Five things we learned from the weekend’s WSL action

Jessy Parker Humphreys fills us in on the top talking points from this gameweek.


Manchester United rue missed opportunity to gain first WSL win over 10-player Manchester City

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When Georgia Stanway was sent off 35 minutes into the Manchester derby, you would forgive Marc Skinner for licking his lips. With City already on a three-game losing run, and now faced with playing with 10 for close to an hour, it seemed like United would never have a better opportunity to get a first WSL win over their cross-town rivals.

Yet United struggled to open up a stubborn City defence – no matter how makeshift it was. They were unfortunate to see a number of Leah Galton’s runs in behind called offside, despite being clearly onside, whilst Manchester City – playing a 4-1-4-1 out of possession – swamped United’s midfield two of Katie Zelem and Jackie Groenen.

United got more joy in the second half when Groenen was pushed higher up the field, making it easier to simply bypass City’s midfield block of four, but lax defending allowed City to score twice with only 10 players on the pitch. With two Manchester derbies played at the Leigh Sports Village Stadium, both have ended 2-2.


City find new level of intensity after Stanway sending off, with Lauren Hemp the star

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Stanway’s sending-off invigorated Manchester City who, despite having started brightly against Manchester United, found more of a spark when only 10 players were on the pitch. Key to everything they did was Lauren Hemp. Hemp has had a fairly quiet start to the season with only one goal and no assists in her opening five games, but here she was at her energetic best. No player had more successful dribbles then Hemp (4 – as per FBRef) or more carries (9).

Her slaloming runs managed to make Ona Batlle, one of the best fullbacks in the league, look entirely ordinary. Her unpredictability in whether she would cut inside or out opened up the space for Demi Stokes to cross in for City’s opening goal. If City are to take this match as a springboard, Hemp in this form will be key.


Much-changed Chelsea labour against solid Leicester City

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Emma Hayes made eight changes to the side who had drawn disappointingly against Wolfsburg during the week, but only a couple of players brought into the starting XI looked likely to retain their place in Hayes’ next selection. Chelsea struggled to create anything against a Leicester side who held their shape well, with inspired defensive performances from Ashleigh Plumptre and Kirstie Levell in goal.

By half time, Hayes had decidedly had enough and brought on Pernille Harder and Sam Kerr; but it took Chelsea until the 85th minute to break the deadlock. It was the longest a team has stopped Chelsea from scoring in the WSL since Arsenal managed to hold out until the 90th minute back in November last year. Chelsea have now extended their run of scoring in every WSL game to 56, stretching all the way back to October 2018.

Of the players who came in for Chelsea, it was Jessie Fleming who shone brightest, buzzing around throughout the game. Fleming made five key passes, more than anyone else, whilst also providing the assist for Harder’s breakthrough goal. Aniek Nouwen’s performance, meanwhile, might also have shown Hayes that there is an alternative to Jess Carter in her squad.


Tottenham’s unbeaten run ends at Brighton, leaving Arsenal as the only side with a 100% record

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Tottenham’s impressive four-game unbeaten run which had seen them keep the pace with Arsenal at the top of the table came to an end against Brighton. Brighton deserved the win, hitting the bar twice, as well as scoring two as Danielle Carter and Inessa Kaagman’s link up continued to flourish. Tottenham’s loss means Arsenal are the only side in the WSL yet to lose this season, and the Gunners showed no signs of slowing down against Everton. Two spectacular goals from Katie McCabe (who lobbed a goalkeeper for the second weekend in a row – although Sandy MacIver should have done better for this one) and Frida Maanum saw Arsenal ease to a 3-0 win. Right now, it feels hard to imagine any side taking points off them.


Reading finally arrive in the WSL this season

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“Wake up,” Kelly Chambers whispered to her Reading players. “This is the fifth game of the WSL and we’re all still asleep.”

Slowly, the Royals awakened from their slumber to beat Aston Villa 3-0 in a performance made up of three excellent goals from Amalie Eikeland, Rachel Rowe, and the returning Natasha Dowie. Anita Asante struggled to deal with the pace of Deanne Rose – the Olympic gold medal winner looks like she’s really starting to get to grips with the WSL – and her running across the front line seemed to distract Aston Villa’s defence.

However, despite the margin of victory, Chambers might want to give her players a little shake. They are still yet to manage an expected goals total over one in a game. The scoreline gives them a boost off the bottom of the table, but they are not out of the woods.

Follow Jessy on Twitter at @jessyjph

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