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    Chelsea 6 Birmingham 0: Kerr and Kirby on song as Blues net six against Birmingham before Man City clash

    SAM KERR put in a superb shift as Chelsea hit Birmingham for six to reach their 100th goal milestone for this season. The Australia star’s hat-trick and a Fran Kirby brace were among the efforts that saw the champions thump the visitors 6-0 to maintain their grip at the top.  
    Sam Kerr’s hat-trick helped Chelsea seal their sixth win on the bounce in the WSLCredit: Getty
    Fran Kirby scored twice to help the Blues notch up 100 goals this seasonCredit: Rex
    Before the clash Birmingham boss, Carla Ward described Emma Hayes as the best female coach in football. 
    And after the hosts’ clinical attacking display – with Kerr taking her WSL goal tally to 17 –  it was not hard to see why. 
    Blues gaffer Hayes said: “Sam is the ultimate team player and will do anything for the team to do well.
    “She can take the pressure and responsibility well enough. Her goals speak for themselves. 
    “The things that are impressing me about her play are the things that I think she had to improve on the most like her ability to link play or hold up. 
    “She is so often getting the first goal for us just when we need it and that is just priceless.”
    The visitors – who had lost seven of their last nine meetings with Chelsea – held their own in defence for the first 20 mins and looked to harry the hosts when they were in possession. 
    But it did not take too long for Hayes’ aces to get off the mark.
    And it was Kerr burying her first in the 24th minute from a tight angle after Hannah Hampton parried Erin Cuthbert’s shot out wide.
    Chelsea’s 6-0 win means they stay top in the Women’s Super League ahead of the international breakCredit: PA

    Birmingham had a good chance to pick up an equaliser 14 minutes later after Claudia Walker latched on to a ball that bounced awkwardly over Millie Bright.
    But Carla Ward’s top scorer saw her sweetly struck shot sail wide of Ann-Katrin Berger’s near post before Kerr took the wind out of the visitors’ sails. 
    The Matildas skipper struck twice in three minutes deep into injury time in the first half. 
    First through nodding in her second after a Pernille Harder effort rebounded off the post.
    And then a free header off of a fine set-piece cross from Cuthbert in the 47th minute.
    The second half saw Hayes make five substitutions with Guro Reiten and Beth England among the players to come on. 
    Claudia Walker’s 38th minute shot was the closest Birmingham came to scoringCredit: Rex
    And it was England who set up Kirby to net her 13th goal of the season following a cutback from the Blues playmaker. 
    Reiten got in on the act with Kirby turning provider to help her team-mate slot in her first league goal of the season. 
    And Kirby sealed an emphatic victory for the champs with her late strike helping Chelsea reach a century of goals this term. 
    A title duel with Manchester City is up next after the international break for Hayes’ side who are also battling to win their first Champions League crown.
    Meanwhile, Birmingham – who remain ninth and three points above the foot of the table – have an FA Cup clash with Coventry before they face Reading in the league. 
    And Ward made it clear that WSL survival will be her team’s top priority. 
    Guro Reiten registered her first goal of the season when she scored Chelsea’s fifth against BirminghamCredit: Rex
    Ward said: “I don’t want to disrespect the competition because  I think it’s an unbelievable competition and one that I absolutely love playing in. 
    “One day, no doubt, managing and it will also be something special, but in all honesty, it’s not important. 
    “We will ring the changes, we’ll allow players to get minutes will allow those to get some rest. 
    “It’s not big for us, survival is. They’ll certainly be many many changes.”
    Carla Ward says Birmingham will field a changed side when they play Coventry in the Women’s FA CupCredit: Zuma Press
    Emma Hayes gets stuck into Chelsea training More

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    Reading 0 West Ham 5: Thomas on fire for Irons as West Ham trounce Royals to leapfrog Aston Villa and Bristol

    MARTHA THOMAS helped West Ham demolish Reading 5-0 to blow the WSL survival fight wide open. The Scotland forward’s stunning hat-trick was among the goals that saw the Irons crush the Royals to register their first WSL win under boss Olli Harder.
    West Ham have moved up to tenth in the table after their 5-0 win against ReadingCredit: Alamy
    Martha Thomas was in superb form for the Irons netting her first WSL hat-trick of the yearCredit: Rex
    The result means the Hammers move off the foot of the table, with Aston Villa now in the drop zone ahead of their clash with Everton.
    And it saw Thomas pick up her first three league goals of the year with the Hammers bouncing back from a 10-game winless run.
    Harder said: “It’s was a good win but there is a long road ahead for us. This will hopefully turn the corner for us to push on. 
    “We needed to get out and get on the front foot. 
    “It was a fantastic performance from Martha. As a striker, it’s been difficult for her in the last few matches or so, not scoring and obviously wanting to and creating good chances for herself. 
    “Today she managed to put three in the back of the net. 
    “That will do the world of good for her and we hope to ride that confidence now moving forward with Martha.”
    The Irons, whose last win was in November, were in devastating form and got off to a flier with Kenza Dali’s looping eighth-minute cross finding back of the net. 
    The visitors doubled their lead moments later.
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    West Ham’s win has heaped more pressure on their rivals in the bottom half of the tableCredit: Alamy

    This time with Kate Longhurst delivering a delightful chip across Reading’s penalty box for Katerina Svitkova to head home. 
    Shortly after, Thomas bundled in her first of the afternoon to make it three for the Hammers by the eleventh minute. 
    The striker was on target again minutes later combining in a slick one-two with Cecile Redisch to split Reading’s defence wide open shortly before the half-hour mark. 
    And Thomas picked up her hat-trick courtesy of a stylish chip over Grace Moloney in the 36th minute. 
    The second period saw Reading eager to bounce back.
    And they came close to pulling a goal back through Rachel Rowe’s curled effort in the 56th minute. 
    Angharad James would later force a save from Irons keeper Courtney Brosnan before Fara Williams’ thunderous free-kick rattled the crossbar in the 87th minute.  
    The Royals remain seventh following the defeat and face Birmingham after the international break with West Ham up against Aston Villa. 
    Reading will be looking to bounce back when they take on Birmingham after the international breakCredit: Alamy
    And Reading bid farewell to Wales ace Jess Fishlock who returns to her NWSL parent club OL Reign in the USA.   
    Reading manager Kelly Chambers said: “Jess has been great for me, great for the team and  I thank her for her service. 
    “The players are disappointed with the result and know that it should be better. People say it’s hard when you sit mid-table. 
    “You’re not fighting for anything near the top, you know you’re not fighting relegation but we’ve got to show pride to want to finish as high as we can.”
    Read our Football live blog for the very latest news from around the grounds
    The Royals have bid farewell to Jess Fishlock who is due to return to her parent club OL ReignCredit: Getty
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    Mark Clattenburg says Rebecca Welch becoming an EFL referee is a ‘stepping stone’ for football

    MARK CLATTENBURG hailed Rebecca Welch’s EFL refereeing appointment as a major leap forward for the men’s game.The former Premier League ref was full of praise for Welch and believes her amazing feat will help women become more accepted in the sport.
    Welch is set make history when she becomes the first women to officiate a men’s EFL fixtureCredit: Reuters
    Welch, 37, currently the highest-ranked female official in the country, will preside over Harrogate Town’s League Two duel with Port Vale.
    Clattenburg, 46, said a woman officiating in a men’s match was unheard of in his day.
    The former Prem ref told Sky Sports: “Rebecca Welch is an amazing story because she didn’t start until 27 so this is very late.
    “To achieve what she has done in 10 years, I want to wish her the best because this is her first step.
    “I remember at 25 when I first refereed a football league game and that was unheard of.
    “To break those barriers is so important, so everybody will be watching Rebecca.
    “We all want to wish her well because this is the stepping stone that can enhance and make women more accepted in the men’s game.”
    Clattenburg knows exactly what it takes to succeed at the highest level of football officiating. 
    The Durham-born ref was in charge of the Champions League final and European Cup final in 2016, before retiring in 2017 ahead of a big-money move to Saudi Arabia.
    Welch was selected for the role by referee chiefs Mike Riley and Mike Jones who have been assessing her performances on the pitch this season.
    But the former NHS administrator, who lives in Sunderland, wants the attention to be on the game and not who the ref is.
    She told Sky Sports: “A good game on Monday is, by 10 to five, they’re talking about the game and not about the ref.
    Clattenburg believes her appointment will help women become more accepted in men’s footballCredit: Getty Images – Getty

    “I like the games when nobody remembers who the ref is.”
    Welch began her ascent in the game a decade ago as a Sunday League ref while working for the NHS.
    And what began as a dare from her pal has now become a sporting success story.
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    Leicester Women’s boss wants to avenge loss to London City with Foxes on brink of WSL promotion

    JONATHAN MORGAN is out for revenge against London City Lionesses with Leicester on the verge of sealing their dream promotion. An Easter Sunday win against the only team to have beaten the Foxes in the Women’s Championship would guarantee them a WSL spot. 
    Jonathan Morgan’s team could secure promotion to the Women’s Super League with a home win against London City LionessesCredit: Getty
    The Foxes have won 11 games on the bounce in the Women’s ChampionshipCredit: Getty
    The result would also see Leicester – who lost 4-1 to London City in December – claim the Women’s Championship title with two games left to play. 
    Morgan said: “I’ve said to the girls that I want to get a little bit of revenge for that loss to London City because it was such a, such a big loss for us and it was a bit unexpected. 
    “But it was also a sliding door moment in the season because it highlighted some of our weaknesses and vulnerabilities, which we were able to shore up as you can see in the 11 wins since.
    “We need to treat this game the same as we have treated all the others. 
    “We want to play our best and win the game, but obviously this week is different because those three points would secure the title. 
    “And it would be a fitting turnaround given the last game we lost was against London City.” 
    The Foxes, who are top of the table having won 14 clashes, have a five-point lead over their closest rivals Durham as well as a game in hand. 
    Victory in the first of their final three games this season would seal a return to the top-flight for former Reading and Everton aces Remi Allen and Kirstie Levell. 
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    London City defeated Leicester in the Women’s Championship in DecemberCredit: Rex
    Kirstie Levell is aiming to register her tenth clean sheet when Leicester play London CityCredit: Rex

    And goalkeeper Levell, 24, who won promotion to the WSL with the Toffees in 2017, wants her team-mates to savour the feeling should they win.  
    Levell, who made 51 Everton appearances from 2015 to 2020, has kept nine clean sheets in 14 second-tier games this season.
    The Foxes stopper said: “The last time I was in this position was back with Everton and I gained promotion with them during the Spring series in 2017. 
    “It was a very quick season. With successes like this, you have got to live in the moment and enjoy the feeling of it. 
    “Back then, I was only young and I thought these opportunities will always come around, but they really don’t and I’m 24 now so it’s been a good few years to try and win my next cup. 
    “Hopefully that can happen after this game.”
    This has been seven years in the making to get to the WSL – the pinnacle of the women’s gameJonathan Morgan
    A  move to the WSL would represent a remarkable rise for Leicester, who were competing in the fourth tier as recently as 2013.
    And gaffer Morgan and his family have been at the heart of the team’s evolution from a semi-pro side into a professional outfit. 
    And this season the club switched their training base to Leicester’s £100million Seagrave practice ground which was previously used by the Foxes’ Prem team. 
    Morgan added: “It’s not very often you get the opportunity to win a league or championship at the elite level.
    WSL promotion would cap a remarkable season for Leicester who were acquired by the owners of King Power stadium in 2020Credit: Rex
    “I told the players you have to make sure that you live in the moment and actually enjoy it, because 10 years down the line when you’re retired, you only have the memories.
    “This has been seven years in the making to get to the WSL – the pinnacle of the women’s game. 
    “I’m thoroughly excited but also a little bit nervous because you want to get over the line. It’s the most important game of my career.” 
    ⚽ Read our Football live blog for the very latest news from around the grounds
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    WSL starlet Goodwin signs first professional deal with Aston Villa ahead of Everton clash

    ISOBEL GOODWIN has landed her first senior contract with Aston Villa Women days before the team’s clash with Everton.The teenage striker, who is battling with a knee injury, shared her delight at signing with the WSL team with more than a thousand of her followers on Instagram.
    Goodwin has signed her first professional contract with Villa
    Goodwin, 19, said: “This is something I’ve dreamt of and worked very hard for. A proud moment for me and my family.
    “I wouldn’t be where I am now without all the support I’ve had from family, friends and coaches.
    “Determined more than ever to get back on the pitch.”
    Goodwin’s new deal sees her join rising stars Olivia McLoughlin and Freya Gregory in being promoted to Villa’s first-team squad this term.
    And it is thought Goodwin may have been in contention for a swifter move up the ranks had injury not hampered her progress.
    The Villa starlet is currently sidelined with knee cartilage problems and will miss the team’s must-win clash on Sunday with the Toffees who are fifth.
    But Goodwin is in good spirits and hopes to be back to full fitness to help her club – who are third from bottom – with their bid to avoid relegation.
    Aston Villa are looking to pick up their fourth win of the season when they take on EvertonCredit: Getty
    Goodwin added: “I tore my meniscus in my knee. I have been out for about five weeks now and have probably a few weeks left for recovery.
    “But I’m back on the pitch, been smashing it in rehab so everything’s going well so far.
    “I’m just hoping to impact the game with goals because that’s my main strength, because I’m a striker.
    “I hope to bring good work ethic and put a 100 per cent in everything I do.”
    Although Goodwin is yet to make a full appearance in Villa’s first-team line-up, she did feature as a sub in Marcus Bignot’s squad durin their 1-0 victory over Tottenham in February.
    And the team’s sporting director Eniola Aluko shared the forward’s enthusiasm about the deal.
    Aluko, 34, said: “We are delighted Izzy has signed her first professional contract with us.
    Mana Iwabuchi and her team-mates are looking to avoid relegation with Villa one point above bottom spotCredit: Getty

    “Izzy is a uniquely powerful talent, and is another that has demonstrated a consistent level of development and excellence in our academy.
    “We are excited for her to contribute to the ongoing progress of Aston Villa Women.
    “Izzy is another fantastic example of the club’s academy pathway, and we look forward to seeing her make her first-team debut in the near future.”
    Goodwin hopes to help her team maintain their place in the Women’s Super LeagueCredit: Getty
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    Arsenal director Edu to help with hunt for women’s team replacement for Joe Montemurro

    ARSENAL technical chief Edu will aid the search for a new manager to replace Joe Montemurro as boss of the Gunners’ WSL side.Montemurro, 51, revealed he will be leaving the club at the end of the season after joining in 2017.
    Edu will play a key role in helping to identify Joe Montemurro’s successorCredit: Getty – Contributor
    Although Arsenal say they are “disappointed” with his decision to depart, officials have begun the hunt for his successor immediately.
    And club chief, Vinai Venkatesham said he will be involved in the process, alongside Edu and Clare Wheatley, Gunners head of women’s football and their people director Karen Ann Joesphides.
    Venkatesham, 40, said: “In terms of process, there will be a few of us involved to find Joe’s replacement.
    “We will have the management of Arsenal Women, our people director, our technical director, Edu, and of course I’ll be involved in the process.”
    Edu has thrived in his senior backroom role with the Gunners since he re-joined them in 2019.
    And Arsenal Prem boss Mikel Arteta heaped praise on Edu for spearheading some major transfer deals in recent past few months.
    Arteta, 39, said: “I think he is doing a great job at the club since I joined.
    “The clarity that he showed when they came to try to convince me to join the club and then to stick to the plan we have and the way he is going about it, I am really impressed with him.”
    The former Brazil international also enjoyed a glittering playing career with the Gunners, winning two Premier League titles.
    Edu was also a member of their infamous ‘Invincibles’ side that went unbeaten for the whole 2004/05 season.
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    Vinai Venkatesham says Edu and Arsenal Women’s board members will make the final decision on recruitment of a new head coachCredit: Getty

    Venkatesham is keen to use Edu’s winning mentality in finding Montemurro’s replacement
    And the Arsenal chief revealed he wants the club to compete in Europe and challenge Chelsea and Manchester City for the Women’s Super League supremacy.
    Venkatesham added: “Foremost we want to bring on board someone who can help us achieve our sporting ambitions.
    “To help us be as successful as we can in the domestic game, to compete to win the WSL title, and someone who can help us be successful in Europe as well.”
    Read our Football live blog for the very latest news from around the grounds
    Montemurro has revealed he will leave Arsenal Women’s team at the end of the seasonCredit: Getty
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    New Zealand’s Eden Park to stage 2023 Women’s World Cup opening game with final set for Stadium Australia

    EDEN PARK in New Zealand will take centre stage on the first day of the Women’s 2023 World Cup with the venue hosting the tournament’s opening clash.And the second-biggest sports venue in Australia is set to host the contest’s final. 
    Eden Park will host the opening clash of the 2023 Women’s World CupCredit: Getty
    The world’s best international women’s sides will go head-to-head in nine cities and 10 stadiums in Australia and New Zealand.  
    Adelaide, Auckland, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney and Wellington are among the locations where matches will take place over a five-week period from July to August 2023. 
    Fifa president Gianni Infantino said: “Building on the incredible success of France 2019, the Women’s World Cup 2023 and nine host cities across Australia and New Zealand will not only showcase the world’s very best players but will also provide a powerful platform to unite and inspire people.
    Chris Nikou, Football Australia President, added: “This will be the biggest sporting event on Australian soil since the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, showcasing Australia and New Zealand to a global audience of over one billion people. 
    “Today’s announcement is a major milestone for a tournament that will unite nations, inspire generations, and provide our diverse and multicultural game with the perfect platform to grow over the coming years.”
    The next World Cup will be the first in the competition’s history to see 32 teams battle it out for the most prestigious trophy in women’s football. 
    This follows Fifa’s decision to expand the tournament’s size from 24 international sides. 
    And the contest will be the first-ever jointly managed by two countries with both nations scheduled to host a semi-final game. 
    Sam Kerr and her Australia team-mates will be among the 32 sides competing in the tournamentCredit: Getty Images – Getty

    The 2019 Women’s World Cup saw the United States win the trophy for the fourth time in the tournament’s 30-year history. 
    And Megan Rapinoe and Manchester City ace Rose Lavelle was on target for the victors in their 2-0 defeat of the Netherlands. 
    The full fixture schedule for the next World Cup is due to be revealed later this year.
    The United States women’s team won their fourth World Cup in France in 2019Credit: AP
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    Joe Montemurro says decision to leave Arsenal Women after three years was ‘the hardest of his professional life’

    JOE MONTEMURRO says deciding to leave Arsenal at the end of the season was the “hardest professional decision of his life.”The Gunners boss led the club to its first WSL title in seven years in 2019, four cup finals and a Champions League quarter final during his three years in charge.
    Joe Montemurro will leave Arsenal Women at the end of the season
    Montemurro, 51, has decided to take a break from work to spend more time with his family.
    He said: “My three and a half years at Arsenal have been a fantastic adventure, the highlight of my coaching career.
    “I have had the opportunity to work with and learn from some of the best in the industry on and off the pitch.
    “This has been the hardest professional decision of my life, as I absolutely love this job and this club, the club I have supported all my life.
    “I’m hugely grateful to the club for their unrelenting support during my time here and in understanding and respecting my decision.”
    The Gunners boss will leave the club on May 31, and the North Londoners have already started the search for his successor.
    Leah Williamson wrote on Twitter: “The definition of a good man.”
    It has been a turbulent season for Arsenal, who failed to qualify for the Champions League last term.
    🗣 “With a lot of pride and a lot of emotion, I put on this training outfit every day and go to work and represent this amazing brand. To have had the privilege to do that is probably one of the biggest highlights of my life, not even my football career.” @MontemurroJoe ❤️— Arsenal Women (@ArsenalWFC) March 31, 2021

    They are currently fourth in the table behind rivals Chelsea, Manchester City and United.
    Only the top three in the women’s top-flight qualify for Europe, but they are only three points behind United, having recently pumped them 2-0.
    Montemurro said: “I’ve had a fantastic time here at Arsenal and I am proud of what we have achieved.
    “I must thank all the fans, players, staff and the club. 
    “This club has always been a leader in women’s football and I will be cheering us on to the next level as I watch as a passionate and enduring fan.
    “My focus now is helping the team to complete the season strongly and finishing as high as possible in the WSL, leaving the club in good shape for the future.”
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