Five things we noticed in the weekend’s WSL action
Jessy Parker Humphreys takes us through the top talking-points from the Women’s Super League this week.
WSL title race blows wide open as upsets abound
This weekend’s WSL results firmly put an end to any thoughts that the title race was done and dusted. In the space of four hours, a Chelsea loss, a Manchester United loss, and a Manchester City win turned a five-point gap between first and third into a two-point one.
The results represented much more than just a mathematical tally. Chelsea’s loss was a particular shock as their 33-game unbeaten WSL run ended. Meanwhile Reading became only the second side, after Chelsea, to beat Manchester United this season. They have now taken points off Arsenal, City, and United.
More broadly it demonstrated that for all the talk of the uncompetitive nature of the league, it still offers plenty of upsets. On top of which all of Chelsea, Manchester City, and Arsenal have now dropped more points this season than they did last.
Ellen White’s spectacular finish sends her ahead in the all-time goal-scoring records
When Vivianne Miedema broke Nikita Parris’ WSL goalscoring record, Ellen White was surely hoping for a payback moment such as this.
White has played in the WSL since its inception and was also on the cusp of breaking that same record. When Chloe Kelly fizzed a cross into the box, White demonstrated that goalscoring tallies are a marathon, not a sprint. Pivoting her body to volley past Manuela Zinsberger in the Arsenal goal, White leapfrogged Miedema to become the WSL’s leading goalscorer with 55 goals. The fact that it set City on their way to a win will surely have made it even sweeter.
Playing with Lauren Hemp and Chloe Kelly either side of her has rejuvenated White, who never really seemed to get into her stride in her debut season at Manchester City. Whilst she is back in goalscoring form, the Miedema-White competition is unlikely to be resolved any time soon.
Disjointed Chelsea display leaves them frustrated by Brighton
Few people would have bet on Brighton being the side to end Chelsea’s unbeaten run, but a mixture of dogged defending and Hayes’ rotation left Hope Powell’s side victorious.
Chelsea undoubtedly missed Millie Bright’s height in conceding two goals from corners, with Carly Telford also being seriously at fault for the second one.
Hayes’ attacking changes left Chelsea without a plan. Guro Reiten looked unsure at what space she was expected to take up, with Sam Kerr drifting out to the left wing and Jonna Andersson pushing higher up the pitch.
The problem was only compounded when Reiten and Bethany England were substituted as Chelsea continued to put in crosses without any central striker to aim at. Brighton defended diligently and rarely looked like conceding even at 1-1.
Hayes has relied on having a deep squad this season and had clearly looked to rotate ahead of an important mid-week match with Arsenal. The irony is that that game has become even more important following this loss.
Manchester United’s defensive lapses cost them against Reading
No one has ever pulled off a more severe look in a bobble hat than Casey Stoney managed on the sideline. It would have been particularly infuriating for Stoney, a no-nonsense defender in her playing career, to see her team once again lose due to a lack of defensive concentration.
Manchester United and Reading were evenly matched for much of the game – these were the two sides who press the most in the WSL, but United looked the more tired of the two. Perhaps tiredness explained why Natasha Harding was first able to bundle the ball over the line from a corner, before Danielle Carter headed in unmarked from an Emma Mitchell free kick.
United’s title challenge has been impressive, but without the depth of squad that Manchester City and Chelsea have, it looks like it might be beginning to wane.
Mana Iwabuchi shows Spurs the value of having a goalscorer
In a game of few chances, Mana Iwabuchi demonstrated the value in having a player who can create something from absolutely nothing. Iwabuchi’s rocket of a shot was the decider as Tottenham’s bright start under Rehanne Skinner looked to have truly deflated.
Skinner’s decision to take off Jessica Naz and Rosella Ayane at half time showed how she has inherited the same issue as Karen Hill and Juan Amoros. Tottenham have plenty of young strikers but no one they can rely on. Faced with the constant rotation, the players struggle to build relationships with those around them.
Meanwhile, Aston Villa now have a player who they can structure their play around. It might not work every week, but when you know she can score the way Iwabuchi does, you know you’ve always got an opportunity.
Follow Jessy on Twitter @jessyjph
United without Heath is much less strong than with Heath, putting added pressure on the defense. Heath is not just a dangerous attacker, but a fiery leader.
At City, Dhlkemper may have played more minutes in 2 games than Lavelle has in her entire time there.