Jessy Parker Humphreys looks at the main talking points from the Women’s Super League matches at the weekend.
Manchester City find devastating form
Manchester City marked seven years as a professional club with a comprehensive 7-1 victory over Brighton. Whilst it was fitting that captain Steph Houghton celebrated her record 150th WSL appearance with two goals, Caroline Weir was the real star of this performance.
Weir could have had a hat-trick within the first 20 minutes with Brighton unable to cope with her late runs into the box. Georgia Stanway’s more central position drew defenders out leaving space for Weir to dominate.
Brighton had frustrated City earlier in the season in a 0-0 draw but the visitors have firmly clicked into gear since then. Having averaged 1.6 goals in their first five WSL games, they have gone on to score 4.8 in their next six.
Gareth Taylor appears to have found a formation that clicks. When Rose Lavelle and Sam Mewis return from international duty, he will have to decide whether it sticks.
Iwabuchi gives Aston Villa cutting edge
Mana Iwabuchi helped Aston Villa come from behind to earn a draw for the first time this season. Having looked bright in her brief debut against Manchester City last weekend, the 2011 World Cup winner was an assured attacking presence, scoring one goal and assisting another in the 2-2 draw with Reading.
Iwabuchi was central to much of Villa’s play, taking more touches than any other player on her side. But beyond just her involvement in the game, Iwabuchi brought a confidence on the ball which combined with her exceptional decision-making ability to create a real threat.
Her part in the equaliser saw her slide into the Reading penalty area almost unnoticed playing one-twos before setting up Diana Silva. It was the antithesis of opportunities Villa have created in the past where players have picked the wrong option and seen the moment pass.
With Iwabuchi in the side, Villa look likely to be much more ruthless in front of goal.
Reading’s inability to kill games off proving costly
Reading’s draw with Aston Villa meant that they have now dropped eight points from winning positions this season. Despite creating better chances and seeing much more of the ball, they were unable to see out a game once again.
It was a similar story against Arsenal last week. Reading lack the composure in front of goal to take the opportunities that are afforded to them. But at the same time, they do not have the defensive resolve to hold onto the slim leads that they take.
Jess Fishlock stood out once again for her immense work rate. Her through balls and clever reverse passes deserved better finishes, whilst defensively her block for Stine Larsen’s shot helped Reading pick up a point.
Yet despite her best efforts, the team around her remains unable to click.
Manchester United show strength in numbers to beat Birmingham
Birmingham have been no pushovers this season and so it proved again against a Manchester United side hoping to bounce back from their first defeat of the season against Chelsea last week.
United had the vast majority of possession but struggled to break through a resolute Birmingham defence, with Hannah Hampton once again on top form in the Birmingham goal.
Yet when the Blues’ concentration faltered, the hosts were ready to pounce. Lauren James’ cross at the start of the second half was turned in by Leah Galton and it never really felt like Birmingham would have the energy to bounce back as they lost 2-0.
James was making only her second start of the season and it was testament to Casey Stoney’s team how threatening they looked without either Tobin Heath or Christen Press. The 25-minute run out offered to German wunderkind Ivana Fuso only served to emphasise how much more is still to come from United.
Emily Murphy shines at WSL level
Birmingham’s struggles to build a complete squad this season have been well documented. Their signing of Emily Murphy from Chelsea on a short-term deal looks like a masterstroke from manager Carla Ward.
The 17-year-old had already impressed on her debut against Brighton last week and looked equally assured against Manchester United. Despite having only previously played 26 minutes of WSL football prior to her arrival in the Midlands, Murphy has comfortably slotted into the Birmingham side.
Her link-up play against United saw her finding pockets of space between their defence and midfield, with a number of passes played through towards Claudia Walker almost coming to fruition. Murphy looks set to offer Birmingham a footballing intelligence well beyond her years.
Follow Jessy on Twitter @jessyjph