FA Women’s Super League – Round-Up…

In the penultimate weekend of the FAWSL, Manchester City maintained their spot at the top of the table, but with their loss this weekend, and Chelsea still with a game in hand, the fight for the title will be down to the wire in the season’s final weekend.

Arsenal maintain their third place and the fourth spot has a battle of its own as Liverpool’s win over Manchester United gives them a chance for their best league finish since 2016/17…

Everton 1-1 Tottenham Hotspur

After picking up their first point against Arsenal in twelve years last weekend, Everton came out guns blazing against Tottenham but had to settle for a draw after the North Londoners were able to change the game in the second half.

For a side ravaged by injury this season, some may not have expected a strong start from The Toffees, but they were ahead in ten minutes.

It was Sara Holmgaard, recently back from injury, who was on the score sheet for Everton, her powerful shot making it past Becky Spencer in goal to open up the scoring.

Just five minutes later, they doubled their lead when Justine Vanhaevermaet’s close-range effort found the back of the net, Spurs failing to clear a corner out of the danger zone.

The home side continued to press throughout the first half, seeking out a third against the North London side.

Tottenham did have some of their chances and Courtney Brosnan between the sticks for Everton was made to work to keep their clean sheet.

The visitors finally found a way through just ahead of the break, when Drew Spence took advantage of a mistake in the Everton defence to earn a goal back for Spurs.

As the second half began, momentum began to shift to Tottenham’s advantage, with Bethany England making it two with her shot from close range, just minutes after the restart. Another mix-up in the Everton defence allowed Spurs to get back into the action.

Tottenham were able to get a strong hold on the game and looked likely to go ahead thanks to Jessica Naz, but she saw both her chances go wide of the mark.

The Toffees were unable to repeat their first-half performance and were only spared a defeat due to Tottenham being unable to make the most of their chances and possession.

Everton’s keeper Courtney Brosnan was also key in keeping her team in the game until the final whistle, seeing off efforts from Wang Shuang, Kit Graham, Martha Thomas and another from Bethany England.

Everton manager Brian Sorenson was frustrated to have to settle for points shared after a strong first half.

Speaking to Everton TV, he said: “I have no idea what happened in the second half. We’re lucky that we actually got a draw. Really disappointed because we show in our first half we could comfortably put this game to bed and don’t let them in at all, but unfortunately we did.”

Lilywhites’ manager, Robert Vilahamn was impressed with his team’s persistence to come from behind to earn a draw at Walton Hall Park

Speaking to www.tottenhamhotspur.com, he said: “That’s the strength we have and the character we have in the group to keep going and keep playing our style of football and that’s why I think we will be really good in the long-term.”

Next up for the teams, Everton travel to Bristol City and Tottenham host West Ham after their big FA Cup final at Wembley next week.

Manchester City 1-2 Arsenal

Despite being out of the title race themselves, Arsenal had a chance to affect the title race, as picking up any points at the Joie Stadium would make City’s run in at the title a bit more uncomfortable.

With Chelsea dropping points midweek, Arsenal’s inconsistent form as well as City being on a fourteen-game unbeaten streak and Arsenal having not beaten them at home since 2017, City may have been forgiven if they’d predicted three points on the board at the final whistle.

The home side were the strongest of the two in the opening minutes of the game and were unlucky not to go ahead inside six minutes.

Leila Ouahabi picked up a cross from Lauren Hemp, but her shot went wide and came close again when a Chloe Kelly free kick found Laia Aleixandri but the effort was blocked.

Arsenal pushed on and had a chance of their own when a pass from Victoria Pelova found Frida Maanum, but Khiara Keating in goal for City was able to thwart her effort.

But it was City who scored first, thanks to Lauren Hemp in the 17th minute. In a crowded penalty area, Hemp was able to power her shot into the bottom right corner and the Arsenal defence was powerless to stop it.

Just moments later, Alex Greenwood came close to doubling City’s lead, when her header from a Mary Fowler corner went over the crossbar.

This was followed by a strong chance by Chloe Kelly, who was set up by Jess Park, but without a strong connection on her shot, it didn’t have the power to trouble keeper Manu Zinzberger between the sticks.

Arsenal had looked disconnected and lack-lustre throughout the first 45 and struggled to get out of their half. As the teams went in at the break, there seemed little hope of The Gunners causing any upset in the title race.

As the second half began, there were signs of improvement from the visitors, with manager Jonas Eidevall having made a change to the lineup, bringing on Kim Little in place of Frida Maanum.

The game started to open up a little, and Arsenal saw a few more chances on the horizon to find the equaliser.

Laia Codina’s effort after a cross by Beth Mead came close but was just wide of the goal. Mead tried to set it up again but her cross into the box didn’t have anyone in red and white to get on the end of it.

But City were not done with their task, and Manu Zinsberger did well to deny City their second when she was quick to react to Mary Fowler’s effort from close range.

The half-time introduction of Kim Little had shifted the game a little more in their favour and Eidevall brought on fresh legs past the hour mark, with Blackstenius, Catley and Foord replacing Lacasse, Fox and Cooney-Cross. 

Mead again came close for Arsenal after a mix-up by the keeper but couldn’t capitalise on the mistake and sent the ball straight back at Keating in goal.

Blackstenius and Foord brought some lift into the attack and combined well, but Foord’s chance went agonisingly wide of goal. It was not Arsenal’s day and it seemed to be another game that summed up their season of ‘what might have been’.

There was another change just past the 80-minute mark for The Gunners, with Laura Wienroither, newly returned from injury, brought on for Katie McCabe.

It all seemed to be said and done for Arsenal, but just one minute from normal time, a corner from Beth Mead started a pinball effect in the box, and it eventually fell to Stina Blackstenius who was able to send it past Keating for the equaliser.

After a disappointing first half, Arsenal could have settled for points shared, but with nine minutes of added injury time, they had time, just three minutes later to clinch another goal.

Kim Little whipped a cross into the box, and it was again Blackstenius who was able to get on the end of the ball to head it home to put her team ahead in dramatic fashion.

It was a long final few minutes of injury time, and Arsenal were able to hang onto their last-moment hold on the game, bringing the three points home to North London. A much-needed boost for the visitors and a punch in the gut to the home side. City were left to rue not putting the game to bed with more goals and out of Arsenal’s reach when they had the chance.

Manchester City’s manager Gareth Taylor was asked how his team will move on from the defeat, going into the crucial last game of the season.

Speaking to BBC Sport, he said: “We’ve always really reacted well from negative results, I thought it was a bit tough on us today I thought a draw was probably a fair result. The girls will be fine.”

Arsenal manager Jonas Eidevall was very happy with the team’s comeback in the second half and how important it was to win away at City for the first time in seven years.

Speaking after the match to BBC Sport, Eidevall said: “Our performance was very strong today. I think we got the result we deserve, not many teams can do what we did here today and we should be very proud of that.”

Looking ahead, Manchester City travel to face Aston Villa and Arsenal host Brighton & Hove Albion.

West Ham United 1-1 Leicester City

With both teams without a win in four games, both sides were eager to get three points on the board and make a strong showing at the end of the season races into view.

The Hammers started brightest of the two, with an effort from Anouk Denton, forcing a save from Leicester City’s Janina Leitzeg in goal.

They were then rewarded with a goal inside of fifteen minutes.

Riko Ueki, who was recently voted Women’s Young Hammer of the Year, was set up by Honoka Hayashi and sent her shot past Leitzeg.

Despite scoring first, West Ham looked shaky they had gone ahead, and eventually, Leicester found a way back into the game. 

Just past the half-hour mark, Sophie Howard headed home for The Foxes equaliser, a result of a corner from Jutta Rantala.

The first half had continued evenly matched, with neither side able to create anything clear-cut to find the winner to take the three points.

Into the second half, West Ham had a chance for a second, Vivianne Asseyi came close with a header set up by Jessica Ziu.

City began to turn things around and the home side was forced to fight to stay in the game.

City probably came closest to the winner and thought they had when Janice Cayman sent the ball over the line, but the goal was ruled out due to a foul on Hayashi by City’s Lena Petermann in the build-up play.

Captain Mackenzie Arnold between the sticks for West Ham, recently awarded Women’s Hammer of the Year, kept her team in the game, making several important saves in the second half.

A close-range chance from Saori Takarada was parried away by the Australian international, and it was Arnold’s gloves again to clear a shot by Yuka Momiki.

As the final minutes ticked on, Leicester City almost nabbed a late winner, but the effort rattled the crossbar and the final result was a point a piece.

West Ham manager Rehanne Skinner was pleased with her team’s performance and although there was a drop in the second half, the team held on to earn a point from the game.

Speaking to www.whufc.com, she said: “I thought we started brilliantly, it was great that we scored twelve minutes up. We want to keep building on that and getting more consistency. Second half they have some good chances, there were still chances to win for us to win it, but on the balance of it, probably a draw was fair.”

Foxes interim manager, Jennifer Foster had said ahead of the game that it was going to be a tough test to face The Hammers at home but was disappointed not to get the win on the day.

Speaking to Leicester City Women’s social media, she said: “We should be coming here and getting three points. We created them and if you don’t take them then you don’t win the games. Hugely disappointed.”

Next up, West Ham travel to face Tottenham and Leicester City host Liverpool.

Chelsea 8-0 Bristol City

With their loss midweek putting a dent in their title hopes and increasing the chance of Emma Hayes leaving her twelve-year tenure at Chelsea without any silverware for the season, The Blues answered their critics in style with a dominant and relentless performance at Kingsmeadow.

Bristol City’s relegation was confirmed last weekend, so although they had little to play for but their pride, they may have hoped to have put up a better fight against a rattled Chelsea side, but were unable to offer up anything in the way of goals.

With announcements this week of the departures of Fran Kirby and Marin Mjlede at the end of the season, emotions were high as the team took to the field at Kingsmeadow for the last time under Hayes.

The home side were ahead inside of six minutes, with a penalty scored by Guro Reiten, her first of what would be four goals for the Norwegian international.

By the 23rd minute, they had doubled their lead after a scrappy goal from Sjoeke Nusken found the back of the net.

The visitors did grow into the game in the first half, offering some counter-attacking threat in the form of chances by Carrie Jones and Amalie Thestrup, but with both opportunities missed in the first half, going in at the break they will have needed to drastically improve to have any hope of making a dent in Chelsea’s attacking force.

Just over ten minutes into the second half, Aggie Beever-Jones made it three for the Blues, her strike was set up by Erin Cuthbert’s through ball.

Chelsea continued to be ruthless in their attacking press, and Reiten’s second of her four came in the 56th minute, with substitute Catarina Macario setting up Reiten’s hat trick with a clever reverse pass.

Niamh Charles made it six just four minutes later, with Guro Reiten netting her four just a few minutes later.

As the crowd chanted “We want eight!”, they were rewarded with their wish in the 88th minute as Beever Jones headed home her second of the night.

As the final minutes ticked down, City were spared a conceding a ninth, with sighs of relief from the visitors and scenes of jubilation for both the home side and the crowd.

The annihilation of City wiped out the six-goal advantage that Manchester City held over Chelsea, so the style of the win was a massive statement to their rivals.

Manager, Hayes was delighted with the performance off the back of an uncharacteristic loss to Liverpool midweek.

Speaking to Sky Sports, she said: “I said to the players that our job was to be ready. Today was another opportunity for us to get closer to something that was slipping out of our grasp. I am so proud because everything Chelsea represents are days like today.”

The Robin’s manager Lauren Smith reflected on the heavy defeat and how it will influence how they go into the last game of the season in the WSL.

Speaking to Bristol City Women’s social media, she said: “It was a tough evening that’s for sure. Chelsea are an unbelievable side, they’ve shown tonight why they are title contenders. We have to come back in, get ourselves ready because we want to finish strong at home and that’s what drives me and I’m sure that will be the thing that drives the squad. We know that our home support has been amazing, and we owe them something.”

Next up for the teams, Chelsea play their final game in hand against Tottenham mid-week, then travel to Manchester United, and Bristol City host Everton.