FAWSL Week 2: Round-up

Four 100% records are in tact after two matches. League leaders Brighton, Manchester United and Arsenal all recorded comfortable victories, while Spurs stunned Manchester City in their own back yard; West Ham were held by Aston Villa; Everton, Birmingham and Reading all ended the weekend still looking for their first point and their first goal…

West Ham United 1-1 Aston Villa

Aston Villa Manager Carla Ward – Happy with the Villans’ start to the campaign.

“I heard someone say that West Ham dominated the game – well if you look at the statistics, and what I saw, I don’t think they dominated the game at all. The first 30 minutes they absolutely dominated us, but after that we had more of the chances. We can’t keep giving the opposition a 1-0 start, but I’m just delighted that we’ve turned it around to get four points from our opening two games.”

Carla Ward, Manager, Aston Villa, via birminghammail.co.uk 11/9/2021

West Ham United were seconds away from recording their first home league win in over a year before Remi Allen stole in to grab a stoppage time equaliser for the Villans.

The Hammers had started quickly and Canadian international Adriana Leon gave them an 8th minute lead with a cool, close range finish after good work down the right from Claudia Walker and Arsenal loannee Lisa Evans.

Villa improved in the second half with Ramona Petzelberger going close; her drive from the edge of the ‘D’ pinging off the upright.

The visitors weren’t able to find a way through the Hammers’ backline until the 2nd minute of stoppage time, though, but Petzelberger was at the heart of proceedings again. The hosts couldn’t clear their lines and the German midfielder thrashed the ball into the six-yard box for Allen to stoop and head in.

“We need to win these games. On the whole a point isn’t good enough. We need to be scoring more goals – we should have had more than one goal today, because that would have changed the game. It feels like you’ve lost two points not gained a point. There were positives, but positives don’t keep you in the lead and positives don’t give you points. Ultimately you’re here to win a football game and we didn’t go that today. We just need to do our jobs better.”

Olli Harder, Manager, West Ham United, via football.london 11/9/2021

The WSL will pause for an international break. When the league resumes on the weekend of 25/26 September, West Ham host new arrivals Leicester City while Aston Villa face a tricky trip to current leaders Brighton & Hove Albion…

Chelsea 4-0 Everton

Sam Kerr: Picking up where she left off last season…

Sam Kerr bagged a brace as Chelsea bounced back from their opening day defeat, brutally thrashing hapless Everton at Kingsmeadow.

The Blues dominated time in possession from kick-off but found Willie Kirk’s side well organised and stubborn during the opening exchanges.

But a goal always looked like it was coming and Fran Kirby provided it in the 25th minute. She raced on to Ji So-yun’s pass down the left, darted inside Nathalie Björn and clipped the ball over keeper Sandy MacIver, watching it hit the inside of the far post before nestling in the net.

Australian international striker Sam Kerr had missed a couple of good chances in the first half but couldn’t believe her luck when Everton gift-wrapped her first strike of the season two minutes into the second period.

MacIver and centre back Megan Finnigan indulged in some needless back-and-forth across their own penalty area and Kerr gambled on an error. Finnigan provided it with a pass that sold the keeper horribly short, and the Chelsea striker simply slotted into an empty net.

“I told the players not to lose the game within the first ten to 15 minutes of the second half, but ultimately their second goal is what killed us. It’s a difficult result to take because we’d worked on a lot during the week in terms of improving on last week’s performance, and for large parts of the game, we did that. We showed good game management after conceding a disappointing goal and went into halftime at 1-0. The players were down, obviously.”

Willie Kirk, Manager, Everton, via royalbluemersey.sbnation.com 13/9/2021

Pernille Harder hit the Everton woodwork with a shot on the spin, but it wouldn’t be long before the hosts got their third with a move of real quality in the 74th minute.

Kirby and Ji worked the ball from right to left where Guro Reiten was providing the overlap. The Norwegian crossed on the run and Kerr arrived to power home untracked.

Five minutes later it was 4-0. Reiten was enjoying the freedom of Kingsmeadow by this time and hit her cross to the far post where Erin Cuthbert was arriving. Cuthbert rattled her shot off the corner of the goal frame but the ball it broke to substitute Beth England who scored with pretty much her first touch.

Everton boss Willie Kirk finds himself under pressure with just two games played. While no one would have envied the Toffees opening matches against City and Chelsea the club has invested in some good players in order to close the gap on the title contenders. Two four-goal defeats won’t feel like progress.

“Our build-up play in general was excellent. We worked on things to improve our shape from last weekend. Fair play to the whole team for the clean sheet. We are just getting going. It’s three points and I’m happy about it.”

Emma Hayes, Manager, Chelsea, via chelseafc.com 13/9/2021

Chelsea go to Manchester United next for a fixture that the BBC are televising. Everton host fellow basement dwellers Birmingham City in a match that some are already terming ‘must-win’ for the Toffees boss.

In the UEFA Women’s Champions League (UWCL) draw, Chelsea have been put into Group A with perennial rivals Wolfsburg of Germany, Italian giants Juventus and Swiss Super League winners Servette FC Chênois. Matches commence in October.

Birmingham City 0-5 Brighton & Hove Albion

Centre back Victoria Williams (20) opened the scoring for Brighton against Birmingham City.

Brighton propelled themselves to the summit of the ‘fledgling’ league standings, giving a five-star performance against brittle-looking Birmingham City.

The rout started inside two minutes. The hosts didn’t deal with a corner from the left and centre back Victoria Williams volleyed into the net from inside the six-yard-box.

The Blues dug deep to stay in the game, but conceded a penalty in first half stoppage time when Harriet Scott fouled Aileen Whelan. Inessa Kaagman stepped up and sent Emily Ramsey the wrong way – the Dutchwoman’s second successful spot kick of the campaign.

Danielle Carter extended the Seagulls lead early in the second period, racing down the left and into the penalty area unchallenged before ripping a shot past the keeper at her near post.

Kaagman turned provider for Brighton’s fourth, clipping in a lovely cross from the left that full back Emma Koivisto powered home from ten yards.

Hope Powell’s side saved the best for last. After some neat interchanges at the back, Emily Simpkins turned away from two Birmingham players and hit a forty yard ball over the top of the hosts’ defence. Kayleigh Green took it down in stride, looked up and chipped the keeper from fully thirty yards.

“Just look at that scoreboard…” – Hope Powell enjoys being on the right side of a 5-0 score line…

The Seagulls will host Aston Villa after the international break. Before that match Scott Booth’s Birmingham City travel to Everton, another side who’ve failed to score in their opening two matches and have shipped more goals than the Blues…

Leicester City 1-3 Manchester United

A crowd of 4,473 turned up at the King Power Stadium to watch Leicester City take on Manchester United, but the Red Devils just had too much firepower for the WSL newcomers to cope with…

The visitors would rack up 33 attempts on goal in this match, but the best of them came in the 36th minute. Katie Zelem teed up Ella Toone 25-yards out and the midfielder thumped her shot over the keeper into the net.

The visitors doubled their lead two minutes after the break from an in-swinging left-wing corner. Lucy Staniforth’s header was cleared off the line, but only as far as Maria Thorisdottir who made no mistake.

Leicester were back in it just after the hour. Charlie Devlin drove her corner from the left to the back post and former United centre back Abbie McManus nodded in.

Ona Batlle and Jackie Groenen both hit the woodwork for United, but it was substitute striker Martha Thomas who made the game safe, getting to the ball first after Toone’s shot had been blocked.

It would have been worse for the Foxes had Ashleigh Plumptre not cleared Kirsty Hanson’s attempt off the line, but it’s fair to assume Leicester will have easier home fixtures than this one as the campaign unfolds.

Marc Skinner – Attacking “has to be in our DNA…”

“Before the game started, I came out to watch the warm-up and I saw the stadium fill up with all the fans behind us. It was a really nice feeling; it was a special feeling. I think as the stadium got fuller; the atmosphere was clear to see. It was a fantastic advert for where teams should be in the WSL and why playing in this stadium has such a big impact. Having 4,500 fans was brilliant for our first home game and hopefully we’ve entertained them enough today for them to come back again and also they can see that this is a team that they can be proud of and get behind.”

Jonathan Morgan, Manager, Leicester City, via LCFC.com 13/9/2021

Leicester face their first trip into London next to take on West Ham United. On the same day Manchester United entertain defending Champions Chelsea at the Leigh Sports Village, a match that is going out on the BBC.

Reading 0-4 Arsenal

Six out of six. Arsenal Head Coach Jonas Eidevall has made a perfect start in League and Champions League…

“I am very pleased, it comes down to two things that we have been able to do, the quality of the players we have and the quality of the staff that was already here. It has made my job much, much easier. It’s very nice that we have the results we wanted and we couldn’t ask for anything more but we are still a work in progress, we are still developing. We have taken some steps but we have more steps to take. We have work to do but this [performance] was a step in the right direction.”

Jonas Eidevall, Head Coach, Arsenal, via football.london 12/9/2021

Following their defeat of champions Chelsea last weekend, the Gunners were in imperious form at the Select Car Leasing Stadium, hitting Reading for four goals inside the opening 50 minutes.

This victory made it six out of six for Head Coach Jonas Eidevall in competitive fixtures since joining the club over the summer.

Centre back Jen Beattie showed terrific strength amongst a crowd of defenders to head in Katie McCabe’s corner from the right in the 17th minute.

Their second came with a modicum of luck. Frida Maanum’s shot on the left of the penalty area took a big deflection into Beth Mead’s path, but there was nothing fortunate about the finish as Mead thumped her half volley past Grace Moloney.

Mead turned provider for goal number three, haring on to Leah Williamson’s through-ball into the right channel, cutting inside her marker, feinting to shoot and then setting up Vivianne Miedema who slotted into an empty goal with Moloney stranded.

The two also combined for Arsenal’s fourth after the break. Mead’s cross from the right was hit towards the far post and the Dutch hotshot timed her header beautifully sending it back across the keeper and into the bottom left-hand corner.

Arsenal’s fixture calendar threw up their two main rivals in the opening three matches. They dispatched Chelsea at the Emirates last weekend. Next up, they host Manchester City after the international break in the Sky TV live broadcast.

The Gunners also now know their UWCL future. They have been tabled in Group C with 2020/21 European Champions FC Barcelona, German side Hoffenheim and HB Køge of Denmark.

Manchester City 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur

Look no hands: Um… Rosella Ayane turns away to celebrate after Spurs grab a late winner at the Academy Stadium…

Tottenham Hotspur provided the ‘shock’ of week two, coming back from a goal down to beat Manchester City at the Academy Stadium, in doing so ending a 33-match unbeaten home run.

But the dreaded Video Assisted Refereeing (VAR) was back at the top of women’s football discourse with Spurs’ winner arriving after a clear and obvious handball was missed in the build up.

The week had already gone off the rails somewhat with a home defeat to Real Madrid knocking City out of the UEFA Women’s Champions League (2-1 on aggregate) before the group stages.

But here, well it was all going to plan for Gareth Taylor’s team after six minutes. Alex Greenwood whipped a corner from the right into the near post, nobody tracked Lauren Hemp and the winger glanced her header across Becky Spencer and into the far corner.

The hosts were thrown off their game, however, a few minutes later when right back Esme Morgan had to be stretchered off after coming out the worst of a 50/50 with Ashleigh Neville.

New signing Filippa Angeldal came on and City looked to rekindle their attacking flow – which they did. Georgia Stanway robbed Neville on the right, cut in and fired against the post. Ellen White then hit a crisp half-volley that Spencer acrobatically tipped over the crossbar.

Rehanne Skinner’s side did what they had to in order to stay in the game and, in the 61st minute, they took their opportunity to level when it came along. Kit Graham found Chioma Ubogagu in space out on the left wing, Ubogagu’s low cross evaded all contact until Rachel Williams arrived on the penalty spot and the veteran forward drove through the crowd of players to make it 1-1.

“I am really proud of them. When you go into games like this you have to be prepared to do the hard yards, you’ve got to stay in the game and be really disciplined and organised, frustrate the team, make them give you the ball. And I think for us, that was our intent, to make it really, really difficult. In order to get points and results in this league against teams that are in the top three ordinarily, we’ve got to go about it in a really diligent, dogged manner and we did that today.”

Rehanne Skinner, Head Coach, Tottenham Hotspur, via football.london 13/9/2021

Both sides had decent chances to forge ahead. Spurs attacker Jessica Naz was put in on goal by Williams, but prodded her finish just wide. Then Stanway’s low shot from the edge of the box was parried by Spencer.

The highly contentious winner came with four minutes of regulation time remaining. Graham shaped to take a direct free-kick but then knocked the ball out to Angela Addison on the right. The winger worked herself a crossing opportunity, the ball hit Spurs forward Rosella Ayane, then City captain Steph Houghton, cannoned off the right-hand post and rebounded in off keeper Karima Benameur – as bizarre an own goal as you’ll ever see.

The City players were convinced Ayane had used an outstretched arm, and they were right. But no VAR, no overturning a moment that the referee Abigail Byrne and her assistant had missed.

“You always leave yourself open if you don’t take your chances. We should have been out of sight at half-time – maybe two or three goals up but if you leave the door open at 1-0, you always leave the team the opportunity to get back in. I’ve seen the second goal and it’s a terrible decision but we need to own it and make sure we don’t get into that situation by putting the game to bed a lot earlier than that. It’s pretty incredible really that we’ve not had that chalked off. If the officials were to see that back, I’m pretty sure they would say that goal should not stand – the hand completely put Steph off clearing the ball.”

Gareth Taylor, Manager, Manchester City, via mancity.com 12/9/2021

Manchester City travel to Arsenal for the ‘showpiece’ (i.e.: paid Sky TV) game of Week 3. Spurs, by then, will have hosted Reading, looking to make it three wins from three…

How it stands after Week Two. There’s an international break before the WSL returns on the weekend of 25/26 September.

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