FA WSL: Captain’s Log – Supplementary (Week 15-ish)

Normal service resumed at Chelsea with a convincing win over faltering Arsenal; Brighton get back to back wins for the first time this season; City overhaul United to go second after Manchester derby victory ; West Ham now in a relegation scrap with Bristol City who’s match with Tottenham was ruled out by the weather; second City derby also postponed. Let your love flow: here’s your midweek catch-up in the Women’s Super League…

Chelsea 3-0 Arsenal

Pernille Harder – that reported £250k transfer fee is definitely paying off. (Or was it £300k? Or £350k…?)

“Derby wins are great, they really are. It was a brilliant defensive performance from the team, we can talk about Pernille Harder and her goals, she certainly showed the dressing room her quality, as did Fran, but for me the real performance was in the team defending. To see the response [to the Brighton defeat] demonstrates where the team wants to go and it’s important to make sure that when you have those standards they are kept by everyone within the group.”

Emma Hayes, Manager, Chelsea, via Chelseafc.com

Chelsea bounced back from defeat at the weekend to record a convincing win over Arsenal at Kingsmeadow. The Gunners, meanwhile, are now very much outsiders for one of the three Champions League spots available.

Blues boss Emma Hayes made six changes to her starting line-up bringing back Ann-Katrin Berger, Millie Bright, Maren Mjelde, Ji So-yun, Pernille Harder and Fran Kirby.

Joe Montemurro also swapped his goalkeepers over, preferring Australian international Lydia Williams, but decided to bench attacker Caitlin Foord for the more defensive Noëlle Maritz, perhaps hinting at the Gunners’ level of ambition against the reigning champions.

The teams traded first half opportunities. Arsenal’s Vivianne Miedema beat Magdalene Eriksson for skill inside the penalty box but was denied by Berger, who saved with an outstretched left foot.

At the other end, Kirby combined with Melanie Leupolz inside the 18-yard area and flashed a shot off the outside of her right boot that had Williams fully extended to push around the post.

The hosts took the lead three minutes into the second half. Kirby found Harder in a pocket of space 20-yards out and the forward got the ball out of her feet and hammered a low drive into the keeper’s bottom right-hand corner.

Sam Kerr nearly doubled Chelsea’s lead when she latched on to Kirby’s through ball behind the Arsenal back line but lashed her shot against the cross bar.

However, the Blues didn’t have to wait long to extend their advantage with a terrific move. Centre half Bright swung the ball out to Jonna Andersson on the left wing; she threaded Kirby to the by-line and the England international immediately cut the ball back for Harder to finish emphatically ten yards out.

Arsenal struggled to make clear cut chances throughout the evening, but Katie McCabe nearly got them back into the game from a free-kick which spun off Harder in the Chelsea wall and headed for the bottom corner. Berger did well to adjust for the deflection, diving to tip the ball away.

The icing on the cake came in the 90th minute. A nice interchange on the right between Kirby and substitute Beth England put Chelsea’s number 14 in a foot race with tired-looking Lia Wälti. There would only be one winner and Kirby slotted left footed past Williams.

“My opinion will be different to others but we found spaces in the game and were quite proactive with a good brand of football but transition football seems to be the flavour of the month and we were beaten by three transition goals today.” “Mathematically there is still a lot to play for us but sometimes realistically you have to set yourself different targets. We have a Champions League spot to play for and two games in hand to help get us there.”

Joe Montemurro, Manager, Arsenal, via football.london/arsenal-fc

Brighton & Hove Albion 1-0 West Ham United

Yeeeaaahhh! You might want to mark Aileen Whelan at corners. Just putting it out there…

“Everyone did their jobs, which meant they didn’t score and we held out for all three points. We’ve done a lot of work on being hard to beat and it gives us the best chance of winning – if we stop conceding goals, then we’re in it. The players looked a bit tired towards the end of the match after Sunday’s game but they have really responded well, which takes off some of the pressure in that bottom half of the table.”

Hope Powell, Manager, Brighton, via BBC.co.uk

Brighton & Hove Albion sealed back to back victories for the first time this season, edging out a West Ham side that increasingly looks capable of falling through the relegation trap door.

Anyone scouting the Seagulls recently will have noted that they are dangerous from corners – specifically those that are curled in from the left wing by Megan Connolly. Brighton’s last three goals have all come from that exact same source.

Each side made one change to their line-ups from the weekend. Brighton boss Hope Powell brought Finnish international Nora Heroum in for Emily Simpkins, while Ollie Harder dropped Adriana Leon out of his 3-4-2-1 for Lois Joel.

This match was effectively secured in the 31st minute. Connolly drove the ball towards the front post, West Ham’s Emily van Egmond only succeeded in flicking it on for Aileen Whelan to prod home her second goal in as many games.

The visitors were unable to register a single shot on target throughout the ninety minutes, although Laura Vetterlein did hit the top of the crossbar from a free-kick.

West Ham have won just once in their last seven and have a slender two-point margin over bottom club Bristol City.

What a difference a good week can make. Brighton have moved above Tottenham Hotspur into seventh in the WSL table and may well already have enough points on the board to guarantee their WSL status for next season.

“The application and effort was there again so it’s difficult to criticise the effort but it’s quality in key moments that determine games and again we had the opportunity to show that quality but we didn’t do that. The missed chances and opportunities each game are fine margins and details. We’re still in this position and we’ve got ten games to put ourselves in a better position than we’re in at the moment.”

Olli Harder, Manager, West Ham United, via football.london/west-ham-united-fc

Manchester City 3-0 Manchester United

Lucy Bronze – Got City’s party started in the Manchester derby.

“It’s amazing, I’m not going to lie. I said before these two games that they’d go a big way to deciding what’s going to happen but there’s still a lot of football to come. There’s still more twists and turns, we need to be cautious that we’re concentrating on what we do and take it game by game.”

Gareth Taylor, Manager, Manchester City, via mancity.com

Manchester City extended their WSL winning streak to seven matches and leapfrogged United in the process with an emphatic 3-0 victory over their cross-city rivals.

It wasn’t broke so no need for fixing. City manager Gareth Taylor stuck with the same players that started in their victory against Arsenal last Sunday. Casey Stoney made just one change, bringing Dutch international midfielder Jackie Groenen in for attacker Kirsty Hanson, and tweaking the team’s shape to a 4-2-3-1.

The home side took the lead halfway through the first period from Chloe Kelly’s corner on the left. Groenen headed it more up than out and, after a brief scramble on the edge of the six-yard box, Lucy Bronze made a good enough connection, whilst slipping, to guide the ball into the far corner.

Ellen White had two half chances to get on the score sheet but couldn’t beat Mary Earps with either – an overhead kick in the first half, and a crisp half volley on the run from Lauren Hemp’s cross after the break.

United were limited in terms of efforts on goal and this task was made harder when winger Leah Galton had to retire injured at half time. Striker Christen Press forged their best chance in the second period driving past a couple of defenders before shooting straight at Ellie Roebuck.

City got the crucial second goal in 71st minute. Chloe Kelly’s run and shot was parried by Earps into the path of Lauren Hemp who volleyed it home via a United defender and the underside of the cross bar.

Caroline Weir made sure of the result with six minutes left, providing another moment of audacious skill, synonymous with the Scot’s undoubted talent. With United trying to clear their lines Weir intercepted Toone’s loose pass outside the penalty box, beat Groenen with a drag-back and, with the deftest of pitching wedges, chipped the ball over Earps for her fifth goal of the WSL campaign.

Manchester City move into second spot in the table just two points behind Chelsea and are the form team in the division. United’s season has stalled with three defeats in the last five fixtures but they still have a 9-point lead on Arsenal in the race for a Champions League berth.

“It’s bitterly disappointing to come here and concede three preventable goals in my opinion and not create much. We need to learn very quickly that if you don’t get the basics right at this level you’re going to get punished. We’ve conceded five in two [games], if you are going to win a title you can’t do that. Champions League qualification is still in our hands and that has always been our aim.”

Casey Stoney, Manager, Manchester United, via bbc.co.uk

==

Last 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 or our Links page, 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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