It was a pulsating game from start to finish, but Ann-Katrin Berger may well have helped Chelsea retain the Women’s Super League title.
In the dying embers of the winner takes all clash, Manchester City were drawing 2-2 with the Blues, knowing a win would see them leapfrog their opponents with just two games to go this season.
Alex Greenwood swung in a corner, where the ever-lively Lauren Hemp rose highest –– her glancing header destined for the roof of the net, only to be denied by a fingertip save by Berger.
As the final whistle blew minutes later, Chelsea escaped the Academy Stadium with a point and with their two-point lead still intact, now look destined to win the league again.
Speaking after the game, Emma Hayes was full of praise for the German international. “She’s the best”, the Chelsea boss proclaimed. “Her and [Christiane] Tiane Endler are probably the best in the world.”
Others offered even bolder statements, with England’s most capped player Fara Williams declaring on The Offside Rule podcast: “It’s the best save I’ve ever seen.”
As praise from fans, players and coaches continues to fly in on social media, it’s worth noting that as much as Berger’s save last night was astonishing, awe-inspiring and almost gravity-defying –– it didn’t come as much of a surprise to those who have watched her this year.
As Hayes herself exemplified –– Berger is one of the best in the world right now, if not the best. In 15 WSL games, she’s kept 10 clean sheets and conceded just seven goals. While you could make the argument that Chelsea’s defence has been largely responsible for that statistic, data compiled by FBRef shows that the German has a higher save percentage than any other keeper in the league.
Equally, these stats alone don’t do justice to her influence this season. In the Champions League last 16, Chelse faced a strong Atlético Madrid team, who had knocked Man City out the previous two seasons. The Spanish side piled the pressure on in the first leg, but Berger pulled off two fine penalty saves as Hayes’ side won the tie 2-0.
This impact cannot be understated. Chelsea are still searching for their first Champions League trophy and could well have found themselves down and out after the first leg had it not been for the 30-year-old’s heroics. This constant ability to come up trumps in the most pressured of situations is what seemingly sets her apart from the rest of the world's keepers.
For all Chelsea’s star quality, it's been the imperious front three of Sam Kerr, Fran Kirby and Pernille Harder who have stolen the majority of headlines this year. Berger though has been just as pivotal. It may well be goals that win you matches, but on the evidence of yesterday, it’s goalkeepers that win you titles.News Now - Sport News