WSL: Five things we learned from the weekend’s action

Jessy Parker Humphreys looks at the big talking points from the weekend’s WSL action as Manchester United stay top of the table. 

An ode to Tobin Heath as Manchester United retain top spot

Aston Villa 0 Manchester United 2

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Tobin Heath’s socks seem to fall lower with every Women’s Super League game she plays. Perhaps it is evidence of her continued comfort playing in this Manchester United team with the American looking increasingly at home. It is generally accepted that Sam Mewis has been the American to have settled best in England, but Heath is surely coming a close second.

This weekend’s game against Aston Villa was no exception. Even when United looked frustrated by their opposition, Heath was constantly there, chasing every ball. It would be easy to expect a World Cup winner such as her to want to wait for the ball to reach her, but Heath was consistently the most engaged player on the pitch. 

Making eight key passes, four more than anyone else in the team, Heath was picking out attacking options and creating space where it seemed like there was none. Her threat was highlighted in United’s second goal as Aston Villa goalkeeper Lisa Weiss rushed out from her line to prevent Heath running in, only for Ella Toone to then lob her. 

If more players had latched onto Heath’s mindset, the scoreline would have been greater than two.

Emma Hayes goes all guns blazing as Kerr comes good

Chelsea 3 West Ham 2

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Looking down at the teamsheet ahead of this game, there was good reason to feel worried for managerless West Ham. Emma Hayes decided to roll the dice by starting all three of her superstar attacking options in Pernille Harder, Sam Kerr and Bethany England, as well as Fran Kirby and Ji So-Yun. 

Yet for all of the attacking talent, this was no walk in the park for Chelsea. Part of the problem was that with Ji and Harder behind her, England was unable to drop deep leaving her quite isolated for much of the game. Chelsea got much of their joy through Harder and the returning Kirby’s combinations with Kerr demonstrating for the first time in a Chelsea shirt her clinical goal scoring ability. 

The result looks closer than the game was with Mackenzie Arnold in the West Ham goal doing well to keep out a number of fierce shots from Melanie Leupolz and Kirby but the fact that West Ham scored two might warn Hayes off from playing such a top heavy team again. 

Everton fail to learn their lessons as Weir’s crosses sink them

Everton 0 Manchester City 3

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How quickly narrative can shift in football. A loss here and City would have been in freefall – their ability to secure a Champions League spot in serious question. Instead, they were able to repeatedly take advantage of Everton’s weakness in the air.

Everton had struggled with Manchester City aerially previously. Here, it was Gemma Bonner who headed home from a corner, where it was Sam Mewis who scored in the same situation to give City the lead in the FA Cup final. Centre-back Rikke Sevecke was clearly a big miss; her substitution earlier in the season had also precipitated Everton’s collapse against Chelsea. 

Meanwhile Caroline Weir, who had been replaced in midfield by Laura Coombs in the Manchester derby, firmly staked her claim for inclusion with a trio of crossed assists. Gareth Taylor looks to have staved off any questions about his management for now. 

Rehanne Skinner leads Tottenham to first WSL win this season

Tottenham 3 Brighton & Hove Albion 1

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Alex Morgan was able to put her Continental Cup penalty demons to rest as she scored her first goal in a Spurs shirt to seal a promising win for the club. With new manager Rehanne Skinner handing Morgan the most minutes she has managed so far, her impact was clear to see. She looked particularly influential in the air, twice using her strength to head the ball out wide to Angela Addison, with Addison scoring from one of the resulting balls. If Skinner is to resurrect Spurs’ season, persuading Morgan to activate her contract extension until May will be key.

Sophie Baggaley stars as Reading record fourth consecutive draw

Reading 1 Bristol City 1

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Bristol City showed that the counter-attacking display they demonstrated against Tottenham before the international break was no fluke as an exceptional performance from Sophie Baggaley meant they held Reading to a draw. 

It was a counter-attack from Bristol City which had given them the lead as Ebony Salmon demonstrated once again what a complete forward she is becoming. Her composure on the ball allowed her to set free Charlie Wellings, who squared sensibly to the incoming Emma Bissell to give Bristol the lead. 

Reading peppered the Bristol City goal taking 32 shots and recording an xG of 3.5 but only managed to score once, giving them a fourth consecutive 1-1 draw. Bristol City have struggled considerably this season but Tanya Oxtoby can certainly take heart from their past two performances.

Follow Jessy on Twitter at @jessyjph

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