Soccer-Chelsea WSL champions again, but chasing pack closing in

Soccer Football - Women's Super League - Manchester United v Chelsea - Old Trafford, Manchester, Britain - May 18, 2024 Chelsea players celebrate with the trophy after winning the Women's Super League REUTERS/Molly Darlington

MANCHESTER, England (Reuters) - Chelsea may have won the Super League for the fifth year in a row, but the title race went down to the wire as the women's game continued its strong growth in the home of European champions England.

Only goal difference separated Chelsea from second-placed Manchester City after a thrilling season in which those two clubs set the pace, along with an Arsenal side who fell away in the run-in.

The stakes were raised when Chelsea coach Emma Hayes announced in November that she would leave at the end of the season to take over the U.S. women's national team, and the title race proved to be enthralling.

Chelsea's defeat by Liverpool looked to have handed the initiative to Manchester City, but their loss to Arsenal effectively snuffed out their title hopes.

Arsenal will be disappointed their challenge faltered, but with striker Viviane Miedema missing due to a serious knee injury, they lacked the firepower to sustain their bid.

Matt Beard's Liverpool showed they have what it takes to kick on with a vastly-improved showing this term that earned them 41 points, 18 more than last season, en route to a fourth-placed finish.

Manchester United won the FA Cup - the first senior women's trophy in the club's history - but erratic league form dropped them from second last year to fifth this season, and they crashed out of the Champions League at the first hurdle.

At the other end of the table, Bristol City's stay in the top flight ended after one season as they were relegated back to the Championship.

(Reporting by Philip O'Connor, editing by Ed Osmond)

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