There were no draws in the WSL this week. Arsenal stay unbeaten as Vivianne Miedema breaks another scoring record; Chelsea and Manchester City thrash the Birmingham clubs; West Ham edge their London derby with Spurs; Reading take their loss-free streak to four; Everton score late to pile more misery on still-pointless Leicester City. Here’s how week 8 of the Women’s Super League panned out ahead of the international break…
Manchester City 5-0 Aston Villa
Manchester City gave a five-star performance in the second half of this match to leap over Aston Villa in the WSL table. Super sub Hayley Raso bagged a brace and an assist in a devastating 17 minute spell…
Villa had been able to restrict Gareth Taylor’s side to very few chances in the first half but imploded just three minutes after the break when they gifted possession to Keira Walsh who immediately played Lauren Hemp into space on the left. Hemp crossed, Weir controlled the ball, cut inside N’Dow and curled it into the far corner.
Three minutes later it was two. Alex Greenwood’s corner from the right wasn’t dealt with and Georgia Stanway directed the ball into the net.
Villa almost fashioned a way back when Sarah Mayling and Chaney Boye-Hlorkah combined down the right, but substitute Emily Gielnik couldn’t quite make contact with the cross – any touch would have been enough.
City punished that miss in the 77th minute to take the game away from the visitors. Villa keeper Hannah Hampton tried to prevent the ball from going for a corner but played her clearance straight to City sub Hayley Raso. The Australian international took the shot on first time and it whisked into the goal via a slight deflection.
Sixty seconds later Villa were the architects of their own downfall again when Anita Asante gave the ball away. City worked it quickly down the right, Raso beat N’Dow for pace, squared from the by-line and Lauren Hamp arrived untracked to finish from a tight angle.
It took Raso just three minutes to get the host’s fifth, enjoying the freedom of the six-yard box to bundle the ball in after Hemp had hit the cross bar.
“I thought it was a good performance. We scored some really good goals. These games always difficult, and Villa are a difficult proposition. There is still a lot to do in terms of the way we play, refining key details. But the signs were really good and positive today. We got a clean sheet and everyone played their part right the way through. The substitutes made a difference, they helped give us energy, especially when Villa started to flag towards the end.”Gareth Taylor, Head Coach, Manchester City, via mancity.com
Manchester City go into the international break sat seventh in the league. Beating Villa is fine but they’ve lost more matches than they’ve won this season. The league title has gone, now they have to get on a streak to ensure they’re in the running for a Champions League berth by May.
They visit Birmingham City next in the WSL – a match which is currently scheduled for Sunday 12th December. They’ve smashed one West Midlands side up here; it wouldn’t be a massive surprise to see them do the same to the rudderless Blues next time out.
Aston Villa host Tottenham Hotspur on the same weekend. They won the corresponding fixture last season with a really hard working display against a Spurs side that dominated the ball for large chunks of that match.
A similar mindset is required this time around against Rehanne Skinner’s improved squad, but maybe the Head Coach could let some of those attacking acquisitions loose on the North Londonders. Boye-Hlorkah and Gielnik surely need to be on the pitch from the start. One makes them quicker offensively; the other more physically aggressive…
Manchester United 0-2 Arsenal
Arsenal extended their unbeaten run in the WSL to eight as they dispatched Manchester United without too much drama. Vivianne Miedema and Katie McCabe provided the goals and Jonas Eidevall’s side should perhaps have scored more.
The first period had an eerily similar look to the Gunners draw with Spurs a week earlier. They had the majority of possession, looked utterly in control, but couldn’t generate many clear goal scoring opportunities.
Beth Mead hit the bar early doors; later Noelle Maritz drew a workaday save out of Mary Earps. United, meanwhile, defended resolutely but offered little going the other way.
Miedema, talismanic as ever, ensured that Arsenal’s performance wouldn’t fizzle out (as it had against their North London rivals) just three minutes after the interval. McCabe played the ball infield from the left, the Dutchwoman spun away from Katie Zelem took an extra touch to move Earps across slightly and dispatched a low drive into the keeper’s bottom right-hand corner from the edge of the ‘D’. Miedema has now scored against all eleven other clubs in the WSL.
Nine minutes later she was involved again squaring the ball for a McCabe shot, only for the Irish international to get clattered by defender Aiofe Mannion.
McCabe eventually hauled herself up off the grass and, with injured Kim Little already subbed off, stepped up for penalty taking duties – clipping her spot kick towards the keeper’s top right corner for 2-0.
Zelem had a good chance to get United back in the game running on to a neat, lofted pass from midfield partner Lucy Staniforth, but was denied by keeper Manuela Zinsberger who got herself in a good position to save with her right leg.
Mead should have secured another penalty kick but referee Emily Heaslip incorrectly decided it was a free-kick just outside the box. Miedema nearly punished United anyway, curling the ball off the top of the crossbar.
United have plateaued under Marc Skinner. They find themselves propping up the top-half of the table on a poor goal difference largely accrued from the eight goals they conceded against Chelsea and Arsenal. But they’ve also dropped points against teams they were masters of last season.
There’s good news for the Red Devils, though. Despite a mediocre start they are only three points off the final Champions’ League berth. After the international break they travel down to Brighton; then go into the Christmas break hosting Aston Villa. Fans will see both as eminently winnable games. If they don’t win both pressure might start mounting on the United boss.
“From a personal point of view I am still learning the league, the club and the players. I am very pleased with the results, but I am most pleased with this environment that we are learning in. That’s why I really like about working with this group of players and he staff as well. We don’t just look at the draw with Spurs, for example, with disappointment, we are learning from it. We are learning when we lose, draw and win. It’s nice to win the matches but you need to have that learning culture in place, that’s what I’m most pleased with.”Jonas Eidevall, Head Coach, Arsenal, via arseblog.news
Arsenal go into another WSL ‘pause’ top of the table. Leah Williamson is out until at least the new year and Kim Little is nursing a groin problem so will need to be careful. Mercifully Jordan Nobbs looks more like her old self and has been re-selected for the Lionesses.
On their return the Gunners have home games against Leicester City and Brighton. Two professional displays should culminate in Arsenal holding firm as the WSL’s Christmas number one. However, before both they have the small matter of a Champions League return fixture with current Euro Supremoes FC Barcelona…
Chelsea 5-0 Birmingham City
Sam Kerr notched a first half hat-trick for Chelsea and threw in her famous somersault celebration, but the Aussie had her thunder stolen somewhat by two-strike Fran Kirby who reached 100 goals for the club.
It was a horrible mismatch of a first half-between the South Londoners who have been firing on all cylinders in the league for a few weeks now, and a West Midlands club that has already abandoned their pre-season plans and schemes, hoping instead that a new person at the helm will somehow conjure up weekly miracles.
Birmingham City sacked manager Scott Booth in the week following their 4-0 Conti Cup home drubbing at the hands of West Ham United. The full statement can be found here but makes it plain that Booth essentially carries the can for the tyre-fire that the club has become this season – bearing in mind they already went into the campaign with the lowest budget, the thinnest squad and the poorest facilities (don’t take our word for it, that last one came from their own players.)
Anyway to the match. Chelsea were a goal up inside four minutes. Magda Eriksson put in a cross from deep out on the left. Louise Quinn intercepted but the ball broke to Kirby and she chipped the keeper from the edge of the penalty box.
Millie Bright had a thunderous 30-yard effort brilliantly parried way by Marie Hourihan at full stretch, but there was little the Birmingham stopper could do to prevent Kerr opening her account running on to Jessie Fleming’s through ball and lashing the ball into the far corner.
Kerr put a header wide at point blank range from a poor defensive clearance but couldn’t believe her luck when she was presented with another chance virtually on the goal line in the 29th minute. This one was smashed into the net.
Almost on half time Kerr sealed her hat-trick. Hourihane acrobatically saved Drew Spence’s half volley from the edge of the penalty area but Kerr was on hand to nod the rebound into an empty net. The striker then showed off some impressive circus skills of her own in celebration.
In the 75th minute Kerr turned provider for Chelsea’s fifth goal, fizzing a ball in from the right which Kirby flicked in at the front post for her landmark strike.
Emma Hayes’ side have to close out their two remaining Champions League games against Juventus (home) and Wolfsburg (away). Sandwiched in between is a trip to the vastly improved Reading on Sunday 12th December.
“We had one or two words at half-time – not harsh words, we are adults just sensible conversation – to try and put one or two things right. I think second-half it was much better, fair play to the girls they didn’t batten down the hatches and got on the front foot a little bit. I couldn’t have asked any more of them today.”Tony Elliott, Coach, Birmingham City, via BCFC.com
Former Everton boss Willie Kirk was asked during the BBC’s live coverage of the United v Arsenal match whether he would be throwing his hat into the ring as Scott Booth’s replacement. Kirk ruled himself out, about as respectfully as he could.
Instead, Birmingham will begin a new journey with Interim Head Coach Darren Carter in situ – so not quite a ringing endorsement from the BC board. A former player for the Blues, Carter was previously first team coach for West Bromwich Albion Women in the FAWNL North. He will be joined by Marcus Bignot who most recently coached at Guiseley FC and is better known in WOSO circles for taking the reins at Aston Villa Women last season.
Carter will start with a difficult home match against Manchester City on December 12, but then it’s the BIG one. On Sunday 19th December the Blues go to Leicester City. Winning that one could put a very different complexion on matters – although quite why the club didn’t offer that courtesy to Booth remains open to debate…
“It is a great opportunity for me and the journey I am currently on, with my coaching career, and I want to make an impact and bring some positivity to the place. It is vitally important to instil some belief, confidence and enjoyment; creating an environment to excel and improve every day as individuals and as a collective. From those foundations, we can look to build some momentum.”Darren Carter, Interim Head Coach, Birmingham City, via BCFC.com
Leicester City 0-1 Everton
Once again Leicester City came agonisingly close to recording their first point of the campaign, but Simone Magill arrived off the bench to score for Everton. That gave new boss Jean-Luc Vasseur his first league victory and condemned the Foxes to their eighth WSL defeat in a row…
The Toffees had beaten Leicester 3-1 in the Conti Cup group stages earlier in the season, but found their rivals a harder nut to crack in this match.
Midfielder Esme de Graaf had the first decent sight of goal for the home side but headed straight at Sandi MacIver.
Foxes keeper Demi Lambourne had come in for her first league start with the club’s regular starter Kirstie Levell injured and facing four months on the side lines. Lambourne made a fine one handed stop from Kenza Dali after the midfielder had been played in behind the defence.
After the break Dali got in again, this time on the right flank, cutting the ball back for French compatriot Valérie Gauvin. Leicester scrambled and crowded the striker out sufficiently for Sophie Barker to clear off the goal line.
Hanna Bennison surged towards the Leicester penalty box releasing Toni Duggan on her right but Lambourne was equal to the forward’s angled drive.
But the Foxes stopper was unable to save the day when Bennison got Magill in behind the backline on 81 minutes, the Northern Ireland international rounding the keeper and tapping into an empty net.
Everton looked to add a bit of extra sheen to the score line as the game clock ticked down; the best attempt coming from Duggan who cut in from the left and rattled the cross bar from 20-yards.
“Especially then conceding the late goal, the girls are obviously distraught again because they put so much out there and I think it is showing that are injuries are having an impact on us, not being able to make changes when we need to. Everton only had three really good opportunities this whole game and they took one of the three. I think you could argue we had three good opportunities ourselves and we didn’t manage to take one and that’s how ruthless this level is. We still feel very confident that we will navigate ourselves out of this battle. The morale in the camp is so high because we know we are playing well, and we know we are doing things right.”Jonathan Morgan, Manager, Leicester City, via LCFC.com
It’s looking bleak for the Foxes. After the international break they have to go to league leaders Arsenal (Dec 12). But there is a chink of light for Jonathan Morgan’s side with a home match against Birmingham City just before the Christmas period. It’s looking like these clubs will be the only ones battling to avoid the drop so securing three points would be a huge fillip going into the new year.
“I’m very happy for my players, the Club, the staff because we have worked very hard last week to prepare for Sunday’s game. It’s always difficult to play against a team that are bottom of the table. It’s a good result for us and one we can build upon in the future. In the first half and the beginning of the second we had chances to score but didn’t. We need to show that killer instinct to put those chances away and make a difference on the game quicker.”Jean-Luc Vasseur, Manager, Everton, via evertonfc.com
Everton will be going up against two clubs looking to usurp their best-of-the-rest status from last season. West Ham United visit Walton Hall Park on the 12th December. Then Jean-Luc Vasseur’s squad journey to the Hive to take on Tottenham Hotspur.
Reading 2-0 Brighton & Hove Albion
Reading extended their unbeaten league run to four matches with goals at either end of this match versus a Brighton side that had more attempts on goal than their hosts, but managed to get just one of them on target.
It couldn’t have started better for the Royals and worse for the Seagulls. Less than three minutes had been played when Faye Bryson robbed Inessa Kaagman in midfielder and hit an ambitious 30-yarder towards goal. Brighton keeper Megan Walsh misjudged the bounce of the ball, spilled it to Natasha Dowie and the poacher made no mistake.
The visitors one effort on target came from Danielle Carter but Grace Moloney made a good parry before Reading cleared the danger.
Brighton continued to generate attacks but the home side held firm with Natasha Harding making one outstanding last ditch tackle to deny Emma Koivisto an almost certain equaliser.
With four minutes left Reading provided the sucker punch. Justine Vanhaevermaet threaded second half substitute Emma Harries into all sorts of space behind the Seagulls back four and she rounded Walsh before slotting into an empty net – making it two in two for the young striker.
“The result was huge today. Credit must go to the girls as they were fantastic. They know that November was a big window for us to pick up points against sides we wanted to, and to take ten points from twelve is phenomenal. I think now, they’re just starting to really gel, getting to grips with the way I want to play and do things. To be fair, they are an exceptional group, they’ve really bonded, the harmony in camp is a joy to be around, and they’re now showing it on the pitch, fighting for each other, and that’s where we are picking up points alongside the ability that they all have.”Kelly Chambers, Manager, Reading, via readingfc.co.uk
The Royals had an almost perfect November but the international break may have come at a good moment prep-wise for the coaching team as life is about to get much tougher. They host Chelsea on the weekend of 11th/12th December before heading up to Manchester City for a pre-Xmas rumble.
Despite some frustration after this match Hope Powell shouldn’t be overly concerned. Indeed the Seagulls held on to third spot in the table despite defeat, but Powell will know that some stiff challenges await once her players return from international duty.
Brighton host Manchester United next at the Broadfield Stadium and then have a road trip to league leaders Arsenal. Any points in those two matches will be welcome and keep the south coasters in the hunt for a European berth.
West Ham United 1-0 Tottenham Hotspur
West Ham enjoyed their first ever victory over Spurs after Dagný Brynjarsdóttir’s 69th minute strike proved to be the only difference between the sides.
Tottenham made most of the (half) chances in the first half with Kyah Simon and Ria Percival both firing over the cross bar. Ashleigh Neville was in a good spot at the far post to get on Percival’s right-wing corner, but nodded it wide.
The all-action full back then latched on to a loose ball outside the ‘D’ but dragged her shot wide.
The hosts got themselves in front with just over 20 minutes left. Lisa Evans’ run and cross from the right broke off a defender to Brynjarsdóttir and the Icelandic international’s left foot didn’t let her down.
Spurs were down, but not out. They worked hard to chisel a point out of this contest but couldn’t quite find their way back. Rachel Williams was brilliantly denied by keeper Mackenzie Arnold who tipped the forward’s opportunistic half volley over the cross bar.
In the last action of the match Neville tried her luck from 25-yards but Arnold was able to scramble to her right and get whatever she could on the ball to push it away.
The Hammers have lost just twice in eight WSL games which points to a significant improvement on last season. They are scheduled for road trips to Everton and Chelsea following the international break.
Tottenham remain above West Ham in the current standings but need to figure out a way to score more goals, particularly when they enjoy the majority share of possession like they did in this game.
That might seem an odd statement given they walloped Watford 11-0 [yes, eleven] in the League Cup during the week, but that’s two more goals than they’ve scored in the WSL combined all season. Rehanne Skinner’s side visit Aston Villa on the 12th December and then host Everton prior to Christmas.
Continental Cup Fixture Wash-Up
We probably missed a few of the upcoming Conti Cup games that are due to take place prior to Christmas in our Week 8 review, so here’s a full list:
Sunday 5th December 2021
Blackburn Ladies v Sheffield United Women
Sunderland Ladies v Aston Villa Women
Manchester United Women v Leicester City Women
Everton Women v Durham Women
Wednesday 15th December 2021
Aston Villa v Blackburn Rovers
Coventry United v Tottenham Hotspur
Crystal Palace v Bristol City
Everton v Manchester United
Leicester City v Manchester City
Lewes v Reading
London City Lionesses v Birmingham City
Sunderland v Liverpool
Watford v Charlton Athletic
West Ham United v Brighton & Hove Albion