Five things we saw in the WSL this week

Sam Kerr’s debut, an upset at Manchester United, and a Manchester City goal fest: it’s been an eventful week in the WSL. Jessy Parker-Humphreys gives us the lowdown on the action.

1. Sam Kerr makes eventful debut as Chelsea overturn Reading

Chelsea 3 – Reading 1

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It was a rude awakening to the WSL for Sam Kerr as she was bundled over by Reading goalkeeper Grace Moloney after 18 minutes. With Kerr bearing down on goal, Maloney rushed from her penalty area, taking out Kerr and committing a handball in the process; she saw a straight red for her troubles. This was just one indicator of the trouble Kerr caused Reading. She had already blasted a shot over the bar having gone through on goal after only two minutes. Her back-heeled flick played in Bethany England for Chelsea to equalise, and her parried shot allowed Guro Reiten to ping in a peach of a goal. Kerr was a constant threat throughout, and she is already linking up well with England.

But it wasn’t all roses for this Chelsea team who went 1-0 down after an unmarked Fara Williams scored from the edge of the box. It was the sixth time this season that Chelsea had conceded first. Whilst they have not lost from any of those positions, it should concern manager Emma Hayes that this is a side who can still be slow to start.

2. Bristol City make ideal start to 2020 with Manchester United upset

Manchester United 0 – Bristol City 1

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This was Bristol City and Manchester United’s first ever meeting and it provided a result few would have predicted. Bristol City were able to overcome a Manchester United team who have otherwise proved a stern test for teams in the WSL. It was Ebony Salmon — Bristol’s bright spark throughout the season — who was able to break the deadlock against her former club. She skipped past Amy Turner and calmly slotted the ball beyond Mary Earps.

Manchester United threw everything at Bristol City who showed a much more resilient approach to defending than they have so far this season. Sophie Baggaley demonstrated what an impressive shot stopper she is turning into — it’s easy to imagine that if she was at a more fashionable club, she would be giving Ellie Roebuck and Earps a run for their money in the England goal.

3. Poor defending lets down Birmingham yet again

Arsenal 2 – Birmingham City 0

The defensive deficit in the Women’s Super League remained stark as Birmingham left gaping holes to allow Arsenal to take a comfortable lead — and it was only the rare occasion of Arsenal’s slightly off-the-mark finishing that kept the goal-count down to 2. Arsenal’s first goal saw Kim Little left unmarked by two Birmingham defenders on the edge of the six yard box, leaving her with acres of time and space to head home Vivianne Miedema’s cross.

A spectacular ball from Leah Williamson in defence allowed Jordan Nobbs to hit a looping volley on the bounce, but she was completely unchallenged by a Birmingham team who looked focused on subduing Miedema at the cost of defending against any other Arsenal player. They did manage to stop Miedema scoring — but unfortunately for them, Arsenal have more than enough other talent in their ranks to have no need to rely on her.

4. Tottenham capitulate to Manchester City’s superiority

Tottenham 1 – Manchester City 4

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Tottenham’s respect for Manchester City allowed City to run away with the first half at a Hive stadium that looked like it had seen much better days. Pauline Bremer and Ellen White in particular were given huge amounts of space with which to prepare their shots, and these are strikers who do not miss. Apart from an odd moment where Steph Houghton pushed over Rianna Dean who then scored the resulting penalty, Tottenham showed little to suggest they were even remotely interested in the match. It was only strong goalkeeping from Becky Spencer that kept the score down in the second half. Aside from Tottenham’s disinterest, City’s passing was a particular takeaway from this match, demonstrating how much Ellen White is really starting to bed into this team.

5. Brighton pick up vital points as Liverpool are unable to build on optimistic end to 2019

Brighton 1 – Liverpool 0

Disappointment beckoned for any Liverpool fans who hoped their 1-1 draw with Chelsea might spark something to propel them off the bottom of the table. The Reds instead dropped important points against fellow strugglers Brighton. Rinsola Babajide was notably profligate up front for Liverpool, and the Merseyside team are running out of opportunities to pick up points. Whilst it is still relatively close at the bottom of the table, Liverpool look unable to string together any scoring form.

Follow Jessy on Twitter at @jessyjph

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