FAWSL Week 4: Round-up

There were no draws in week four. Arsenal and Spurs maintained their perfect campaign starts with wins at Villa and Leicester respectively; West Ham enjoyed a terrific victory at Manchester City; there were three point hauls for Chelsea, Everton and Manchester United. Still no points on the board for Leicester, Birmingham and Reading…

Chelsea 3-1 Brighton & Hove Albion

Bring it in: Sam Kerr (hidden) makes no apology for her appreciation of Fran Kirby’s assists…

Fran Kirby provided a hat-trick of assists as the Blues out-manoeuvred Brighton to retain a top three spot in the WSL standings.

It hasn’t always gone to plan for Emma Hayes’ side against the Seagulls, but they came out of the blocks quickly, got a two-goal lead and were then able to overcome a bit of an early second half fightback before sealing victory near the end.

In heavy rain at Kingsmeadow Sam Kerr missed an early chance for the home side after Pernille Harder had robbed Maya Le Tissier.

But the home crowd only had to wait until the 9th minute for the opening goal. Erin Cuthbert’s throw-in on the right put Harder in behind Brighton’s back line. The Dane crossed to Kirby near the penalty spot, she helped the ball on, and Guro Reiten took a touch before driving it across the keeper into the far corner.

Reiten should have scored again a few minutes later but Brighton keeper Megan Walsh made a good block.

Kirby’s second assist in the 38th minute was a thing of beauty. She received the ball on the left touchline, around forty yards from goal, and floated in an inviting cross for Kerr, who timed her run perfectly. The onrushing Walsh collided with defender Fliss Gibbons, while the Australian’s header dropped into an empty net.

It was all going swimmingly for the Blues. But Brighton, led by Manager Hope Powell, are not the sort of team to lie down. They fought their way back into the contest just three minutes after the break.

It was another goal that started with a throw-in on the right. Emma Koivisto dropped the ball onto Aileen Whelan’s foot, she spun away from two defenders and crossed low for Danielle Carter on the edge of the six-yard box. The former Reading and Arsenal striker took the ball down and cushioned it into the bottom right-hand corner off of her laces.

Reiten went close again from a 20-yard free-kick but Walsh got down low to her right and pushed the ball away.

The visitors stayed in the game without really posing a significant threat, but Chelsea substitute Bethany England took the game away from them with ten minutes left. Melanie Leupolz’s header sent Kirby away, she threaded the ball right-to-left between two defenders, and England set herself before smashing it into the roof of the net.

Chelsea have put their opening weekend defeat firmly behind them, winning three on the spin and scoring thirteen times. The Blues host winless Leicester City next in the WSL on Sunday 10th October. Before that round one of their seemingly perennial European match-up with German nemesis Wolfsburg – which forms part of the first round of Champions League group matches.

“Good energy to our possession…” – Chelsea boss Emma Hayes reflects on victory over Brighton.

After a good start the Seagulls have now lost back-to-back games to leave them ensconced in mid-table. They return home to the Broadfield Stadium next Sunday to face a Tottenham Hotspur side that has won its opening four matches of the WSL campaign.

“We have to respect the strength and depth of Chelsea but I certainly thought that in the second half, we had a go, we ruffled them, we scored and we felt that we were in it. We worked really hard to try and get a draw but they weathered the storm. I actually feel really encouraged the performance. We knew that Chelsea would have more ball possession that we would, so it was all about us being organised, denying them spaces and if everyone plays their part in that, it is very difficult to break down.”

Hope Powell, Manager, Brighton & Hove Albion, via fawslfulltime.co.uk (2/10/2021)

Aston Villa 0-4 Arsenal

Arsenal captain Kim Little celebrates her 150th strike against Aston Villa.

“Where do you start with a player like Kim? She is one of those players who is the glue between the different units in the team, in the way she moves and the dynamic nature she has in the game. She’s a player we talk about maybe shooting a little bit more than she has done and I think she has done that brilliantly today. Sometimes it goes directly in, and sometimes it takes a deflection, but it starts with a shot.”

Jonas Eidevall, Head Coach, Arsenal, via football.london

Midfielder Kim Little scored her 150th goal for Arsenal as the league leaders maintained their 100% record with a late flurry of goals at Villa Park.

In a first half that saw the home side largely digging in to prevent their opponents from creating clear cut opportunities, Vivianne Miedema went closest for the Gunners, heading Steph Catley’s corner on to the top of the cross bar via a deflection off Elisha N’Dow.

Just six minutes into the second half, though, Arsenal took the lead. Lotte Wubben-Moy found Kim Little just inside the penalty box and the Scot turned her marker and squeezed a shot inside the keeper’s left-hand post.

Even at 1-0 it never looked likely that the visitors would let the result slip away, but they laboured to kill Villa off until the last ten minutes. Steph Catley fed Tobin Heath down the left and the American World Cup winner ghosted by Meaghan Sargeant to the by-line before cutting back to Mana Iwabuchi who finished with a nonchalant flick.

Three minutes later the game was up for the Villans. Hannah Hampton’s clearance didn’t make it past Katie McCabe on Arsenal’s right flank. The winger saw how far from home the keeper had strayed and chipped her from fully 35-yards. The exasperation on Hampton’s face told the whole story – she knew it was a goal the moment it left the Irish international’s left boot.

Not quite done, the visitors got their fourth in stoppage time with a strike that bore a passing resemblance to the first goal, at least in terms of approach. Lia Wälti played the ball into Little on the edge of the ‘D’, she hit it on the turn and it took a wicked hop into the air off Sargeant and looped over Hampton and into the net.

Villa’s unbeaten start to the season is over, but they were perhaps a little unfortunate to finish up on the end of a four-goal drubbing. Carla Ward’s troops will look to get their next win on the board with a trip to Reading on Sunday 10th October.

“We’ve kept them at bay for large parts… is it a 4-0 game? No.” Head Coach Carla Ward assesses Villa’s performance…

Arsenal, meanwhile have been crushing all-comers, scoring 16 goals in their four WSL matches to date. They will host an improving Everton side at Meadow Park next weekend, but before that they travel to Barcelona to take on the current Spanish and European Champions in the first ever round of UWCL group games.

Leicester City 0-2 Tottenham Hotspur

Substitute Angela Addison wheels away in celebration after scoring Spurs’ second at the King Power Stadium…

Spurs recovered from their midweek FA Cup defeat to Arsenal by beating Leicester City at the King Power Stadium, extending their perfect WSL record.

Foxes keeper Kirstie Levell was busier of the goalkeepers throughout. In the first period she pushed Ashleigh Neville’s header away from goal low to her left, and later denied Chioma Ubogagu with a full-stretch fingertip save.

But it was a keeper error that presented Tottenham with their first goal seven minutes before the break. the lead on. Levell didn’t deal with a poorly struck corner from the right, the ball broke to Neville whose effort was blocked but Rachel Williams was on hand to slam in her second goal of the week.

Jonathan Morgan’s side looked to improve in the second half, but were guilty of causing a lot of their own problems by giving the ball away cheaply in midfield.

Spurs, meanwhile, were wasting the good chances coming their way. Ria Percival and Ubogagu were both thwarted by Levell at point blank range. Kiwi Percival and Kit Graham also fired distance efforts wide of the target.

The visitors finally killed their opponent off with two minutes of regulation time remaining. Ashleigh Neville just wanted the ball more than Georgia Brougham and sent substitute Rosella Ayane down the left wing. Spurs generated a 3 v 2 overload as Ayane ran unchecked all the way to the Foxes’ penalty. She played Williams into a shooting position to her left, but the forward squared to Angela Addison and she drilled into an empty net.

Spurs boss Rehanne Skinner: “We’ve got a little bit of momentum. I think there’s a lot of belief in the team”…

Rehanne Skinner’s squad have made a dream start to their 2021/22 league campaign and will look to keep that momentum going when they make the trip to Brighton & Hove Albion on Sunday 10th October.

Leicester City are struggling. The step up to WSL is proving to be as difficult for the Foxes as it was for Villa when they arrived last season. Scoring goals is a problem and, contrary to what you’re about to read below, Leicester only had three efforts on Spurs’ goal – none on target.

“It concerns me that we’re not scoring, but it doesn’t concern me in the sense that we are creating chances in every single game and we’re making good chances. I just think it’s when that first one goes in, we’ll start flying with goals at this level. We just can’t seem to get that final bit and find that ruthlessness at the moment. We’re opening the opposition up, the girls are executing certain parts of our game plan very well, finding the spaces that we want, but again, it’s goals that win you the game and get you the points.”

Jonathan Morgan, Manager, Leicester City, via lcfc.com 4/10/2021

It’s not about to get any easier. Their next fixture is a road trip to Chelsea to take on the defending champions.

Manchester City 0-2 West Ham United

Yui Hasegawa (centre) and Dagný Brynjarsdóttir (32) scored the goals that condemned Manchester City to their third straight league defeat…

West Ham United were clinical when chances came their way, condemning Manchester City to their third consecutive WSL defeat.

City dominated possession and had twenty attempts on goal compared to West Ham’s nine.

But they were unable to find the net through a combination of profligate finishing and some fine goalkeeping from Mackenzie Arnold – including an important one v one stop against Lauren Hemp in the first half when the match was still goalless.

The Hammers took the lead in the 39th minute. Yui Hasegawa was played into space on the right, ran to the by-line and crossed to the far post where Dagný Brynjarsdóttir was arriving to power home. [Celebration at top of article…]

Gareth Taylor’s side created more chances after the break. Caroline Weir’s curling shot was pawed away by Arnold and Hemp hit a fizzing drive from distance that the keeper took no chances with, opting to punch rather than catch.

Tameka Yallop perhaps should have made the game safe a bit earlier when she got in behind the City defence after they sloppily gifted possession away.

But another defensive howler error would seal the Citizens’ fate in stoppage time. Left back Demi Stokes was presumably playing a back pass to the keeper, but got both weight and direction all wrong. Hasegawa was straight on to it and audaciously fired over Karima Benameur from 30-yards.

“When you’re playing a team with the quality of Manchester City you have to be on point. From us it was about focus and discipline, with regards to our defensive structure and our work. We’re really pleased that the game plan came together, and we’re really pleased with the result. Back-to-back wins is always nice and it’s great to get the points on the board. I think we’ve still got a long way to go and it’s important to keep our feet on the ground and focus on the fact that we’re back in training tomorrow to prepare ahead of next weekend.”

Olli Harder, Head Coach, West Ham United, via whufc.com 3/10/2021

Olli Harder’s side are well set in the top half of the table and he will feel they’ve finally found their groove. West Ham will play host to Birmingham City on Sunday 10th October – last season this match was drawn, ending in injury time frustration for the East Londoners.

“We are in a tough moment, we really are. Regardless of injuries and player availability, I thought we had enough to win the game and we didn’t. It was one of those games where everything went against us. We dominated the first half – we had numerous chances. West Ham are improving and they made it really difficult in the second half. I suppose the only consolation is the amount of opportunities we had – the goalkeeper had a lot of saves to make so we had final actions rather than moments.”

Gareth Taylor, Manager, Manchester City, via mancity.com 3/10/2021

Despite the squad injuries that have mounted up, nobody would have expected Manchester City to make such a poor start to their campaign. Up next a Manchester derby at Leigh Sports Village, which is being broadcast live on the BBC (Saturday 9th October).

Reading 0-3 Everton

There’s a gag about kicking butt here somewhere, but anyway, Claire Emslie celebrates her strike against Reading.

Despite missing a second half penalty, Everton’s resurgence continued with a comfortable victory at bottom side Reading.

All the damage was done in the first period with Anna Anvegård rifling in after just two minutes. Reading’s Natasha Harding got under her headed clearance, then stumbled trying to recover, which let the Swede in to get her first Everton goal.

Harding’s early fall may have been the beginning of the end of her match, and she was substituted – crocked – on 33 minutes. Central defender Deanna Cooper had already been withdrawn injured with Royals manager Kelly Chambers unable to sufficiently replace either with like-for-like players.

The visitors extended their lead in the 38th minute with a nicely worked move. Anvegård danced defender Gemma Evans down the right wing, threaded the ball to Izzy Christiansen on the edge of the penalty box and the midfielder teed up Claire Emslie; the Scot curling a first-time shot into the keeper’s top right-hand corner.

With two players needing serious attention during the opening 45, a lot of additional time needed to be added on. In the ninth minute Everton made it 3-0 with Danielle ‘Dan’ Turner clipping a 20-yard free-kick over the wall and past a static Grace Moloney on the goal line.

Moloney would come out in a more stubborn mood in the second half, denying Christiansen from the penalty spot with a good save low to her right. Evans blocked Christiansen from the rebound.

Everton boss Willie Kirk: “We’ve got to, first and foremost, gauge ourselves against last season…”

While Toffees’ fans would not have been happy with two 4-0 drubbings at the start of the season, they may well have expected results to start turning round once they got Manchester City and Chelsea out of the way. And that has been the case.

Life is about to get tough again, though, with a visit to Arsenal on Sunday 10th October. The Gunners play in Europe midweek, so Willie Kirk may well be hoping that his squad can benefit from a bit of extra rest going into that match.

“I’m obviously disappointed with the result and our performance lacked intensity. It was frustrating to concede so early in the game, and also at a time when [defender] Deanne [Cooper] was down injured meaning we were a player short at the back. Everton were very clinical, taking the chances that fell to them and also punishing any mistakes that we made. I was happier with our second half performance, but we lacked a bit of creativity in the final third.”

Kelly Chambers, Manager, Reading, via getreading.co.uk 4/10/2021

The Royals are rock bottom of the WSL table without a point or a goal after four games. Aston Villa are the visitors to the Select Car Leasing Stadium on Sunday 10th October, and with just 22 matches in the entire season, Reading really need to find a way to win that one.

Birmingham City 0-2 Manchester United

‘Oh, another Ella Toone photo is it, D2B?’ Well, she keeps delivering goals and BIG performances…

Versatile full-back Hannah Blundell provided both assists as Manchester United got back to winning ways against early season strugglers Birmingham City, with a goal in each half.

United boss Marc Skinner found himself returning to a former coaching haunt but wasn’t about to let emotion or nostalgia get in the way of the mission, as his team dominated the ball.

That said, the Blues should have taken the lead. Lucy Whipp outpaced Katie Zelem down the left, crossed for Lucy Quinn, but the former-Spurs player sliced wide of the far post.

Instead, the visitors got on the board with some tidy pass and move down the left in the 27th minute. Maria Thorisdottir sent Hannah Blundell in behind the Blues’ back line and she cut the ball back to Leah Galton who finished from six yards.

Left winger Galton nearly doubled her tally after the break but her low, angled drive drifted past the post. Then midfielder Jackie Groenen hit a 22-yarder that beat United-loanee keeper Emily Ramsey, but also the upright.

Blundell had a gilt-edged opportunity to get United’s second goal but scooped her shot over the bar from 10-yards.

Instead the ex-Chelsea player turned provider in the 80th minute, combining with Zelem on the right and squaring to Ella Toone for a simple tap in.

United Head Coach Marc Skinner after the game: “We needed a reaction from the players…”

The Red Devils climbed back into the top four, equal on points with Chelsea and a staggering six points ahead of cross city rivals Manchester City, who they host next in a match that is going out live on the BBC on Saturday 9th October.

Objectively, Scott Booth’s Birmingham wouldn’t have been expected to beat Manchester United but, like the other clubs already entrenched in a basement, they desperately need to get points, sooner rather than later. They will hope to start this process with a visit to West Ham United on Sunday 10th October.

“The games are coming thick and fast and the level of competition is high. The most important thing for me is that we are seeing progress and as we have been going, I have seen that. You can tell that the players are starting to bed in more now, starting to get to grips with the way that we play and the level of the competition that we are playing against. As long as I keep seeing progress, I have got to be happy with that because we are still in the very early stages of our project.”

Scott Booth, Head Coach, Birmingham City, via fawslfulltime.co.uk (pre-match)
North London domination: How it stood at the end of Week 4…

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