Emma Hayes' dominant Chelsea team broke a long-standing Premier League record after they scored for a 56th successive Women's Super League game.

Late goals from Pernille Harder and Fran Kirby saw reigning Super League champions Chelsea defeat Leicester City 2-0 on Sunday.

The victory took Chelsea into second place, but also saw them break a record held by Arsenal's men's team.

Between May 2001 and November 2002, Arsene Wenger's side scored in 55 consecutive Premier League games, a tally now overtaken by Chelsea women.

Sam Kerr teed up the second goal of the game for Kirby, with the duo having now combined for 17 goals in the Super League.

It is the joint-most of any pair, alongside Arsenal's Vivianne Miedema and Beth Mead. In just 23 league games together Kirby has assisted Kerr 10 times and Kerr has assisted Kirby seven times.

Ellen White rescued Manchester City in a fierce derby as the England striker hit a landmark goal to secure a 2-2 draw with Manchester United.

Staring at a fourth successive defeat in the Women's Super League, City trailed and were down to 10 players after Georgia Stanway's red card.

But White was on hand to slot in her first goal of the season after 79 minutes, when Jess Park's thumping strike was pushed against the crossbar by Mary Earps.

The tap-in means White has now scored against all 17 clubs she has faced in the WSL, netting against more different sides in the league than any other player.

She has previously played for Arsenal, Notts County and Birmingham in the competition, which began in 2011.

This season's WSL title is already probably beyond City, the 2016 champions, and they entered Saturday's derby six points behind United after just four matches of the 22-game campaign. Injuries to the likes of FIFA Best Women's Player winner Lucy Bronze and Steph Houghton have left their ranks depleted, and both were absent again.

Stanway was dismissed after 35 minutes when her dangerously high boot caught Leah Galton high on the thigh in midfield, but City snatched the lead three minutes later when Khadija Shaw headed in a cross from the left by Demi Stokes.

City's run of three defeats was their worst in the WSL, and a fourth was on the cards when Lucy Staniforth's backheeled flick for a 72nd-minute equaliser was followed by Alessia Russo firing hosts United ahead.

At that stage, United were on course for their first win over City in the WSL, having previously managed just one point from three games.

The tussle at Leigh Sports Village had another twist in store though, and White, who had replaced Shaw just before the hour mark, showed her poacher's instinct to tuck away the loose ball after Earps saved from Park.

 

City star Lauren Hemp told the BBC: "The fight and determination throughout the whole game was top drawer. I'm so proud of how we've turned it around this week. It just shows how together the team is and hopefully this will be the turning point.

"We showed the quality this team has and that we deserved to put on a show. That's what you want in Manchester derbies, and we did it justice. I'm so proud of the team."

City boss Gareth Taylor wanted a win but said: "It was a roller coaster and when you're potentially staring at a loss at 2-1 down, I think you have to say reluctantly it's a fair point."

Champions Chelsea fell foul of an early challenge from Arsenal on Sunday in a gripping first glimpse of a potential Women's Super League title battle. 

Chelsea and Arsenal have accounted for seven of the 10 WSL championships to date, including the past four in a row, although the Blues were dominant last term. 

The beaten Champions League finalists entered the match at Emirates Stadium having suffered only one defeat in 43 league games and unbeaten in 39 away from home – a competition record. 

However, Arsenal, whose most recent defeat came against Chelsea in February, landed the first blow in 2021-22 with an impressive 3-2 win. 

Vivianne Miedema netted a record-extending 61st WSL goal to open the scoring, steering inside the near post for her sixth strike on opening weekends. 

Chelsea were level on the stroke of half-time through Erin Cuthbert but trailed again four minutes after the restart as Miedema turned provider for Beth Mead, who raced away and finished in style. 

Mead's eighth WSL goal against Chelsea – all at home – followed, meaning Pernille Harder's fine header proved merely a consolation as the Blues became the third team to lose the first game of a title defence, after Arsenal in 2013 and Liverpool in 2015. 

 

It was a first win in six against Chelsea for Arsenal, but they now have the outright most victories versus the reigning WSL champions (six). 

And the Gunners hope this will not be a one-off, as two-goal Mead told Sky Sports: "We are a team that want to fight for the title, so we won't make it easy for these teams. 

"Hopefully we can continue to do that for the rest of the season." 

She added: "[This win] has been a long time coming. We've had a lot of seasons where we've [fallen] short in these games." 

Manchester United have a realistic chance of breaking into the top three of the Women's Super League this season, despite losing head coach Casey Stoney during the close season. 

That is according to Tottenham defender Kerys Harrop, who told Stats Perform she is expecting the 2021-22 campaign to be the "most exciting yet".

Stoney departed United at the end of last season after steering the club into the top flight and then to successive fourth-placed finishes in the WSL across her three years in charge.

The Red Devils have opted for an experienced replacement, with former Birmingham City and Orlando Pride boss Marc Skinner taking the reins.

United led the way at the top of the division come the end of last year, but hampered by injury issues they slipped down to fourth, one point behind third-placed Arsenal.

United States duo Tobin Heath and Christen Press have departed, while Jessica Sigsworth, Amy Turner, Lauren James and  Abbie McManus have also moved on.

But with Hannah Blundell, Aoife Mannion, Sophie Baggaley, Martha Thomas and Vilde Boe Risa all arriving, Harrop believes United can possibly go one better this time around.

"I think it's realistic ambition for them and certainly what Marc and the players I know there, former team-mates of mine, want," Harrop said.

"And then you've still got other teams like ourselves at Tottenham and you have got Brighton, who will be wanting to push on this year as well, Everton too.

"I know we say every year that it's going to be the most exciting season yet. But I believe it actually will be. 

"Everton have invested as well as us, even Villa to an extent as well. So I think it's going to be really important for this game for the top three places.

"But certainly in and around the top half of the league, I think it's going to be really interesting and really exciting."

 

Skinner was widely praised for his work at Birmingham, whom he led to the FA Cup final in 2017 and to fourth in the table in the WSL in 2019.

The 38-year-old finished bottom of the National Women's Soccer League in his first season with Orlando before a more promising start to the 2021 campaign.

Harrop was part of the Birmingham side that achieved success under Skinner and expects her former manager to be a success on his return to the English game.

"It was really tough to see when he got the job [with Orlando]," Harrop said. 

"You know, he kind of went out to Orlando and got that experience, but I think deep down he'd always wanted to manage in the WSL. 

"I think he's got a quite unique style of play, certainly from when I was under him at Birmingham. And he's well respected. I know he'll get the best out of all the players there. 

"That's certainly what he did with us at Birmingham. It's going to be interesting to see whether his style has changed since being out in America. 

"He was quite adamant on the way that he wanted his teams play."

Harrop is entering her second season as a Tottenham player and has made the third-most appearances of any player in WSL history.

Spurs finished eighth in the top flight in 2020-21, but Harrop is hopeful of challenging United for a Champions League berth this coming season in their first full campaign under Rehanne Skinner.

"I definitely think we will improve," she said. "You know, we've already kind of stayed ourselves and we want at least a top four finish, if not higher. 

"Rhian's recruited well. She's bought in a lot of good new quality, kind of international signings really. Every year you want to improve but I think realistically we can definitely develop on last season. 

"I think just having Rhian in from the beginning will help. Last season she came in in January, so it was a lot harder for her to kind of implement all her tactics and her style of play. 

"This year we've had everyone together from the beginning of pre-season in terms of her and the coaching staff. So hopefully there will be a bit of flow to the league this year."

Casey Stoney will step down as head coach of Manchester United Women at the end of the domestic season.

The former England international took charge in June 2018 shortly after finishing her distinguished playing career at Liverpool.

Stoney led United to the Women's Championship title, and promotion to the Women's Super League, in the team's inaugural season in 2018-19. They won 18 of their 20 matches and suffered just one defeat.

United finished a creditable fourth in their first season in the top flight in 2019-20 and again this term, 10 points behind champions Chelsea. They face Leicester City in the fifth round of the Women's FA Cup on Sunday.

"It has been an honour to lead the women's team at this great club and this has been an incredibly tough decision," Stoney said in a statement.

"I have loved leading this group and I am proud of what we have achieved together. However, after a difficult season with disruption caused by the pandemic, I now feel the time is right to take some time away and for someone else to come in and lead the team on the next stage of its journey.

"I want to thank the club, all of the fantastic staff, the fans, and most of all the players, for the incredible experience we have shared over the past three years."

United's outgoing executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward said: "Casey has been a driving force behind the success of our women's team since she joined the club in 2018. She has been an inspiration to her players and staff, to everyone at the club, and to the fans. Everyone at Manchester United thanks her for her unstinting hard work and dedication and pays tribute to her achievements. She will always be part of the Manchester United family."

Football director John Murtough added: "Manchester United is completely committed to its women's team and to building on the legacy of Casey's achievements as we move forwards. With the recent historic first game at Old Trafford and the impact the team has made in the Women's Super League, the future is bright.

"While we will be sad to see Casey leave, the team and the operation will continue to go from strength to strength."

Manchester United have exposed the stark levels of abuse aimed at their players ahead of a four-day social media boycott.

Football clubs and players all over England will be joined in the action, which runs from 1500 BST on Friday until 2359 BST on Monday, by UEFA and major bodies across cricket, rugby union, tennis, rugby league and other sports.

The move follows an increase in online abuse aimed at sportspeople, with United's research offering a glimpse at how bad the problem is.

United revealed a 350 per cent increase in abuse directed towards their players since September 2019, with 86 per cent of 3,300 abusive posts categorised as being racist in nature.

A further eight per cent were deemed homophobic or transphobic.

"It must be said that while these numbers are shocking, they do only represent a 0.01 per cent of conversations that take place on social media about the club and the players," said group managing director Richard Arnold.

"By taking part in this boycott this weekend, we, alongside the rest of English football, want to shine a light on the issue. It will generate debate and discussion and will raise awareness of the levels of abuse our players and our fans receive."

An announcement of the boycott came jointly last Saturday from numerous organisations in football, including the Premier League, the English Football League, the Football Association, the Professional Footballers' Association, the Women’s Super League and the Women’s Championship.

"While some progress has been made, we reiterate those requests today in an effort to stem the relentless flow of discriminatory messages and ensure that there are real-life consequences for purveyors of online abuse across all platforms," the groups said in a release.

"Boycott action from football in isolation will, of course, not eradicate the scourge of online discriminatory abuse, but it will demonstrate that the game is willing to take voluntary and proactive steps in this continued fight."

Since that statement was released, other bodies have declared they will join the boycott from across various sports, with cycling, horseracing and hockey also on board.

Football's European governing body, UEFA, also pledged its support in a strongly worded statement from president Aleksander Ceferin on Thursday.

"We've had enough of these cowards who hide behind their anonymity to spew out their noxious ideologies," he said.

The move instigated by England's footballing bodies follows them sending a letter to social media companies in February, urging them to take numerous steps to take down online abuse, including quick removal of offensive posts and an improved verification process.

Some within the game have already taken individual action to protest, with Thierry Henry withdrawing from all social media platforms until the issue is appropriately addressed.

Henry's stance came after a spate of incidents of vile abuse being aimed at sportspeople online.

Chelsea put out a statement in January after Reece James was targeted, saying: "Something needs to change and it needs to change now."

Manchester United duo Anthony Martial and Axel Tuanzebe were also racially abused online after the side's loss to Sheffield United, with manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer calling for stronger intervention from social media platforms.

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