright admitted that Chelsea have done well to put themselves in a position to win the league, with manager Emma Hayes conceding that the title was detained for Manchester just a fortnight ago following her sides loss to Liverpool.

Bright said: "We've been given a wonderful opportunity, it is tight but first and foremost, we have to get the three points.

"City are in the same position, the pressure is the same and we both have to be on our A-game."

Chelsea now go into the final game of the season level on points with Manchester City with a goal difference of +2 more than their rivals, meaning they will win the league if they better City's result.


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