FA Women’s Super League Round-Up…

It was a big weekend in the FAWSL as Arsenal moved level on points at the top of the table, after thrashing Chelsea at the Emirates. Chelsea remain at the summit on goal difference. At the other end of the table, West Ham dropped to the bottom, after Bristol City’s draw with Liverpool…

Arsenal 4-1 Chelsea

Chelsea’s first defeat of the season was a brutal dismantling at the hands of their London rivals, with The Blues unable to come up with the answers against a relentless Arsenal side at a packed Emirates Stadium.

The Gunners were slick from the off, with a high press and fast past and wasted no time in getting on the score sheet. 

The returning Beth Mead opened the score sheet in the eighth minute, the result of excellent build-up play involving Caitlin Foord, Kim Little and Victoria Pelova who turned to find Beth Mead in the box. Her inside turn caught out the Chelsea defence, and Mead fired it into the roof of the net with her left foot.

Chelsea did find their equaliser just a few minutes later, albeit against the run of play, Johanna Rytting-Kaneryd taking advantage of some sloppy defending by the home side. Given Chelsea’s reputation as ‘mentality-monsters’, one could expect Chelsea to take hold of the momentum and turn the game around.

However, there was little sign of this as Arsenal found their second just past the thirty-minute mark. Amanda Ilestedt was on the end of the ball into an open goal from a corner, with some poor decision-making from Ann-Katrin Berger seeing her nowhere collecting the ball as the Swedish International rose highest to make the connection.

Chelsea boss Emma Hayes cut a frustrated figure on the sidelines but just two minutes later, things went from bad to worse.

Alessio Russo collected a fine long ball from Lia Wälti on the left wing, her side-footed strike sailing past a helpless Ann Katrin-Berger to give Arsenal a 2-goal cushion at the half-time whistle.

Hayes made three changes at the break, changing formation and bringing on three substitutes and although it did keep Arsenal more at bay, it did not seem to boost the team’s attack enough to quell the pressure.

The Blues did have their chances, but they were either squandered or kept out by Arsenal’s number one Manu Zinsberger. Lauren James saw her effort from range, sail past the post, but there was nothing to really ask questions of the Arsenal keeper.

Lauren James was lucky not to receive a red card after her frustration in the match caused her to petulantly lash out on Arsenal midfielder Lia Wälti. She only received a booking and was taken off by Hayes shortly after.

Further controversy came in the form of a penalty given to Arsenal after Alessia Russo clashed with Jess Carter and keeper Berger in the box. Replays showed the Chelsea players did find the ball, not the player, but the referee pointed to the spot regardless. The penalty was converted by Russo but given the run of play, was unlikely to have changed the result at the final whistle.

The driving rain matched the mood at the final whistle for Emma Hayes.

Speaking to BBC Sport, she said: “We couldn’t execute the basic things. Even when we did well to win the ball back, we gave it away again. It’s so difficult as a coach when you have no control in a certain way and I felt we lacked that across the pitch. I have a dressing room that will acknowledge that and own it. That’s not our best and to be honest that was probably our very worst.”

Arsenal manager Jonas Eidevall was keen to stress they will not get carried away after their massive result and continue their progress to have the best chance at taking the title.

Speaking to Guardian Sport, he said: “Yes, we’re happy – but at the end of the day it is our finishing position in the league that will matter. Nothing will be won or lost today. We need to stay focused, keep developing and be consistent in our performances. That can be very valuable. That’s only determined by future performances.”

Next up for the teams, after mid-week action against Spurs in the Continental Tyres League Cup, it will be de ja vu for Arsenal as they head to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium for a massive North London Derby. Chelsea travel to face Bristol City at Ashton Gate.

West Ham United 0-1 Everton 

It was another disappointing day at the office for West Ham as they suffered a frustrating fifth successive league defeat at the hands of Everton.

Everton started the brighter of the teams with their first goal-scoring opportunity coming within five minutes, but Nicoline Sorensen saw her chance go over the crossbar.

West Ham were quick to react, with Viviane Asseyi’s effort just wide of the Everton’s goal.

Both teams fought hard to open the scoring, with end-to-end play through the first part of the half. Everton’s Toni Duggan was on hand to try and get Everton’s first, but her effort was also wide.

West Ham’s Jess Zui did her best to find the goal, picking up a ball from Kirsty Smith but her shot was blocked and cleared to deny the Republic of Ireland International.

Just before the hour mark, Asseyi was again on hand, beating several Everton defenders, her powerful shot eventually blocked by Bronson in goal.

West Ham’s best chance came from Riko Ueki, her shot needed a fine save from Everton keeper Courtney Bronson to keep it out of the net.

Moments later, Everton had their own chance, with Sara Holmgaard’s corner finding her twin sister Karen at the back post. Holmgaard’s header found its way past keeper Megan Walsh to give Everton their much sought-after lead.

After that it was just up to the Toffee’s to keep a hold of their lead, pushing West Ham down to the bottle of the table as the Christmas break approaches.

West Ham manager Rehanne Skinner knows the performances are there but if confident the future will reap better results for her team.

Speaking to www.whufc.com, she said: “We’ve definitely had our chances and I think that once we get one of those, it’ll be a situation where we’ll score more and more. Sometimes in football, it’s just getting that one over the line, that obviously then sets the wheels in motion a little bit better. The players are confident but it’s just not working out at this moment in time.”

Everton have struggled with injuries so far this season which has affected their results, so a win away to close out the season is a big positive for manager Brian Sørensen’s side.

Speaking to www.evertonfc.com, he said: “We knew coming here would be tough. West Ham, they are up for a fight. We held our ground and created some big ones. I’m really, really happy for the girls. All the stuff that’s been thrown against us, to get a win in a tough away game – really pleased.”

In match week nine, West Ham travel to Leicester City and Everton host Manchester City.

Tottenham Hotspur 0-4 Manchester United 

Manchester United were able to keep themselves in the title race with their win at Brisbane Road leaving one point behind third-placed Manchester City.

After a 7-0 thrashing at the hands of Manchester City before the international break, Tottenham needed to keep a better account of themselves as they faced the red side of Manchester.

With last season’s top goal scorer Bethany England returning from her hip surgery, they would be hoping for a better result than last time out.

She was raring to go from the off and almost scored within seven minutes, her chance denied by the United Maya Le Tisser in defence. The follow-up shot was then blocked by keeper Mary Earps.

Nikita Parris and Leah Galton had further good chances for United, with Parris a constant threat and Galton’s effort going over the bar.

Spurs maintained a hold on the game until Malvin Malard broke the deadlock with her goal just before the half-hour mark, a tap-in taking it past keeper Becky Spencer.

After the break, Malard was again involved, setting up Ella Toone to lift it over the keeper to double United’s lead.

The Lilywhites responded, with a cross from Martha Thomas just missing out on reaching Rosella Ayana, but was eventually collected by keeper Earps.

But just two minutes later, Malard continued her menace against the London side, making it 3 for United just before the hour. 

Hayley Ladd’s solo run was cut out by a tackle from Amy Turner, but the ball found its way to French International, who sent it low from outside the area, beyond Becky Spencer in goal.

The game was well and truly put to bed when Lucia Garcia set up Hayley Ladd, who sent it past keeper Spencer to make it 4 for the visiting side.

One of United’s goal scorers, and England forward Ella Toone was pleased with the team’s win against a much-improved Spurs side.

Speaking to Sky Sports, she said: “Tottenham have been a really good side this season and made it difficult for us in the first half. We showed that grit and character that we have in the team. It wasn’t always pretty, but we managed to get the three points, which is the main thing.”

Robert Vilahamn was disappointed with the performance in the second half but felt his team had kept their pace against a strong United side in the first half.

Speaking after the match to Sky Sports, he said: “It was an even game in the first half. We protected the goal well and created counter-attacks, but they scored too many goals. They had around five shots so they are effective with their chances. And then we lost our heads a little bit, but we played against a very good team. This is where we are now and we tried to play, but we do need to work a little bit more.”

Next up, after Tottenham face Arsenal in the Continental Tyres League Cup mid-week, they will then host Arsenal at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium for the WSL North London Derby. Manchester United will look to continue their winning run as they host Liverpool.

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