Five things we learned from the weekend’s WSL action
Jessy Parker Humphreys looks at the big talking points from the gameweek two Women’s Super League matches.
Tottenham end Man City’s four-season unbeaten WSL home record
To say that the City Academy is a fortress would be an understatement. You have to go back to the 2017/18 season to find the last time Manchester City lost a WSL game there – a 2-0 defeat to Reading. In fact, Tottenham’s shock 2-1 victory was also City’s first loss to a side outside the ‘top three’ for 1,222 days.
The defeat was not without its controversy. Tottenham’s second goal should clearly have been disallowed for handball after a bizarre set of circumstances saw Rosella Ayane palm the ball onto Steph Houghton’s shoulder who in turn sent it goalwards, where it hit the post and went in off Karima Benameur Taieb.
But when Manchester City went 1-0 up after only six minutes, the expectation was that they would wrap the match up quickly and easily. Instead, the Sky Blues fell into the same hole as they did last season in draws with Brighton and Reading, of creating chances but being unable to convert. Now Gareth Taylor, still stinging from their Champions League exit to Real Madrid, must somehow find a way of convincing his side that they have not already thrown away their season.
Skinner’s super subs boost Spurs’ belief
Tottenham could easily have scored twice against Manchester City even without Ayane’s helping hand. Jessica Naz was sent through one-on-one only to fire wide, with Spurs having already got back into the game thanks to a goal from Rachel Williams. The big difference was the introduction of Kit Graham and Chioma Ubogagu. Both players immediately injected a greater sense of urgency to Tottenham’s play when they came on with Ubogagu’s runs, in particular, stretching out City. The opener came from their link-up play, and it seems like Skinner might have finally hit on the attacking combination that works for her team.
Kerrby return helps gets Chelsea back on track
The first goal of the season is important to any striker, but few are gifted as easily as Sam Kerr’s was. At the start of the second half, having received a pass from her goalkeeper Sandy MacIver, Megan Finnigan calmly sidefooted the ball to her on the edge of the area who only had to pass the ball into an empty net. Kerr will not have to work less for a goal for the rest of the season.
In truth, for much of Chelsea’s 4-0 win over Everton, she still looked a bit off the pace. Her manager Emma Hayes rued the number of opportunities Chelsea missed, despite still scoring four goals.
Her partner in crime, Fran Kirby, however, barely missed a beat the entire match. From her backheeled flick to try and send Kerr through on goal after eight minutes to her sidefooted strike into the far corner to open the scoring, the forward looked a level above almost everyone on the pitch.
Most exciting of all for Chelsea fans was the increased link up between Pernille Harder, Kerr and Kirby. After a disappointing defeat to Arsenal last week, Chelsea already feel back in their groove.
Brighton blow Birmingham away in historic victory
Hope Powell’s side were in devastating form against Birmingham City as they scored five to record their biggest ever win in the WSL. With spectacular goals from Danielle Carter and Kayleigh Green, Brighton used long balls and set pieces to rip the hosts apart. There was a noticeable sense of confidence about the way they played with five different scorers, evidence of their range in front of goal. Their last season finish of 6th is something few people expected them to better but with seven goals scored and none conceded, Brighton currently sit top of the WSL.
Foxes’ counter-attacking prowess hindered by leaky defence
Manchester United had extra motivation to come away with three points in their visit to Leicester City at the King Power stadium. Their FA Cup exit at the hands of the Foxes was Casey Stoney’s last game in charge at the end of the season and represented something of a nadir for the club who suddenly looked directionless. The 3-1 scoreline will have offered some sense of revenge but it also showed how dangerous Leicester have the potential to be.
According to Opta, the Foxes have the highest ‘direct speed’ of any team in the WSL. This means they progress the ball up the pitch quicker than anyone else. Against United, it was possible to see how deadly this could be with Leicester catching United’s defence out of position several times but being unable to really benefit from it.
However, their defensive frailties left them far too much work to do against Manchester United. United’s second and third goals came from Leicester being unable to clear the ball effectively from the box. There is evidence that this Leicester side could cause teams real problems going forward, but they must tighten up at the back if they want to pick up points from it.
Follow Jessy on Twitter at @jessyjph
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