Jessy Parker Humphreys looks at the key talking points from Women’s Football Weekend.
And so it came to pass, the Women’s Football Weekend that was in reality more like a Women’s Football Sunday. We pondered the staggered kick off times, we debated attendances, and in the end, the most exciting game had the fewest people there.
1. Ebony Salmon shines as Reading fail to hold onto an early lead
Reading 3 – Bristol City 3
This was arguably the least popular game of the ‘weekend’ in terms of attendance, but it delivered the most exciting result. Bristol City showed an impressive amount of resolve to come from behind twice after conceding an early quick-fire double and trailing 3-1 at one stage. The comeback was completed by 18-year-old Ebony Salmon who calmly rounded Grace Moloney in the Reading goal. Salmon is proving to be an influential option for Bristol, who have scored in every game she’s started this season and failed to score in all the games where she hasn’t.
2. Manchester City’s disciplinary record could come back to haunt them
Manchester City 5 – West Ham 0
This was supposed to be the match in which Manchester City bounced back from the malaise that seemed to have extended over the club following three consecutive losses in three competitions. City suffered a derby defeat to Manchester United in the Conti Cup, an exit in the Round of 16 of the Champions League and surrendered their position at the top of the WSL table, so it was vital they got back to winning ways.
City went in at half time 4-0 up, an energised trio of Jill Scott, Georgia Stanway and Ellen White caused West Ham all sorts of problems. It seemed like the cobwebs might have been blown out, until Georgia Stanway managed to pick up two unnecessary yellow cards in the second half, and the team were forced to play the last 25 minutes with 10 players. West Ham never looked like they would be able to overturn the five-goal deficit, although they definitely had chances to get on the scoresheet.
Stanway’s ban comes just as teammate Keira Walsh prepares to return from suspension. A lack of discipline is troubling this City team and losing key players in the middle of a title race won’t make catching Chelsea any easier.
3. Tottenham put up a fight but fail to hold on
Tottenham 0 – Arsenal 2
The North London derby in women’s football has always been a rather lopsided affair. In 2017, Arsenal beat Tottenham 10-0 in a game which saw Beth Mead make her debut and score. The deficit was reduced to 6-0 in a pre-season friendly this summer. In the context of Tottenham’s improvement, it would be harsh not to praise them for keeping the score at 2-0.
It was apt that Kim Little, who marked her return to Arsenal in that 10-0 victory two years ago, eventually broke the deadlock today. The Scot’s fantastic strike split Tottenham’s impressive defensive lines which had held strong for over 60 minutes. Once that concentration had lapsed, Spurs were unable to pick it back up. Miedema pounced on a poor back pass to secure the win.
4. Refereeing errors dampen Chelsea’s important win
Chelsea 1 – Manchester United 0
The quality of refereeing has been a consistent problem in the women’s game and Jack Packman didn’t do much to ease those worries in a match where poor decisions meant it was never able to get into its full flow.
Abbie McManus picked up a yellow for a challenge she was nowhere near, free kicks were given against players who had been fouled themselves, and there was a controversial Fran Kirby penalty, scored by Maren Mjelde. Millie Turner desperately protested that she had got a touch on the ball before bringing down Kirby, and whilst that seemed true in replays, she did take an awful lot of the England striker’s legs with her. The problem was that Packman’s earlier decisions made it seem like he didn’t really have control of the game and pushed this important moment into the spotlight.
Packman predominantly referees in the National League South – the sixth tier of men’s football. It is concerning that the FA think that level of refereeing is applicable to the top tier of women’s football – especially on a weekend where there were markedly fewer men’s games due to the international break.
5. Liverpool enforce damage limitation in the Merseyside derby
Liverpool 0 – Everton 1
When Liverpool announced that Anfield would play host to the Merseyside derby, you couldn’t help but worry that given their abject form, it would be best not to play in front of thousands of people. Fortunately, Liverpool were able to draw from the big stadium experience and actually dominated a game for the first time in the WSL this season. Unfortunately, they were unable to convert that dominance into points, as a goalkeeping spill allowed Everton to score. Hopefully Liverpool will be able to build on their performance and the crowd that supported them to become more competitive.
Follow Jessy on Twiitter at @jessyjph