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WSL Fight Night
With an undercard bout between Mayling and Cissoko
The Women’s Super League returned after the international break to quite a lot of drama, although not a lot of surprising results. Arsenal and Manchester United held onto their unbeaten records, whilst Manchester City picked up their first points of the season against Leicester. Chelsea survived a small wobble against Everton, and there were wins for West Ham and Tottenham. Still yet to have a single draw this season - WSL, wyd?!
Aston Villa 1 - West Ham 2
I traditionally think of Saturday lunchtime kick offs as being quite dull - something to do with the players not being fully woken up the weekend yet - but this match did not disappoint. Seriously, if you watched Leicester 0 - Crystal Palace 0 in the Premier League over this, I feel sorry for you.
West Ham took a quick 2-0 lead thanks to goals from Dagny Brynjarsdottir and Honoka Hayashi. However, as the game went on, Villa really settled into their rhythm and dominated the ball, although they created little. What should have been the breakthrough came when Villa were awarded a penalty for a Kate Longhurst handball. But instead of Rachel Daly taking it, Alisha Lehmann did to literally everyone’s surprise.
She missed and Kenza Dali’s very well taken goal was just not enough to get Villa over the line. Although West Ham’s Hawa Cissoko still had time to become the player to have been sent off the most times in the history of the WSL (3) after she hit Sarah Mayling.
Broadly, Aston Villa still looked like a good team, certainly a better team than they were last season but West Ham will not be the first team to twig that if you mark Rachel Daly well, you cut off a lot of Villa’s options. Carla Ward has got two early wins under her belt but she will need to develop some back up plans for when Daly is not able to get on the scoresheet.
Everton 1 - Chelsea 3
There is no doubt that this Everton side are a lot better than they were last year, and they know it too. They took the game to Chelsea early on here and Chelsea looked rattled. It might have been tiredness from the international break or a bit of anxiety about Emma Hayes not being there (she’s recovering from an emergency hysterectomy), but there were sloppy passes left, right and centre.
However, there is something last season Manchester United-esque about Everton, in that if you press them or turnover the ball at the right moments, you can have the run of the pitch. Chelsea tucked Lauren James inside from the right wing to make the most of this, creating a number of good opportunities that they could not finish off. Eventually Pernille Harder, making her first start of the season, was able to head in a cross from Guro Reiten.
Everton did threaten, with Jess Park being a particular issue for Magda Eriksson, and they equalised after an unmarked Gabby George headed the ball straight at Ann-Katrin Berger only for the rebound to ricochet in off Kadeisha Buchanan. But a Harder penalty and then a wonderful solo goal from Niamh Charles made this a fairly comfortable win for Chelsea.
Sidenote but Harder’s penalty was Chelsea’s fourth this season and they have used a different taker for each one in consecutive games. I don’t have the kind of database to check this but I would be amazed if any team had ever done that before.
Reading 0 - Arsenal 1
Arsenal created more than enough chances to win this one comfortably but they also almost contrived to not win it. Jonas Eidevall chose to use Lotte Wubben-Moy and Steph Catley in place of the injured Leah Williamson and Rafaelle, and against a better attacking side than Reading (say, perhaps, Lyon), I think this duo would have struggled. That being said, I’m not sure if there is a preferable pairing for Arsenal - Eidevall could maybe use Lia Walti but Arsenal would lose so much in midfield without her.
Stina Blackstenius scored the only goal with a good first time shot, but she should have had more, with Kim Little also missing a penalty (a very, very rare event). Reading certainly looked better organised than they had prior to the international break whilst Arsenal still don’t quite seem to be clicking, and Reading did have genuine chances to score in the last ten minutes. Arsenal have Manuela Zinsberger to thank for ensuring that they managed to escape back to London with three points.
Manchester United 4 - Brighton 0
Brighton’s defence seemingly did not make the journey north to play Manchester United this weekend. This was a breeze for a United team who went very attack minded from the start, using Lucy Staniforth in place of Hayley Ladd. Brighton were playing a back five, using Victoria Williams to step out with the ball. But there seemed to be no communication as to who was covering for her if she found herself out of position. On the right hand side of defence, Fox and Green were also repeatedly exposed by the pace of Leah Galton and United sailed through this match with ease with two goals for Ella Toone, one for Leah Galton and another for Adriana Leon. Brighton will need to make sure they are more organised for Sunday night’s visit from Chelsea.
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Manchester City 4 - Leicester City 0
Manchester City avoided the potential banana skin of what has appeared to be a well-organised Leicester City side, getting their first win of the season thanks to goals from Bunny Shaw, Lauren Hemp and Yui Hasegawa.
Interestingly, Gareth Taylor switched up his midfield configuration, moving Laia Aleixandri back into defence with Yui Hasegawa making her debut at the base of midfield. Before the season started (and before she moved to Manchester City!), I wrote about how I preferred seeing Hasegawa further forward, but clearly City do have to come up with a solution to their Keira Walsh shaped hole and Hasegawa is not short of vision or technical ability.
Taylor also used Esme Morgan at left-back in place of Demi Stokes which certainly offers City more dynamism behind Lauren Hemp. Ultimately, City will have tougher tests than Leicester but it is pleasing to see Taylor at least attempting to solve some of the issues that have plagued his side at the start of the season.
Tottenham 1 - Liverpool 0
There are certainly signs of this Tottenham attack beginning to come together as Nikola Karczewska and Celin Bizet started their first WSL match alongside each other, in a game which Spurs dominated. As well as Bizet’s cross being diverted into the net by Niamh Fahey, both Drew Spence and Ashleigh Neville hit the post. It’s still hard to imagine this Spurs side ever being particularly free flowing but they should clearly be good enough to beat most teams in the bottom third.
Liverpool meanwhile need to make sure that these recent losses to Everton and Tottenham do not get in their heads - they still have plenty of quality but upcoming fixtures against Arsenal and Manchester City will not make their next couple of weeks any easier.
Beyond the WSL, Arsenal and Chelsea both head to France this week to begin their Champions League campaigns against Lyon and Paris St-Germain respectively. I wrote a little preview of the group stages here - and these matches are the stand out fixtures of this week. You’ll be able to watch both on DAZN’s YouTube channel.