FA Women’s Super League: Week 8 Review

A Sam Kerr Hat-trick for Chelsea. Ella Toone playing ‘lights out’ for league leaders Manchester United. Bristol City unbeaten in consecutive league games three weeks apart. The honeymoon is definitely over for Everton. Kim Little’s mixed fortunes from the penalty spot. Alex Morgan’s first WSL goal helps new Spurs manager Rehanne Skinner achieve a perfect record – one win in one. Here’s week 8…

Aston Villa 0-2 Manchester United

Casey Stoney – Leading the way in the WSL…

Manchester United retained top spot in the FA Women’s Super League with a comfortable 2-0 win at Aston Villa on Saturday.

Leah Galton and Ella Toone provided the goals, one in each half but the game was equally noteworthy for a head injury sustained by United’s Dutch international midfielder Jackie Groenen on nine minutes. She elected to play on but just two minutes later the team’s medical staff decided she should be subbed after she went down again clearly in distress. This kicked off some media debate about if players should get a say in whether they stay on the field following a clash of heads.

Ella Toone looked the standout player once again for United. Tenacious, skillful and composed in front of goal, the United attacker now looks like one of manager Casey Stoney’s first names on the team sheet and has muscled her way into Lionesses contention with a string of excellent WSL performances.

Toone robbed Anita Asante to start the move that led to Galton’s 25th minute opener and then was in the right place at the right time on 89 minutes to convert a lovely chipped effort over Lisa Weiß after the German keeper had made a poor clearance from the edge of her penalty area.

From Villa’s perspective manager Gemma Davies felt they had competed for long spells – they had three shots on target and Shania Hayles hit the cross bar from close range – but they need a more clinical player in front of goal. Just three strikes in their opening six WSL fixtures points to where the Villans are struggling thus far.

Arsenal 3-0 Birmingham City

We wanted to be compact defensively and we wanted to silence the crowd that was here. It was a case of staying focused and sticking together, I am proud of the players, I told them when I first arrived that if they give it their all, I’ll take the result. We have to realise that we were against world class opposition. Arsenal were outstanding, probably the best team we’ve played all season.”

Carla Ward, Birmingham City Manager, via bcfc.com

Arsenal remain second after dispatching Birmingham City with a good second half showing at Meadow Park in front of reportedly 900 spectators.

The Blues held out in the first period despite a penalty decision going against them. Goalkeeper Hannah Hampton parried Kim Little’s effort low to her left to cap an excellent first half display.

But the Gunners turned up the heat after the break and Australian attacker Caitlin Foord opened the scoring on 57 minutes when she strong armed her way through two defenders to head Kate McCabe’s cross past Hampton.

Five minutes later Jill Roord made it two from the edge of box, with an instinctive snap shot that looped under the cross bar.

Birmingham continued to compete but without seriously troubling Lydia Williams, who was making her first WSL appearance in the Arsenal goal.

Kim Little was given a second chance from the spot on 87 minutes to add some lustre to the score line after the referee harshly adjudged that Rachel Corsie had handled in the penalty box. Little made no mistake, this time driving with more purpose to the keeper’s right.

Blues’ manager Carla Ward was outspokenly upset with the referee’s decisions after the game but was also quick to commend Arsenal’s quality and depth. Ward has led a bit of a resurgence in recent weeks at Birmingham beating those opponents they really need to beat. Points at title challengers will be welcome bonuses but, despite this defeat, the Blues remain comfortably mid-table.

Chelsea 3-2 West Ham United

‘Sam as I’ve said before is a great team player and one that perhaps at times puts the team ahead of herself and we’ve been working hard with her behind the scenes to make sure she recognizes the right moments of when to be selfish and when to be selfless and I could say the same about the other forwards – Real credit to Beth [England] and Fran [Kirby] too for Sam’s hat-trick.”

Emma Hayes, Chelsea Manager, via Chelseafc.com

Sam Kerr took the plaudits at Kingsmeadow with her first WSL hat-trick, but overall Chelsea made hard work of beating a spirited West Ham United side starting life without former manager Matt Beard, who left the club by mutual consent last month.

Kerr’s goals were all scored inside the six-yard box from build-up play down Chelsea’s right. Ji So-yun, Pernille Harder and Fran Kirby combined for the first on the quarter hour with Kerr’s acceleration and anticipation enough to get her across defender Gilly Flaherty to bundle the ball home. 

West Ham’s caretaker boss Billy Stewart sent out a common sense starting eleven with Rachel Daly moved up from full back to play on the right of a front three where she could have more impact on the game.

Daly had spurned a golden first half opportunity – one-on-one with Ann-Katrin Berger – but equalized two minutes after the break when she arrived unmarked at the back stick to slide in Adriana Leon’s cross from the left. Emily Van Egmond’s pinpoint flick that engineered the Canadian some space in behind Chelsea’s backline to begin with was worth the admission fee alone.

Kerr had the Blues back in front on 55 minutes lashing in from close range after Aussie keeper McKenzie Arnold could only parry Harder’s initial effort into the Chelsea striker’s path.

And the hat-trick was sealed thirteen minutes later when Kerr set up a 1-2 with the excellent Fran -Kirby and converted off the return ball, getting a match-ending whack on the hip from Cecile ‘Redisch’ Kvamme as she turned away to celebrate.

West Ham worked a late consolation strike courtesy of Magda Eriksson’s own goal to make the score line a fairer reflection of the match.

The Hammers continue to have the look of a talented group of individuals that either play up or down according to the ability of their opponents. But while gallant defeats at title favorites suggest that there’s some reason for optimism, this view will count for little to fans if they can’t get rolling against teams like next weekend’s opponent (and relegation rival) Bristol City.

Chelsea, not at their best by any stretch, but able to secure a record breaking twelfth consecutive home win, still look the most likely candidates to catch and perhaps overhaul Manchester United at the top of the table.

Everton 0-3 Manchester City

“The goals we’ve conceded were really slack… We’ve put ourselves up there to be shot at. I’ve been very vocal about us being a top five club. So, when it comes to league business we need to start taking points off the other [top] teams or it’ll be a top four and then Everton somewhere behind.”

Willie Kirk, Everton Manager, via Everton Women Twitter feed

For the third time this season Everton had no answer to the questions posed by Gareth Taylor’s Manchester City.

Beaten in the 2020 FA Cup Final, then the Conti Cup, the Toffees this time provided the very definition of ‘first half capitulation’ as City midfielder Caroline Weir gave a creative masterclass laying on all three of the visitors’ goals.

Ellen White put the Citizens in front on 25 minutes, heading Weir’s pinpoint cross from the left over flailing keeper Sandy MacIver for her fourth goal of the league campaign.

A minute later it was 2-0 when returning centre back Gemma Bonner headed in Weir’s swirling corner delivery at the back post unmarked (and without even needing to jump).

And matters got worse for the hosts in first half stoppage time when Weir was left unchecked and unchallenged to run fully forty yards down the left before clipping a delicious cross in for Janine Beckie to nod past MacIver.

The early season honeymoon for Everton is well and truly over. Willie Kirk’s side have failed to win in the league since the 11th October and it will be scant consolation that their only victory has come in Continental Cup qualifying over city rivals Liverpool.

Injuries to world class ‘fox in the box’ Valerie Gauvin and bustling winger Claire Emslie have certainly blunted the Toffees attack. This, combined with a significantly harder recent fixtures schedule, and it’s little wonder that they have picked up just two points from the last twelve available.

City, for all their depth of talent, have blown hot and cold so far this season, but this was as decisive a victory as any they’ve had. Taylor’s side are five points off the pace at present so may live to regret a sluggish start to the campaign. But they’ve seen all their title rivals at least once and have return fixtures pending to try and push their title challenge forward.

Reading 1-1 Bristol City

“I’m delighted for the players and staff that we have held on to get a point, which is valuable to our season. The pleasing thing for us that we didn’t just come here and sit in. We created chances and were positive going forward. We rode our luck at times, which I thought we earnt through our effort and organization. We created enough to make it even more interesting but it’s great to come away with a point.”

Tanya Oxtoby, Bristol City Manager, via bcfc.co.uk

Having secured their first point of the season against Spurs right before the international break, it ostensibly seemed rotten luck that Bristol City would then have to wait the best part of a month to play again – at the risk of draining some of the team’s confidence that that draw would have engendered.

And getting out of Reading’s Madejski Stadium with anything is no easy feat for anyone in the WSL. So, Vixens’ manager Tanya Oxtoby will be entirely more satisfied with a 1-1 draw than Royals’ manager Kelly Chambers.

Reading would have 14 shots on target compared to the visitors’ two, so it needed Vixens’ keeper Sophie Baggaley to be at her best throughout much of the ninety minutes.

Indeed, the visitors drew first blood just before half time when Baggaley parried Jess Fishlock’s ferocious volley and City worked a brilliant, rapid counter attack that concluded with Charlie Wellings teeing up Emma Bissell to slot from ten yards.

Unfortunately life rarely hands out a perfect afternoon. Baggeley had got away with an error in the first half which Naomi Layzell tidied up but when the 24-year old spilled Kristine Bjørdal Leine’s cross from the right on 50 minutes Fara Williams was on hand to smash the ball into the roof of the net.

Reading continued to press, getting in behind a tired looking Vixens’ back line at will, but were wasteful with their chances meaning they could only claw back a solitary point on faltering Everton who are above them in fifth.

Tottenham Hotspur 3-1 Brighton & Hove Albion

Sharing the credit. Rehanne Skinner and Alex Morgan getting it done…

The headlines from Tottenham vs Brighton would belong to US international striker Alex Morgan who scored her first WSL goal from the penalty spot, but more importantly in the scheme of things Spurs got their first league victory of the season – for brand new manager Rehanne Skinner.

While it would be far more palatable to write of a tactical masterclass by Skinner that inspired Tottenham to play their best football of the season, unfortunately victory was rather handed to them by Brighton’s usually reliable keeper Megan Walsh who largely had a day to forget.

Kerys Harrop gave the hosts an 11th minute lead swinging in a free kick from the right wing that Walsh lost in flight.

Brighton responded positively and got themselves back on terms in the 33rd minute when Spurs midfielder Alanna Kennedy was penalized for a very high foot in the penalty area. Inessa Kaagman stepped up and beat Becky Spencer to her left from twelve yards.

But Spurs regained the lead in bizarre fashion when Angela Addison broke away from two defenders in the 63rd minute. Keeper Walsh seemed in two minds about whether to rush out and clear the ball or get set for a shot. Instead she did neither and was caught on her heels as Addison just ran past her and prodded the ball into an empty net.

Kaagman went close to a second equalizer when her 30-yard effort crashed back off the cross bar, but it was Morgan who had the final word on the box score when Ria Percival was bundled over in the penalty area.

The two-time World Cup winner stepped up and sent Walsh the wrong way with a slide rule left footed pass into the net.

Earlier this year, we charted on the Feedspot Top 40 list of Women’s football blogs. No one was more surprised than us here at D2B Towers; there’s so much other good stuff out there. Anyhoo, check out the link above, there’s a heap of great blogs and websites written by people who really know their stuff and have an infectious passion for the women’s game…

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