A last minute Abby Holmes header handed Sunderland the Premier League title as they came from behind to defeat Millwall Lionesses 3-2 at Beckenham today.
By David Brenchley
For Millwall the loss, coupled with Barnet's 3-0 win over Leeds, sees them just one point off bottom of the table having played two games more.
Millwall Lionesses 2-3 Sunderland
The Black Cats secured their first ever major trophy thanks to late goals from Kelly McDougall and Holmes, as they completed a dramatic late comeback.
Natalie Gutteridge had put the hosts ahead after just two minutes when she collected a Keira Ramshaw pull back and smashed the ball into the roof of the net.
The lead only lasted seven minutes; Shauni Griffiths put over a towering cross from the left that landed perfectly on the head of Lindsay Morgan who, from a yard out, could not miss.
The first half was possibly the best you will see this season and the Lionesses took the lead on the half hour mark through some great interplay by Emma Beckett, Kate Longhurst and Danielle Puddefoot.
It was Beckett who took the ball into the area and slotted past Rachel Laws to give her side the edge going into the interval as Millwall finished the half on the up.
Laws had to be alert just before half time, saving with her feet to deny Longhurst and then doing well to palm a speculative Meghan McKeag free kick away.
It was not until the final passage of play that the second half lived up to the first as neither team looked likely to trouble the scorers again and, if anyone were to then it looked certain to be the hosts.
However, the game swung the Mackems' way when the ball sat up perfectly for Longhurst to hit but the former Watford striker could only watch as the volley struck the woodwork.
From the resulting clearance, the ball found its way to Kelly McDougall around 40 yards out and it sat up perfectly for her to unleash a volley of her own.
Similarly to Longhurst's, the shot struck the woodwork but this time it was the inside of the post and the ball nestled neatly in the opposite corner.
That was the wake up call Sunderland needed and they went on to keep pressuring their relegation-haunted opponents and, with just stoppage time remaining they won a corner which was headed home at the back post by Holmes. Cue pandemonium.
Sunderland manager Mick Mulhern, for whom this is the 10th season in charge, was delighted, saying: "The achievement hasn't sunk in yet, but I'm delighted for everyone involved.
"We're still frustrated that we're not in the Super League, but you can only win what's there for you and it's been a great effort by the girls.
"We wanted to show everybody that we're the best team outside the Super League and I think we've done that."
Meanwhile, Millwall manager Aidan Boxall was less enthused and admitted his frustration that now, despite needing a win against Reading next Sunday, his side's survival hopes are out of their hands.
He told WSR: "I think after the week we have had, with the Bristol and Arsenal performances, I can't fault the girls. They stepped up to the plate today and performed exactly as can do.
"But the problem is that we have been inconsistent all year and unfortunately it is costing us and now it is not in our hands.
"We have to rely on other results now and that should never have been [the case] - the Sunderland manager has walked off and told us we are the second best team in the league, which is why it is so frustrating.
"It is down to mentality. You have seen today a team that has a strong mentality and stuck it out to the death - that is why they are Champions and they deserve to be the Champions."
Barnet 3-0 Leeds United
Barnet did their surival chances the world of good with a comprehensive victory over Leeds thanks to a brace from Vicky Boardman.
Boardman put the Bees ahead after 20 minutes before Holly Sandow hit a 76th minute goal to put Barnet almost out of sight before Boardman finished the job in stoppage time.
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Photo Credit: Dario Belingheri/Bettini Photo
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