WSL: Five Things we noticed this weekend
Jessy Parker Humphreys gives you the lowdown on all the talking points from this gameweek’s action.
Miedema and Kerr remain neck and neck in the race for the Golden Boot
Vivianne Miedema may or may not have known that Sam Kerr had scored a first-half hat trick before she lined up to face Bristol City. Regardless, she made sure that the Australian did not keep her nose in front in the race for the Golden Boot by scoring two goals herself, leaving them both tied on 17 goals.
Miedema has a slight advantage in the number of games left to play: Arsenal have four remaining, and Chelsea only three. But regardless of the outcome, it is testament to Sam Kerr’s ability that she is pushing the WSL’s perennial leading goalscorer so close. It is not so long ago that some were doubting whether she would be able to ‘do it’ in the WSL.
Miedema has won the Golden Boot for the past two seasons. She is not the kind of player who you suspect thrives off individual awards, but she will be pushed to the wire if she is going to get a third.
Ward laments Birmingham’s mistakes as second ball slowness costs them
For much of the first half of their clash, Birmingham City frustrated Chelsea. They gave the Blues little time on the ball, stopping Chelsea from stringing together the kind of passing moves that would give them the fluidity to get a hold on the game. The frustration even caused captain Magda Eriksson to yell “keep the flow” at her players as she watched another wayward pass roll out of play.
Yet despite all that work, Birmingham found themselves three goals down at half time with the game all but over. Two of those goals came as a result of what Carla Ward described as a “lapse in concentration”, as Sam Kerr found herself first to second balls in the box. An Erin Cuthbert shot was palmed away by Hannah Hampton only to be tapped in by Kerr, before a Pernille Harder header hit the crossbar and was headed in.
The third was perhaps more about Kerr’s skill than a Birmingham mistake. Hayes said she thought Kerr was going to fly out the ground because of how high she jumped to head in Cuthbert’s pinpoint free kick, for her and Chelsea’s third goal.
Ward said she never expected to take points from this game, and in the second half, Chelsea were just comprehensively better. But things might have felt different if they had been quicker to those second balls.
West Ham finally click into gear in astonishing win over Reading
In his eighth game in charge, Olli Harder finally recorded his first West Ham win as manager, as his side dismantled Reading with a level of ferocity normally only seen by teams at the top of the WSL.
Harder has been setting up his side in a 3-4-3 pretty much since he arrived in east London, and it was perfect for a Reading side who were nervously trying to play out from the back. Kenza Dali, Martha Thomas and Emily van Egmond pinned the Reading defenders to the edge of the penalty area, making it easy for West Ham to turn over possession high up the pitch as Reading were unable to play round the press.
Time and again West Ham poached on loose passes and broke quickly, with Katerina Svitkova and Cecilie Kvamme giving their side the appearance of five attackers. It was an impressive and confidence-boosting 5-0 win for a side who only last week looked set to be drifting out of the WSL.
Aoife Mannion makes timely return to avert Manchester City injury crisis
Aoife Mannion made her first start for Manchester City in 536 days as a pre-match injury to Alex Greenwood gave her a late call-up.
Mannion had signed for City last season after consistently impressing at Birmingham and looked set to become a fixture of their defence before she picked up an ACL injury. The signing of Abby Dahlkemper and the conversion of Alex Greenwood to a centre back looked to have left her far down the pecking order at the club, even as she returned to the City bench.
Yet with Steph Houghton, Lucy Bronze and Alex Greenwood all picking up injuries, Mannion’s return to the side could be perfect timing, with City having just three essential games left to try and grab the title from under Chelsea’s nose.
Manchester United’s luck runs out as Brighton claim another scalp
Manchester United’s dreams of a Champions League place are all but over after they lost to Brighton in a match that was maybe more notable for the ducks than it was the performance.
United have looked stodgy in recent weeks, and although they took 16 shots in this match, only 2 were on target. They lost Lauren James to an early injury; with Christen Press also out of the squad, their team is becoming more and more threadbare.
Brighton, meanwhile, have now taken points off Chelsea, Manchester United, and Manchester City this season. Hope Powell will have her eye on their away fixture against Arsenal after the international break to complete the set.
Follow Jessy on Twitter at @jessyjph
Anyone who thought Kerr would somehow not thrive in the WSL was a fool, given her proven excellence.
Man U without Tobin Heath has been enormously less successful. Her on-field leadership is badly missed.