FA Women’s Super League Round-Up…

By Danielle Ward

As the teams head into the International break, the tight battle at the top of the table continued this weekend. Manchester United kept top spot, Chelsea are in second with Arsenal leapfrogging Manchester City to take third. Arsenal and Chelsea still have a game in hand…

Arsenal 2-1 Manchester City 

 With both teams fighting to keep their title hopes alive, Sunday lunchtime was a hugely important game in the final run of games this season.

City started in control of the game and they didn’t have to wait long to get onto the score sheet. 

In the fifth minute, a cross from Chloe Kelly from the left found Khadija ‘Bunny’ Shaw in the box, and the FAWSL’s current top scorer didn’t waste any time in sending the ball powerfully into the back of the net.

The first half continued poorly for The Gunners, with the mid-week game seemingly giving City an advantage, sloppy play and poor decisions littered their game, and it was only City’s lack of clinical finishing that ensured Arsenal didn’t fall further behind. 

City came close to a second – again through Bunny Shaw. Arsenal’s Sabrina D’Angelo made a smart save, while Lauren Hemp saw her effort over the bar from close range.

A run from Kelly down the left did create another chance late in the half, with a shot from range that forced another save from D’Angelo.

There was further worry for Arsenal as they lost Caitlin Foord to injury just before the break, with Austrian international Laura Wienroither taking her place.

As the second half began, the tides seemed to turn a little for Arsenal, and any signs of fatigue seemed to have worn off as the team battled with energy and determination to turn the game around.

Just past the hour, the fight paid off. Stina Blackstenius made it through the visitors’ defence, sending the ball into a packed six-yard box. City couldn’t clear their lines and it fell to Frida Maanum, who fired home from close range.

Control now seemed back in Arsenal’s hands, with a triple substitution bringing fresh legs to the team and a boost in their defence. 

But it was Katie McCabe, who ended Wednesday’s Champions League quarter-final win against Bayern Munich in a protective boot and on crutches, a doubt to even start the game, that sealed the deal for Arsenal in the seventy-fifth minute.

A corner was played short out to McCabe and she charged to the edge of the box before booting the ball powerfully, high into the far corner of the net, right in front of the packed North Bank, who erupted as she ran to the Arsenal bench to celebrate.

The match-winning goal by Irish International McCabe was a big moment for the team and the culmination of preparations the team have been making to improve their set pieces.

Speaking to BBC Sport, she said: “It’s something we have been working on to be honest. Our set-piece coach had been wanting us to try it for a while. We weren’t winning the first contact when it was going in direct, so we just thought we’d change it up. And I was happy to see it hit the back of the net.”

Manchester City turned to the bench to try and equalise in the closing stages of the game but left empty-handed.

Some had predicted that City may have been at an advantage playing Arsenal not long after a big Champions League game, but Gareth Taylor didn’t feel this had played any factor in his preparation for the game.

Speaking to Guardian Sport after the match, Taylor said: “Everyone keeps talking about that, me, personally, I love playing every three or four days, I don’t think that should be an excuse. That’s when you see the best of players, players prefer to play than train, so I don’t see it as being a big issue.”

Next up, Manchester City host West Ham United, while Arsenal’s next FAWSL fixture is to be announced due to their Champions League involvements.

Everton 2-1 Tottenham Hotspur 

Tottenham Hotspur’s relegation risk woes continue with an injury-time goal from Everton setting up yet another heartbreak for The Lilywhites.

Everton took the lead early on, with a pass from Izzy Christiansen finding Nicoline Sorensen in the eighteen-yard box, who sent it curling past Becky Spencer in goal in the fourth minute.

Tottenham only had to wait twenty minutes to get their equaliser. Molly Bartrip got the ball to Bethany England, who played it down the left wing to find Eveliina Summanen, who slotted it home in the bottom right corner of the Everton goal.

There were few chances for a winner for both teams across the rest of the game, though the Toffees dominated the game. 

Everton came close when a chance from Izzy Christiansen was blocked. The Lilywhites’ Celin Bizet came agonisingly close when her shot made it through Courtney Brosnan’s legs, but she managed to claw it back before the ball crossed the line.

A draw seemed to be the order of the day, until Aggie Beever-Jones snatched the points for Everton deep into injury time, scoring her second FAWSL goal when she confidently rolled beyond keeper Becky Spencer.

Brian Sørensen was pleased with the eventual outcome of the day, even if they had to wait until deep into injury time to get their three points.

Speaking to www.evertonfc.com, he said “I think it was well deserved that we finally got one at the end. We controlled the entire game. Proud of them, everyone really did their part. Excellent.”

Interim manager Vicky Jepson was disappointed with losing the game so late on but is determined to regroup and push on for the final games of the season.

Speaking to www.tottenhamhotspur.com, she said: “It’s okay to feel gutted but we have to address those emotions. We can’t dwell on losses. I’m not one for giving out praise if people don’t deserve it but there are definitely lots of positives that we can take.”

Up next, Everton travel to Brighton and Hove Albion and Tottenham Hotspur hosts Aston Villa

West Ham United 0-0 Liverpool 

There were chances for both sides at the Chigwell Construction Stadium on a sunny Sunday afternoon, but neither could capitalise on their chances. 

West Ham remains seventh in the table, with Liverpool keeping their spot in eighth.

The Iron’s started the brightest, with captain Dagný Brynjarsdóttir coming close in the opening stages. However, her header from Lisa Evans’ cross went over the bar.

During Liverpool’s best run of play, Yana Daniels hit the post, with West Ham keeper, Australian international Mackenzie Arnold putting on enough pressure to scupper her chances.

Arnold was again called into action to finger-tip Emma Koivisto’s attempt to lob the keeper, to deny the scoring opportunity.

Liverpool’s long throw-in specialist, Megan Campbell was in full effect, but The Hammers’ defence and keeper were on their toes to prevent any danger as a result.

Efforts from Liverpool’s Katie Stengel and Daniels kept Arnold busy on several occasions. Meanwhile, two chances from substitute Shanice van de Sanden were dealt with by West Ham’s defence.

Late on, the Hammers’ penalty appeals were waved away after a cross from Brynjarsdóttir appeared to hit Koivisto’s arm.

West Ham manager Paul Konchesky will take positives from their first FAWSL point since February as well as keeping a clean sheet. The former defender hopes this is a turning point in their fortunes ahead of the last part of the season.

Speaking to www.wufc.com, he said: “It’s one point gained, rather than 3 points lost. It was tough, we knew it was going to be tough, they fight til the end.”

He also praised his team’s mentality to close out the game, continuing, “I have to say, the togetherness, whoever is on the pitch, the team are together. We don’t give in, we play for ninety minutes, they’re massive positives.”

Liverpool has now failed to score in eight of their sixteen games. manager Matt Beard will look to use the international break to regroup and try to close out the season with some better results.

Liverpool midfield Ceri Holland is enjoying their season back in the FAWSL and appreciated the support from their manager throughout the ups and downs.

Speaking to www.liverpoolfc.com, she said: “There’s a lot of positivity around the training ground and around the squad and it’s a nice position to not be in the relegation battle at the moment. Beardy keeps our feet on the ground and says we need to keep working hard, stay focused and get as many points as we can.”

Next up, West Ham head to Manchester City and Liverpool host Brighton and Hove Albion.

Aston Villa 0-3 Chelsea 

Chelsea finished their week off in style with a confident win over Aston Villa, having already secured their place in the Champions League semi-final following their dramatic midweek game at Stamford Bridge.

Any hopes Carla Ward’s team had of catching Chelsea on an off day after their exhausting one hundred and twenty minutes, plus penalties against Lyon, were dashed midway through the first half of this Poundland Bescot Stadium encounter.

With last week’s WSL defeat to Manchester City well and truly behind them, the Blues put on a dominant display with Villa showing little hope of causing an upset.

Villa failed to clear a free-kick, Reiten returned the ball to the far post where Niamh Charles headed it back into the goalmouth. Magda Eriksson challenged and the ball broke to Jelena Čanković who slotted it home.

There were chances for Villa’s top scorer Rachel Daly and scoring partner Kenza Dali, but they were mostly kept quiet by Chelsea, unable to capitalise on any slim advantages.

Guro Reiten made it two shortly before half-time with a low and powerful strike after she took possession from a misplaced Villa pass near the edge of the area.

As the second half began, there was a chance for Villa from Dali, but was well blocked by Jess Carter.

Any hopes of a comeback were dashed when Sam Kerr put the game to bed, scoring Chelsea’s third in the fifty-second minute.

Chelsea manager, Emma Hayes was delighted with the result and her team’s performance.

Speaking to wwwchelseafc.com, she said: “We created chances, we were clinical, I thought the mentality of the team was absolutely brilliant considering we played one hundred and twenty minutes the other night. I’m thoroughly pleased.”

Villa faces Chelsea again in a few weeks in the FA Cup semi-final. They will need to find a new game plan if they are to make any dent in Chelsea’s attempts to take the crown once again. The West Midlanders remain fifth.

Up next for the teams, Aston Villa heads to Tottenham Hotspur, while Chelsea’s next FAWSL fixture to announced due to their Champions League involvements.


Brian Jeeves

Email: sport@yellowad.co.uk