FA Women’s Super League Round-Up…

As the FAWSL pauses for the latest international break, Manchester City climb to level on points and goal difference with Chelsea, while Arsenal’s title hopes could be back on track. Manchester United remain in fourth…

Chelsea 0-1 Manchester City

Chelsea suffered their first home defeat to City since 2016 as Manchester City put in a strong performance to keep the Londoners at bay as they notched up their 11th successive win in all competitions.

It was set to be a game of fine margins as 1st took on 2nd in the table and the chance to put a little bit of jeopardy into the title race this season.

Although Chelsea started strongly, City were the first ones to nudge ahead on the fine margins, when they opened the scoring within the first 15 minutes. Chelsea’s Erin Cuthbert lost the ball to Jess Park in her own half and sent a finely weighted ball forward to Bunny Shaw who cooly and calmly sent the ball past keeper Hannah Hampton with the outside of her foot.

It was Shaw’s 14th goal of the season and her first against The Blues.

There was a penalty shout for Chelsea shortly after when Mayra Ramirez was brought down by Alex Greenwood in the box, but the referee waved away any appeals from the home side.

Shaw continued to be a threat, backed up by Jess Park, with their best effort coming at the twenty-minute mark, but Hannah Hampton was able to stop them from converting.

Fran Kirby and Erin Cuthbert had efforts in the first half, but they were not up to Chelsea’s usual standard and failed to hit the target.

In the second half, it was clear the home side were pushing hard to turn their fortunes around, with Hayes making two attacking substitutions but nothing was able to make it past Keira Kheating in goal.

The 19-year-old has been impressive so far this season and has thoroughly earned her international call-up on the back of recent performances.

Lauren James’ Midas touch didn’t quite come off in her efforts for Chelsea and Chloe Kelly and Laura Coombs came close to a second for City, but keeper Hannah Hampton was able to keep them at bay.

It was a tense second half and an equaliser was not out of reach for the home side, and even in the dying moments, keeper Keating was alert and ready to stop Jelena Cankovic’s effort, then blocking Sjoeke Nusken’s rebounded attempt to maintain their lead til the end.

City had been resolute in defence to maintain their early lead and as the final whistle blew, they were rewarded with three points, a stronger shout at the title and breaking Chelsea’s three-year unbeaten streak at home.

The significance of defeating Chelsea at their long-time home of Kingsmeadow was not lost on City manager Gareth Taylor.

Speaking to www.mancity.com, he said: “It’s my first win here. It’s true, they made it a bit of a fortress and we’ve broken that record now and I think the girls deserved it. We’ve got things we need to improve on but it’s a big step for us. It’s a big step.”

The Blues manager wouldn’t be drawn on talk of who is top of the table, choosing to focus on her team’s performance and what the loss means.

Speaking to Guardian Sport, Emma Hayes said: “I just focus on the performance. Preparation, performance, recovery. I don’t spend time looking up or down the league. It’s a waste of time. I just know we’ve dropped three points.”

Next up for the teams, Chelsea travel to Leicester City and Manchester City host Everton.

Arsenal 3-1 Manchester United 

With Chelsea’s loss to Manchester City the night before, Arsenal’s hopes were looking a little brighter than many assumed, given no team has ever won the league having lost three games. It was a must-win game for the home side in front of a sold-out Emirates if they were to have any hope of staying in the race.

It was however a shaky opening few minutes for Arsenal, and the game may have played out quite different had Manchester United been able to take advantage of the slow start. 

Defender Leah Williamson, who recently returned from a long-term ACL injury, did not make the squad due to a minor hamstring injury which may delay her return to international football, and defender Amanda Ilestedt was also absent due to illness which may have contributed to the nervous start.

But nerves were soon settled just a few minutes later when an unfortunate deflected own goal by Geyse from a Katie McCabe corner put The Gunners ahead.

There were few chances for United, limited to early in the first half, with Nikita Parris failing to capitalise on a fumbled save by keeper Sabrina D’Angelo, sending it wide. Ella Toone’s best effort almost found its way in via a deflected from Steph Cately but fans were able to breathe a sigh of relief as it also went wide.

Just after the half-hour mark, the home side doubled their lead thanks to Canadian International Cloé Lacasse. Lacasse was in the right place at the right time when she was on the end of a poor clearance by Katie Zelem, her resulting header powering past Mary Earps in goal.

Lacasse followed this up with a cheeky celebration in front of the away fans, much to the delight of the packed-out stadium.

Arsenal were to go in at half-time fully in control with a third goal, when captain, Kim Little, converted from the spot after Beth Mead was brought down by Gemma Evans in the penalty area.

There were no more goals to come for the Gunners in the second half, although they were knocking on the door throughout. Beth Mead was twice denied by the post as they continued to press the visitors who seemed to have little in reply.

Manchester United did not register a shot on target until the 71st minute but were able to salvage a consolation goal late in injury time courtesy of Lucia Garcia.

A clean sheet may have once again eluded Arsenal, but as the final whistle blew, there was celebration and relief in the wake of what had been a disappointing few weeks for the North Londoners.

Gunners manager, Jonas Eidevall, acknowledged the importance of the win in the campaign but that it was important to focus forward to keep consistency and their chance at the league title.

Speaking to Guardian Sport, he said: “It would be nice to say it will be really significant, but the reality is it’s about what we do in the next eight games that will give this victory any value. That is our mindset.”

It was a poor overall show by Manchester United and places their hopes of Champions League qualification in severe doubt.

The Red Devils’ manager Marc Skinner knew his team’s performance was just not good enough on the day and was disappointed with the goals conceded.

Speaking to Sky Sports, Skinner said: “It’s probably where we were coming into the game. We have to be perfect in the big games, especially in a stadium like this with the fans. The goals we conceded are just not good enough. You can’t concede those goals.”

Looking ahead, Arsenal host Tottenham Hotspur and Manchester United travel to West Ham.

 

Everton 2-0 West Ham United

Everton landed their first home win of the season against West Ham, taking a really important three points keeping them above The Hammers in the table and further from relegation risk.

West Ham started the better of the two teams and came close to scoring thanks to Katrina Gorry, whose low shot ended up past the post.

The Irons thought they had opened the scoring courtesy of Viviane Asseyi, but the move towards goal was ruled as offside by the line assistant and nothing could come of it.

Everton responded well with some excellent build-up play but struggled to create any chances to test West Ham’s keeper Mackenzie Arnold.

It was again The Hammers who had the best chance of scoring ahead of the break, but Riko Ueki saw her effort miss by the smallest of margins.

Into the second half, both teams fought hard to make a difference but the breakthrough seemed to elude both sides and the stalemate remained.

There was everything to play for until the closing minutes of the game when Everton struck twice in the space of three minutes to break their four-game losing streak.

For the first goal, a header by substitute Martina Piemonte was set up from a free kick by fellow Italian Aurora Galli.

Just minutes later, it was now Aurora Galli with the assist for Piemonte, whose cut inside on the right beat the defenders and a powerful shot hit the back of the net.

There was a worrying injury to Karoline Oleson who was stretchered off and to hospital but news reached the team that the injury was not as bad as initially thought. She may only spend a short time on the sidelines.

The Toffees manager Brian Sorenson was pleased with the win, given the team had often put in the performances this season, but not come away with any points to show for it.

Speaking to www.evertonfc.com, he said: “The girls believe in what we’re doing, we are on the same page, we know what we want to do, what we want to achieve and where we need to improve. I’m just so glad for the girls that they got what they deserved today.”

West Ham’s manager Rehanne Skinner was disappointed they could not build on recent positive performances, like their first-ever win over Arsenal and make an impact at Walton Hall Park.

Speaking to www.wufc.com, Skinner said: “Today was a missed opportunity for us. We just weren’t quite assertive enough; we didn’t have enough support in and around the ball. Collectively, we could have done more to help each other out and stick to the game plan.”

Next up, Everton travel to Manchester City and West Ham host Manchester United.

Tottenham Hotspur 1-2 Aston Villa 

After a lacklustre start to their season, Aston Villa were able to secure an important win, their fifth in nine matches, giving them important breathing space in their campaign ahead of the international break.

Tottenham are without a win since their close win over West Ham in January and missing out on the chance to edge nearer to closest rivals Liverpool.

Aston Villa were the first on the score sheet, with Adriana Leon putting the visitors ahead inside twenty-five minutes, with her toe poking find it past keeper Barbora Votikova.

Amy James-Turner headed Spurs level from Eveliina Summanen’s free-kick. Spurs headed into the second half with some early chances but were not able to capitalise on their chances, with keeper Daphne van Domselaar keeping out both Martha Thomas and Jessica Naz.

Beth England saw her effort from thirty-five yards drift just wide of the goal and Kit Graham was unlucky not to find the target on several occasions, it was proving to not be Spurs day.

But it was Villa’s Jordan Nobbs who claimed the winner, firing a powerful long-range shot past the keeper.

Nobbs had a chance to make it three and put the game to bed, but her strike was denied by the crossbar.

The home side pushed hard to find an equaliser in the latter stages of the game but were just not able to break down Villa’s defence and were not able to salvage a point by the final whistle.

Villa manager, Carla Ward, was happy with her team’s performance and the way they executed their game plan to exploit the home side’s weaknesses, whilst still missing striker Rachel Daly.

Speaking after the match, captured by Spurs Chat Podcast she said “Really delighted. Delighted with the win, delighted with the players. I thought they were first class, they gave everything today. I can’t ask much more of them. The mentality in this group is strong.“

The Lilywhites’ manager Robert Vilahamn was disappointed with the result and the team’s performance in the match.

Speaking to SPURSPLAY after the match, he said: “It’s a tough loss, the first half was not good enough. We didn’t really nail on how we were going to press them and we didn’t get playing the way we wanted to.”

After the international break, Tottenham Hotspur travel to the Emirates to face Arsenal in the North London Derby and Aston Villa host Liverpool.

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