FAWSL Week 6: Round-up

Arsenal’s WSL win streak stretches to six as they wallop West Ham at Meadow Park; Chelsea are hard on their heels after surely the most dominant 1-0 victory in football history; Spurs rewrite the narrative of their inferiority complex against Manchester United with a last gasp equaliser; new Everton boss Jean-Luc Vasseur tastes defeat at the hands of Brighton; Manchester City look more like themselves, grabbing three points at winless Leicester; Reading enjoy back-to-back wins with a convincing performance at Birmingham. It’s seemed like weeks since we’ve had any Women’s Super League to enjoy, because it HAS been weeks. See ya later international break here’s Week 6…

Aston Villa 0-1 Chelsea

Attacking midfielder Jessie Fleming grabbed her second goal of the WSL campaign…

Chelsea tried out the WSL’s top spot for twenty-four hours after victory at Aston Villa. Jessie Fleming converted the only goal of the game midway through the first half, but the final result only really succeeded in camouflaging the Blues’ utter control of this contest.

Canadian international Fleming scored from close range in the 22nd minute after Ji So-yun transformed her right foot into a pitching wedge, chipping the ball over the Villa backline with just enough back spin for Fleming to apply her low finish in stride.

Ji would go on to hit the bar from 20-yards and Erin Cuthbert also tested the sturdiness of the woodwork later in the half. Beth England was then denied by a fine save from Hannah Hampton as Emma Hayes’ side looked to press home their dominance but they were unable to add to their tally.

Aston Villa had enjoyed a good start to the campaign but now find themselves on a three-game losing streak in the league. Manager Carla Ward will want to see significant improvement in their next fixture, as the Villans travel to cross-city rivals Birmingham City – Ward’s former club – on Sunday 14th November. After that it’s a home game with Sheffield United in the Continental Tyres (League) Cup group stage.

“Clean sheet. No more errors. That is the stuff I didn’t enjoy so that’s stopped. I’m happy about that. It’s what I thought the game would be. The performance was six out of 10. No more than that. No outstanding performer but when you compete you have to learn to do these things and you can’t expect that every week is going to be two, three, four nil. We knew what the game was and as I said, at 1-0, you are away from home, the opponent is going to be buoyed by the opportunity. [Keeper] Ann [Katrin Berger] was precise, she was calm, confident and the team eliminated any errors.”

Emma Hayes, Manager, Chelsea, via ChelseaFC.com

Since their opening day defeat to Arsenal, Chelsea haven’t skipped a beat in the WSL. Five wins on the bounce is good form to be in as they head out to Geneva to face Servette Football Club Chênois in the UEFA Women’s Champions League on Tuesday November 9th. After that the Blues go to the Academy Stadium for a head-to-head with an improving Manchester City…

Everton 0-1 Brighton & Hove Albion

Forward Aileen Whelan (7) – one of the key individuals pushing Brighton to new heights in the WSL…

New Everton boss Jean-Luc Vasseur got to see the scale of the task facing him first-hand as Brighton handed the Toffees a fourth league defeat of the season.

The former Champions League winner with Olympique Lyon manager knows how to marshal top players at the peak of their powers, but now he faces the challenge of getting a talented group of individuals to mesh and become considerably more than the sum of their parts.

That’s a trick that Brighton manager Hope Powell seems to have figured out with her squad, guiding the Seagulls to an unprecedented 6th place finish last season; then opening the 2021/22 league campaign with four victories from six, plus two League Cup wins.

Aileen Whelan will feel she should have opened the scoring in the first half, meeting Megan Connolly’s cross with power, but directing the ball against the cross bar.

No matter. Just after the hour mark Lee Geum-min and Danielle Carter engineered a cross from the right and Whelan got a run on her marker at the front post, heading past stranded keeper Sandy MacIver.

Toni Duggan, Rikke Sevecke and Valérie Gauvin all had sights of the Brighton goal but none were able to trouble the Seagulls’ ever-present stopper Megan Walsh.

The jury will be out for a while considering the merits of letting former boss Willie Kirk build a squad in his desired image over the summer only to be fired half a dozen matches into the new campaign, but the Toffees have invested serious money and their board were clearly seeking more immediate improvements – particularly against the division’s top teams. On Sunday 14th November Vasseur will get to pit his wits against one such club, Manchester United, an opponent that Everton has failed to take any points from since their arrival in the WSL back in 2019.

Manager Hope Powell combines upbeat with humility as she talks about the “work in progress” that is her Brighton squad…

Brighton, meanwhile, are going from strength to strength. This was a good road victory, not too many would have readily predicted it. Next up we’ll all get to see how the Seagulls cope going into a league game as a hot favourite. Point-less Leicester City will be the visitors to the Amex Stadium on Sunday 14th November. A home win, surely? It’s never as simple as that, though is it? Fending off a shadowy nemesis like complacency can often prove tougher than raising ones performances levels as the perceived underdog.

Tottenham Hotspur 1-1 Manchester United

Pleased much? Ria Percival (seen here in the headlock) celebrates a 95th minute equaliser…

Spurs left it very, VERY late in the ‘Skinner Derby’, but got a proverbial monkey off their back by finally taking a point from Manchester United in a lively affair at the Hive.

Since the two clubs rivalry first began, vying with each other for promotion from the FA Women’s Championship in 2018, United have exercised their voodoo over Tottenham, winning every encounter.

And for long spells it looked like that was going to be the case again as United pressed for the opening goal. In the 37th minute Ella Toone played Alessia Russo in on goal but Tinja-Riikka Korpela made a smart stop to deny the young striker. Leah Galton couldn’t force the rebound home with Spurs defenders scrambling.

Russo was not going to be shut out for much longer, though. In the second minute of added time she hared into the penalty area, shrugged off defender Ashleigh Neville and smashed the ball into the roof of the net from an angle.

Further opportunities came and went for Galton, Toone, Kirsty Hanson and Martha Thomas but the Red Devils were unable to extend their lead.

Tottenham’s Kit Graham tested keeper Mary Earps from 30-yards, but the rather more defensively-minded Ria Percival was the unlikely stoppage time hero curling in a 95th minute free-kick from way out on the left than eluded everybody in the penalty area and hopped over Earps into the far corner.

Incredibly, there was still one last chance for the visitors to win it. Russo made a good headed contact with Galton’s cross from the left but Korpela kept it out.

The result enabled Rehanne Skinner’s side to hold on to their third spot in the standings ahead of the north London derby with Arsenal which takes place on Saturday 13th November at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. After that they host Watford in the Continental Tyres Cup.

Spurs boss Rehanne Skinner: “What we’re about is ‘never give up’…”

United Head Coach Marc Skinner will be disappointed that his team couldn’t hold on to the three points. As a consequence of two consecutive league ties Manchester United dropped below Brighton into fifth. They travel to Everton on Sunday 14th November looking to get back to winning ways, after which they’ll host their second derby of the season with City – this time in the league cup group stages.

In a round-about way Marc Skinner suggests that Spurs are lower quality, long-ball merchants…

Birmingham City 0-3 Reading

Reading’s Deanne Rose with the freedom of St. Andrews to put that header away for her first goal of the afternoon…

Canadian international Deanne Rose bagged a brace to ensure much-improved Reading secured their second three-goal victory of the campaign against a club from Birmingham.

The Royals put Aston Villa to the sword before the international break and – despite goalless first period – they were in charge for most of this match against Birmingham City. Justine Vanhaevermaet and Deanne Rose both saw the whites of the keeper’s eyes in the opening half but couldn’t register.

The Blues laboured to create chances, but Libby Smith did muscle her way in on goal, only to waste her good work by shooting straight at keeper Grace Moloney.

Kelly Chambers side made their breakthrough just after the interval. Faye Bryson drove her left-wing corner to the far post, it was headed back across goal and Natasha Dowie applied a born poacher’s close-range finish.

In the 54th minute they got their second. Brooke Chaplen put Amalie Eikeland in space out on the right flank, the Norwegian sent an inviting ball into the six-yard box and Rose arrived completely unmarked to power past Emily Ramsey.

The visitors made the game safe in the 71st minute – although in fairness the result never looked in jeopardy. Defender Gemma Evans decided to go with a direct ball forward and Rose was up for the foot race. Ramsey should have claimed the ball but fumbled and Rose rounded her before knocking into an empty net.

Scott Booth’s Birmingham haven’t won this season and find themselves just above the one relegation spot with a single point from their opening six games. But they have a bit of extra incentive to get their first three-point-haul of the season next weekend with the visit of cross-city rivals Aston Villa on Sunday 14th November. After that they host West Ham United in the Conti Cup; they held the East Londoners to a draw in week five so there shouldn’t be any fear there. It’s an important period for the Blues and they need to be competitive in these games. Well, they need to win them!

“At half-time we talked about maintaining the organisation we had in the first half, denying them too many chances while also creating a few of our own. We wanted to build on what we had done but you blink and find yourselves 2-0 down. It was from errors we made that were really preventable and that cost us. We know we have to get better as a squad and as a unit. We hope to strengthen the team as well but until we can it is about trying to pick up points, getting rid of these individual errors that are costing us and also keeping ourselves in games.”

Scott Booth, Head Coach, Birmingham City, via BCFC.com

Reading made an equally bad start over the opening four weeks but Chambers has been able to steady the ship. Six goals in their last two games suggests that their new attackers are all building a better understanding with one another. The Royals travel to West Ham United next Sunday looking to make it a hat-trick of wins. Then, like nearly every body else in tiers one and two, they are in League Cup action – making a trip to Championship side Crystal Palace.

“I think it was a game where we felt we were in control for most of it. For us it was a case of being patient today, moving the ball quick, and waiting to exploit the openings. There were times today where we could have lost focus as we were seeing so much of the ball, as we all know in football it can take just one mistake for the opposition to get in on goal and can punish you. So we had to ensure we were focused on our defensive cover more so than being in possession. Then when we did have possession, we wanted to be patient, move the ball around quickly, as the openings would come, and the girls executed it brilliantly.”

Kelly Chambers, Manager, Reading, via readingfc.co.uk

Leicester City 1-4 Manchester City

Spot the ball? Don’t waste your time, it’s already in the goal. Lauren Hemp reflects on getting City’s third goal of the afternoon against Leicester.

Manchester City found themselves a goal down early in this match but soon rallied and went on to thump a Leicester City side that is still seeking its first points of the campaign.

Jonathan Morgan’s Foxes got themselves in front inside the opening sixty seconds. Jess Sigsworth seized on a Jill Scott error and coolly fired past Karima Benameur.

City then took control of the possession and territory stats and eventually levelled in the 24th minute. Alex Greenwood found Demi Stokes on the left. Her cross should have been dealt with comfortably by Abbie McManus, but instead the ball broke to Caroline Weir and she lashed in right-footed from 12-yards.

Gareth Taylor’s side forged ahead seven minutes before the break with a similar approach but a far more spectacular finish. Greenwood this time located Lauren Hemp on the left and the winger crossed into the box. Weir and Filippa Angeldal both had attempts blocked, but the ball spun out to midfielder Keira Walsh and she hammered the ball past Kirstie Levell from the edge of the ‘D’.

Midway through the second period City got their third. Georgia Stanway surged through midfield threading a pass to Hemp, who got the ball out of her feet quickly before lashing into the far corner.

Good approach play from Janine Beckie and Stanway put Lauren Coombs in a position to add some gloss to the score line in the 83rd minute. But the midfielder got the benefit of more clumsy defending, before she was able to slot inside the left-hand post.

Manchester City moved up to seventh in the table with this win. Although they are still embroiled in he midst of an horrendous injury crisis the team looked more like itself, building on their well-earned derby draw before the international break and putting Leicester away without too much fuss.

Chelsea are the visitors to the Academy Stadium on Sunday 14th November and these two clubs have a recent history of terrific matches. City may even fancy themselves given the Londoners will be arriving on the back of a midweek European road trip.

“Great credit to the girls. The way they handled things, we were dominant. They were first class. It was a tough start but we showed real character and determination, and we played some exceptional football. It was vital we won today. We have to take that momentum into Chelsea next weekend and if we win, things look a lot healthier.”

Gareth Taylor, Head Coach, Manchester City, via mancity.com

Leicester’s struggles are all too evident. They’ve squared up to teams from all parts of the league table and have been found wanting every time. In a 22-game season, week 7 suddenly has a desperate must-win look to it. They have an away trip to the south coast to take on Brighton & Hove Albion. That’s not an easy fixture by any stretch, but the Foxes have to find a way to take something home from the Amex that amounts to more than a learning experience.

“We’re disappointed really, after such a fantastic start. I think it was 50 seconds in when we scored. It was very early and while it’s fantastic, we’ve not been used to that much this season. I think the only time we were in the lead was against Aston Villa, so I think it was a little bit like deer in the headlights. We got a little bit too deep, we kept dropping back which allowed Man City to grow back into the game, when realistically we should have stuck to what we planned. The game is a massive learning curve, a massive experience for the girls.”

Jonathan Morgan, Manager, Leicester City, via lcfc.com

Arsenal 4-0 West Ham United

You’ve got to have a graphic for your 50th WSL goal…

League leaders Arsenal were in irresistible form against West Ham United, taking their perfect league record to six victories. Head coach Jonas Eidevall’s only gripe afterwards was that his side hadn’t been able to convert more of their 21 chances.

In a one-way first half Mana Iwabuchi and Nikita Parris had already hit the West Ham woodwork before Kim Little put the Gunners ahead on 39 minutes beating two defenders before driving past Mackenzie Arnold.

The Hammers never really got to grips with Arsenal’s high press and were caught overplaying in the 52nd minute. Parris and Noelle Maritz combined to get Little into the penalty area and the Scottish international smashed the ball into the net for her 50th WSL strike (in 98 appearances).

Beth Mead was denied by Mackenzie Arnold’s brilliant fingertip save that diverted the ball against the cross bar, before deservedly getting on the score sheet just past the hour mark. She was the beneficiary of a rapid turn and burst through midfield by Parris; the Arsenal forward drawing out West Ham’s backline sufficiently to create enough space for Mead to receive the ball under no pressure and drill it past the keeper.

Mead then provided the 84th minute delivery that substitute centre back Grace Fisk turned into her own net.

A north London derby at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium awaits the Gunners on Saturday 13th November. It’s a short week, though. Before that Jonas Eidevall’s squad travel to Denmark to take on HB Køge in the Women’s Champions League group stages.

“Everything in football starts with having a solid defence and not conceding easy goals. I want us to work hard every game to keep a clean sheet. Kim Little was brilliant. She is so dynamic in midfield, both with the defensive runs she makes and her positioning and, of course, when she’s on the ball. [She played] a huge part in the victory. She’s a very hard player to defend.”

Jonas Eidevall, Head Coach, Arsenal, via BBC Sport

Olli Harder’s West Ham remain firmly ensconced in mid-table with a nice neat two wins, two draws and two losses. This was not a match observers would have expected them to win but the Head Coach was disappointed that they were unable to make more a game of it. The Hammers welcome Reading to Victoria Road on Sunday 14th November. At face value, these two sides seem well matched given their respective rosters. After that the East Londoners travel to Birmingham City for the next round of Conti Cup group matches.

“I thought the team had the effort and the application but unfortunately we didn’t show the quality that we needed this evening. If we’d looked after the ball a bit better in those transition moments then we might have had a bit more energy towards the back end of the game. Having to press all the time and not looking after the ball well enough is going to lead to some tired legs, which is what happened this evening. I think we had a lot of okay performances but it’s the details that we need to focus on and unfortunately Arsenal ruthlessly expose those details.”

Olli Harder, Head Coach, West Ham Unite, via whu.com
As it stands: Arsenal lead the way with a perfect record…


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