Last season’s top four all met during week 3 with London clubs Arsenal and Chelsea both winning by five-goal margins over their Manchester rivals; Spurs join the Gunners at the top of the WSL with maximum points; Aston Villa remain unbeaten; West Ham achieved their first home win in over a season’s-worth of football; Everton got off the mark against (now) bottom club Birmingham; still no points and no goals for Reading…
Everton 3-1 Birmingham City
Everton finally got their 2021/22 WSL campaign up and running with a disciplined 3-1 win against fellow basement-dwellers Birmingham City.
The Toffees had 14 efforts on goal but only four of them hit the target. Mercifully for manager Willie Kirk, three of those chances went in.
They made a decent start at Walton Hall Park, taking the lead inside 13 minutes when former Arsenal right-back Leonie Maier was in the right place to fire the ball in off defender Harriet Scott, after Grace Clinton’s initial effort was blocked.
But the Blues (of Birmingham) levelled in the 32nd minute when Jade Pennock picked up Lucy Quinn’s pass 30-yards from goal, dropped her shoulder and hit a low drive past Sandy MacIver from just inside the penalty area.
Kirk decided to bring record signing Hanna Bennison into the action at the start of the second period and the 18-year old Swedish midfielder delivered a moment of quality in the 73rd minute to put the hosts back in front. She worked a neat 1-2 with Toni Duggan, engineering a yard of space in the ‘D’ before thumping the ball into the keeper’s top right-hand corner.
Another Scandinavian substitute made the game safe in stoppage time. Christiansen’s corner from the right in the 97th minute was aimed at three teammates arriving at the far post. Danish centre back Rikke Sevecke got the nod and 3-1 it finished.
“We were much better in possession as well and threatened them. We scored a really good goal as well. We are disappointed with the third goal, but ultimately, we wanted improvement from the players, and we definitely got it. In the final phase [of the match], I think there were just a lot of tired legs out there. They were able to make a number of top-class changes, and that is always an issue late on in a game. We will continue working on things and look to improve even more.”Scott Booth, Head Coach, Birmingham City, via BCFC.com
Birmingham now prop up the table because of their goal difference. There are still two other teams on zero points. The Blues host Manchester United next Sunday, the 3rd of October.
Everton climbed to ninth. They travel to Reading on the same day, in the knowledge that the Royals will still be looking for their first points of the campaign.
Manchester United 1-6 Chelsea
Chelsea were in irresistible form as they blew out Manchester United at the Leigh Sports Village.
Fran Kirby got the train rolling just two minutes in after the Red Devils had gifted Sam Kerr the ball in their penalty area.
Pernille Harder scored a brilliant solo effort in the 24th minute, outpacing Jackie Groenen and Maria Thorisdottir before dinking the ball over Mary Earps from 7-yards.
Kirby provided an assist for Kerr just before the break and the Australian was on the scoresheet again in the 51st minute, restoring Chelsea’s three-goal lead after United substitute Alessia Russo had reduced the arrears – albeit briefly.
The visitors’ complement of high quality substitutes took the game further away from United in the final few minutes. Midfielder Drew Spence scored with a low drive inside the box and, although she was denied a second goal in stoppage time by keeper Mary Earps, Canadian gold medallist Jessie Fleming followed in to put away the rebound.
United could point to a couple of offside decisions that didn’t go their way, particularly on Kerr’s second strike, but Emma Hayes’ side were significantly stronger over the 90 minutes.
There is a full report on this match here.
Chelsea moved up to fourth in the standings following this victory. They host Brighton & Hove Albion at Kingsmeadow on Saturday 2nd October (the early game), a fixture that has not always been smooth sailing for the Blues in recent seasons.
United’s 100% record was decimated and the impact on their goal differential meant they nosedived to sixth in the WSL. Marc Skinner’s side will look to recover their composure with an early-evening visit to Birmingham City on Sunday 3rd October.
Brighton & Hove Albion 0-1 Aston Villa
Aston Villa extended their unbeaten run, edging a tight encounter with Brighton at the Broadfield Stadium.
Clear cut chances were few and far between with both teams largely cancelling each other out. Seagulls’ left winger Rinsola Babajide drew a good stop from Hannah Hampton at her near post in the first half, before Villa’s ‘Chaney’ Boye-Hlorkah tried a distance effort that Megan Walsh gathered easily.
The only goal of the game came three minutes into the second half. Freya Gregory won an aerial duel in midfield, releasing Emily Gielnik in behind the Brighton back line. The 6′ ft Australian raced away from three defenders before coolly clipping the ball inside the far post.
The home side tried to rally. Aileen Whelan arrived to meet Megan Connolly’s free-kick from halfway, but was stretching and couldn’t guide the ball on target.
Ramona Petzelberger had an opportunity to put the game beyond Brighton but drove over the bar after nice approach play down the right involving Remi Allen, Gielnik and Sarah Mayling.
The Seagull’s nearly got a freak equaliser towards the end. Keeper Hampton shot out of her penalty area to clear the ball, but only succeeded in slamming it against an onrushing Kayleigh Green. Villa fans (no strangers to their team letting leads slip late in games last season) were grateful to see the ball ricochet wide.
Brighton slip to fifth but should still be pleased with a decent start to their campaign. Next up, they travel to Chelsea on Saturday 2nd October. With the Blues now getting into their groove a casual observer might assume an easy home win. But Hope Powell’s side have proven to be stubborn opponents for the reigning champions in recent seasons.
Carla Ward’s squad host league leaders Arsenal in a match that has been brought forward to allow the Gunners extra time to prepare for their midweek Champions League commitments. The game will go ahead tea time on Saturday 2nd October.
Tottenham Hotspur 1-0 Reading
Spurs maintained their 100% start to the campaign, nudging past winless Reading with a late strike from Jessica Naz.
The home side registered eight efforts on target to Reading’s one, which tells you a little bit about the performance of Royals’ keeper Grace Moloney and perhaps more about Spurs’ finishing. They had more than enough chances to wrap this game up earlier than they did.
Distance attempts abounded. Kit Graham, Chioma Ubogagu and Ashleigh Neville all chanced their arm without success.
The hosts’ best moment of the first half came when Ria Percival engineered a two-on-one overload which culminated with Moloney denying Graham at point blank range. Ubogagu recycled the loose ball but Moloney got fingertips on her low cross. The ball broke to Percival but her shot was blocked by Natasha Harding on the goal line.
Rachel Williams had two failed sights of goal in the second period and, as the game edged towards its finale, Graham brought out the best save yet from Moloney who parried to her right.
The breakthrough came with five minutes left. Substitute Tang Jiali lofted the ball over the Royals’ back line and Naz darted into the penalty box, shrugged off a defender and slid the ball past the keeper.
These two clubs are heading in different directions, fortune-wise. Reading are the only WSL team that hasn’t scored since the start of the season [although poor officiating denied them a perfectly good strike against Manchester United Ed.]. They simply didn’t look like they had a goal in them against Spurs. The Royals host Everton on Sunday 3rd October with manager Kelly Chambers already mulling over whether to put phrases like ‘failure is not an option’ and ‘must-win-game’ in her programme notes.
“I said to the team in the changing room straight after the match, we’ve got to find some character. The result today has hurt a lot, it’s hurt me very much, and I know it’s the same for the players. But now we go again, prepare for Everton, and people have got to stand up, pump their chests out and be ready for the challenge ahead. One thing we can take from this today is we all need to show our character, to bounce back, and put in a good performance in front of our fans.”Kelly Chambers, Manager, Reading, via readingfc.co.uk
Spurs conversely have picked up single goal wins over Birmingham and Reading, and enjoyed the benefits of some poor officiating when they turned over Manchester City at the Academy Stadium courtesy of a bizarre handball / own goal combo.
Rehanne Skinner’s side go to Leicester next, the only other side in the division that has failed to get any points on the board. Spurs’ confidence is high and they’ve had a smattering of luck go their way. They’ll want to continue making hay while that sun is still shining…
West Ham United 4-0 Leicester City
West Ham picked up their first home league victory since the 2019/20 season, comfortably dispatching newly promoted side Leicester City.
The Hammers started well. Dagný Brynjarsdóttir, Kate Longhurst and Tameka Yallop all went close to opening the scoring.
It was ‘all-action’ Yallop, on her Hammers debut, that finally broke the deadlock in the 26th minute, speeding after Longhurst’s long ball down the right, holding off Abbie McManus and slotting from six yards.
Twelve minutes later Olli Harder’s side extended their lead. A cross came in from the left which Gilly Flaherty deftly headed into Claudia Walker’s path; the former Birmingham striker finished with a flick off the outside of her boot.
Leicester would have wanted to hold out until the interval to regroup. But they were undone in first half stoppage time from another left-wing delivery. Under no pressure, Foxes defender Ashley Plumptre had plenty of time to deal with Adriana Leon’s ball in, but she inexplicably took a wild swing and sliced into her own net.
The visitors did improve in the second half with Molly Pike and Esmee De Graaf nearly finding a way on to the scoresheet.
But the hosts wrapped up a 4-0 win when Walker and Yui Hasegawa combined to fashion a cross from the left that Yallop initially headed against the cross bar, only for it to pinball off the back of keeper Kirstie Levell and into the goal.
West Ham moved into seventh spot in the table and visit the Academy Stadium next to take on an injury-ravaged Manchester City side that are one place below them in the table. That match is on Sunday 3rd October.
Leicester City remain pointless – in terms of the league standings – but are sat tenth courtesy of the goal they scored against Manchester United in week 2. It’s been a tough start for Jonathan Morgan’s squad and they face Tottenham Hotspur next (also on 3rd Oct) who have racked up maximum points from their opening three fixtures.
“We are disappointed with today, but we can put it down to one of those days where we were just off. We’ll look to regroup now, move forward and go again. We knew they start fast and we knew it was going to be quite an open game based on the way the two teams play, but unfortunately for us we didn’t have the quality in possession today and we just mixed up a few things out of possession. It just boils down to the fact that we probably played into their hands a little bit today.”Jonathan Morgan, Manager, Leicester City, via lcfc.com
Arsenal 5-0 Manchester City
The Gunners returned to the top of the Women’s Super League and maintained their 100% start to the campaign with a comprehensive mauling of title rivals Manchester City.
The visitors totally dominated the possession stats but the old adage “it’s what you do with it” that loomed large as Arsenal more than doubled City’s shots-on-target tally.
“Possession is useless as a stat if it can’t be combined with a result. There are different ways to control a game and in most aspects of the game we controlled it in a good way today, in defence and offence. We talked before the season about putting pressure on ourselves to get better results in these [big] games and we were very honest about it so we are really happy to turn it around but we still have plenty to develop, we are still early in the process. The results have been great but we can’t get carried away.”Jonas Eidevall, Head Coach, Arsenal, via arseblog.news
The hosts went in front in the 10th minute when Alanna Kennedy got her back pass to Karima Benameur all wrong. Beth Mead charged into a foot race with the keeper, won it, played Vivianne Miedema into the penalty box and the Dutch striker fired past two scrambling defenders.
More lacklustre City defending allowed the Gunners to get their second. Kim Little received Miedema’s clever flick round-the-corner, and shook off the attention of three defenders before lashing the ball into the keeper’s top left-hand corner.
On the hour Arsenal picked the visiting back line apart with a rudimentary ball over the top. Katie McCabe, playing in a more advanced left-wing role, got to the ball first, bundled her way through a couple of lightweight challenges and hammered it into the roof of the net from around ten yards.
Ellen White almost gave the City contingent something to cheer when she ran on to Vicky Losada’s wonderful chip over the home defence, but White half-volleyed against the crossbar.
Instead, Arsenal’s fourth came in the 78th minute from the penalty spot, after Alex Greenwood tripped Kim Little. The Scot got up, placed the ball and rifled it into Benameur’s top right-hand corner.
Towards the end American World Cup winner Tobin Heath subbed on to make her Arsenal debut, but this was soon overshadowed by Arsenal’s fifth goal, which arrived in stoppage time. Noelle Maritz provided the cross from the right and Leah Williamson nodded it in at the front post, capping a fantastic month for the recently-appointed new skipper of the Lionesses.
Out of the Champions League and two WSL defeats in three, the Citizens are embroiled in something of an injury crisis at the moment. But they still had a very good starting eleven on the pitch at Meadow Park and there was no excusing the defensive blunders that contributed to Arsenal grabbing (at least) three of their goals.
They host West Ham on Sunday 3rd October and need a reaction in that match. Eighth in the table was not the plan at this stage of the season.
“We have our principles of how we play and we’re loyal to that. Mistakes are mistakes – they’re nothing to do with the way we look to play out from the back. It’s never talked about when we’re doing well or winning trophies. Errors are part of the game but we don’t’ want them. It affected our play and we need to eliminate those – there were too many. It’s difficult to take 5-0 – I didn’t feel it was that – but with the errors made and if you don’t take the big moments we had, it’s going to end up with that score line”.Gareth Taylor, Manager, Manchester City, via mancity.com
Arsenal have already faced their two main title rivals, winning both matches and scoring eight times. New head coach Jonas Eidevall seems to have lifted a squad that was never short on talent, but had developed a tendency to misfire against the top sides.
City made mistakes, but the Gunners punished every one of them with quick, fluid football and clinical finishing. On this form they are definitely contenders.
Arsenal travel to Aston Villa for a tea time kick off on Saturday 2nd October. This will allow Eidevall’s squad some extra recovery time before they travel to Barcelona for their first group stage match in the UEFA Women’s Champions League…