Aston Villa climbed off the bottom of the Super League Table on goal difference, grinding out a 0-0 draw at West Ham United. Kateřina Svitková went closest for the hosts while, at the other end Villa’s Stine Larsen had her header cleared off the goal line by Hawa Cissoko.
West Ham United 0-0 Aston Villa
“It was a difficult evening, but I feel as though we had the better of the chances in the second half. I think both sides were full of energy, but the game lacked quality and that made it difficult for both teams to get the ball down and play. There are teams worse off than us at the moment so it isn’t the end of the world that we haven’t been able to get all three points tonight. From our side, it’s a small step forward towards survival…”Olli Harder, Manager, West Ham United, via WHUFC.com
Marcus Bignot’s Aston Villa needed a big reaction to an 8-0 FA Cup Fourth Round thumping at the hands of Manchester City last weekend. He made five changes to the team beaten 3-1 at Everton prior to the international break bringing Elisha N’Dow and Nat Haigh into the back line, as well as Mana Iwabuchi and Stine Larsen in attack. Amy West was given her first start with Villa going with five across midfield.
After scoring a hat-trick against Reading in their previous league fixture West Ham boss Olli Harder benched striker Martha Thomas bringing Laura Vetterlein into midfield.
Fresh from an 11-0 demolition job on Chichester City in the Cup, the Hammers now had no recognised ‘out-and-out’ striker in the team. So, Emily van Egmond, Kenza Dali and Dagny Brynjarsdottir made the best job they could of engineering attacks.
With both teams at risk of relegation at the end of the season, it was little wonder chances were at a premium.
Svitková fired over the bar from 20-yards in the first half and then provided a corner from the right that captain Gilly Flaherty headed wide.
Villa laboured to make clear scoring opportunities but nearly forged ahead when Larsen flicked a header over keeper Courtney Brosnan. The Dane was denied by Cissoko who was well-placed on the goal line.
The Hammers best opening fell to Svitková in the second half. Kate Longhurst’s free-kick into the Villa penalty box created some defensive chaos, van Egmond eked the ball to the Czech international but she couldn’t beat Lisa Weiß who saved brilliantly, low to her right.
Dali tried her luck from distance but drove past the post. Later her half-volleyed effort sailed into the keeper’s arms.
“Since I’ve been here, we’ve been working on the environment and culture because none of the players have been in this situation before. Today was a real step in the right direction today against a very strong and powerful West Ham team. We had some real moments where I thought we would capitalise and get all three points. It never materialised. I thought it was a clean sheet performance.”Marcus Bignot, Manager, Aston Villa, via Birmingham Live
A draw wasn’t really that helpful to either club in this match but they will get to do it all over again on the 2nd May at the Banks’ Stadium, a return fixture that could still prove absolutely crucial in the relegation battle.
West Ham still haven’t been able to win a home game in the league but have only lost once in their last four. They host Everton at the weekend; a tough fixture for this time of the season given the Toffees have won four of their previous six games. In the previous league meeting between the teams Everton secured a 3-1 victory.
The Hammers will go into that fixture knowing the result of Aston Villa against Bristol City which takes place on Saturday 24th April.
Earlier in the campaign Villa went to Twerton Park and thrashed the Vixens 4-0. But Matt Beard’s side have become a very different proposition since the end of January, when they secured their first win of the campaign against Brighton. They’ve picked up nine points over their last eight fixtures to get themselves back in survival contention, although every other basement rival has a game in hand and City have to face both Manchester United and Arsenal in their run-in.
The good news for Villa is that they don’t NEED to win, just don’t lose. Also, they face all of the bottom three in their final four games. It’s in their hands. What they could really do with is a player that can step up and get on a scoring run – they have the lowest goal tally in the league (12 in 18). While draws may still be enough, a couple of victories could significantly reduce everyone’s heart palpitations…
D2B hasn’t been living under a rock. We are aware that Chelsea visit Manchester City tonight for what could be a WSL title decider. However, this game was moved for Chelsea’s Champions League Semi-Final at the weekend and actually forms part of Week 20… 🙂