Aston Villa Women 1 – 2 Man City Women

Manchester City finished runners-up in the Women’s Super League behind Chelsea on goal difference despite beating Aston Villa 2-1 on the final matchday.

City were always playing catch-up as Chelsea scored a flurry of early goals before claiming a 6-0 win against Manchester United at Old Trafford to give Emma Hayes the perfect send-off and retain the title.

Gareth Taylor’s side needed to improve on Chelsea’s victory by a three-goal margin to overtake them at the top of the table, but goals from Mary Fowler and Lauren Hemp either side of Rachel Daly’s equalizer for Villa were not enough.

In the end, the damage had already been done two weeks ago, when City conceded two late goals in a defeat to Arsenal. It opened the door for Chelsea, who won their next three games by an aggregate score of 14-0.

Steph Houghton made his final appearance in professional football from the City bench before his retirement. The introduction of the former England captain was a rare moment of joy on a quiet afternoon in the visitors’ dugout.

Carla Ward, Villa’s outgoing coach, saw her team put in a solid defensive performance in her last game in charge in front of almost 9,000 supporters at Villa Park.

How Manchester City’s title bid fell short

Mary Fowler celebrates her first game at Villa Park

City had a huge task on their hands to reverse Chelsea’s lead on goal difference. Villa almost made their task that much harder early on but Rachel Daly headed in from close range.

The respite came just when Chelsea opened the scoring at Old Trafford. When Fowler found the goal for City after 22 minutes, their title rivals had already scored another. They couldn’t keep up with the current champions.

Gareth Taylor’s side had plenty of chances to reduce the deficit but Jess Park was denied twice by Villa goalkeeper Anna Leat, while Fowler hit the bar. It did little to lift spirits as the news from Old Trafford created a calm atmosphere in the City dugout.

There was more energy from City at the start of the second half but it did not last long as Chelsea continued to add to their tally at Old Trafford. Daly’s equalizer in the 68th minute confirmed City’s fate, although it was probably already sealed.

City’s frustrations in front of goal lingered as Fowler fired at the far post before Hemp failed to capitalize on a mistake from the impressive Leat. Villa’s well-organized defense ensured that chances were kept to a minimum in the end, but there would be a winner.

Hemp found the back of the net with just over 10 minutes remaining, but it wasn’t enough for City.

City captain Houghton came on for the last time as her brilliant career came to an end. In the end there were tears for the 36-year-old, who must settle for second place in her 22nd and final season.

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