WSL: Five things we learnt this week

Jessy Parker Humphreys recaps a week that saw Chelsea and Manchester City play out a thrilling draw, Leah Galton inspire Manchester United and West Ham stun Liverpool. 

Chelsea walk away with slim advantage after thrilling title-decider

Manchester City 3 – Chelsea 3

In the end, a draw was both the best and the most exciting result for this game to finish with. It feels almost impossible to take much away from a match where the momentum swung so violently from one team to the other for its 100 minute duration. 

Six different scorers, a penalty miss and over 10 minutes of added time at the end of the half all contributed to a game where tactics seemed to go out the window. The result leaves the title in Chelsea’s hands. They remain undefeated and while they still have seven games to play, it would be understandable if they felt they had one hand on the trophy. It always feels glib to describe matches as “advertisements for the women’s game” – as if women’s football has to constantly prove its worth – but the breathless intensity of this one meant it soared above any kind of advertising. Instead it demonstrated why we love football so much, by allowing us to watch 22 players use every ounce of their physical ability to try and win. 

Bristol City take slender advantage in relegation battle

Birmingham City 0 – Bristol City 1

Sometimes in a relegation fight you have to rely on your star players to step up and be counted, and Ebony Salmon once again gave Bristol City a crucial advantage over Birmingham in the relegation battle. Salmon, 19, has been a revelation for Bristol this season. They have only managed to pick up one point from a game she hasn’t scored in (and that was a 0-0 draw). This was another composed finish as she ran through on goal, and there are likely to be many suitors for her over the summer. As for Birmingham, they haven’t managed to pick up a point since their victory in the reverse fixture in December, and they are running out of winnable games. It will be a case of keeping an eye over their shoulder at Liverpool’s form as we head into the final third of the season. 

Leah Galton inspires United’s return to winning ways and ruin Everton’s party

Everton 2 – Manchester United 3

If Everton were hoping for a bit of excitement to kick off life in their new home, they certainly got it, even if it didn’t pan out quite the way it expected. Everton have struggled with attendances when playing at Stockport this season so it was gratifying to see the opening fixture at Walton Hall sold out (albeit with a reduced capacity at the moment). The distance between Everton’s men’s and women’s grounds was only the third greatest in the league – both Brighton and Reading are further apart – so this will provide an interesting opportunity for the club to prove they can gain momentum. If the games provide as many goals as this, attending will surely be an attractive prospect.

Leah Galton’s return to the Manchester United team after injury provided a much-needed injection of creativity into the side, and she doubled her goals tally. Some poor goalkeeping from Mary Earps allowed Everton to get back into the game but Manchester United held on for the three points. Earps’ recent drop in form will be a worry for Phil Neville though. With Ellie Roebuck having to be stretchered off during the Chelsea game and Carly Telford rarely starting for Chelsea, that goalkeeping position doesn’t seem so nailed down for the SheBelieves Cup which starts next week. 

Matt Beard stuns former side as Liverpool’s improved form slips away

West Ham 4 – Liverpool 2

West Ham’s erratic run of form continued as they stormed into a four-goal lead against Liverpool before conceding two later on. Matt Beard punished the side he won the Women’s Super League with back in 2013 and 2014, something that seems hard to believe so set in is the rot at Liverpool Women’s team now. Seemingly as a result of a lack of interest now, Liverpool’s lack of depth has only been highlighted by the loss of Rinsola Babajide, who has led their line throughout the season and has recently started hitting the back of the net. Without Babajide, Liverpool have not had anyone near effective enough at holding the ball up, and despite Rachel Furness’ stellar contributions, it is hard to see how they lift themselves off the bottom of the table.

Arsenal use FA Cup game to try and give slight advantage ahead of the Continental Cup Final

Arsenal 2 – Lewes 0

Arsenal took a while to warm up in this FA Cup fourth-round tie that had been delayed due to the storms but eventually won comfortably thanks to goals from debutant Caitlin Foord and Danielle van de Donk. The delayed fixture allowed Arsenal to rest a number of key players including Leah Williamson and Vivienne Miedema, with Joe Montemurro clearly having one eye on the Continental Cup Final against Chelsea taking place next Saturday. With Chelsea being stretched through a mammoth high intensity game, Montemurro’s side will surely feel like they have the physical advantage, which given how Chelsea decimated them only three weeks ago in the league, they will want to make the most of.

Follow Jessy on Twitter at @jessyjph

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