Five things we learned from the weekend’s WSL action

Jessy Parker Humphreys runs through the top stories of this gameweek.

Chelsea give up ground in WSL title race

Spare a thought for any WSL journalists who considered Chelsea’s comprehensive FA Cup victory as providing a significant psychological advantage in the title race. By Saturday lunchtime it was clear the opposite was the case, as Reading secured their first ever WSL victory over the titleholders.

It was the first time in 60 WSL games that Chelsea had failed to score, as they lost 1-0 having conceded early to a brilliant Deanne Rose counter-attack. Whilst the numbers looked comprehensive – Chelsea took 34 shots – they barely troubled Grace Moloney in the Reading goal.

Just as the FA Cup trophy made a dent above Millie Bright’s eye, so has this loss put a large dent in Chelsea’s season.

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Gemma Evans stars for Reading to send her side five games unbeaten

Despite Chelsea not looking at their most incisive on Saturday, it is hard to imagine Reading would have managed to keep their clean sheet without Gemma Evans. The Welsh defender made seven blocks and nine clearances as she accepted a one-woman mission to stop Chelsea from scoring. At points it was as if she was telepathic, positioned always where a Chelsea player was looking to shoot. Having played every minute of Reading’s season so far, her defensive solidity has helped Kelly Chambers’ side go five games unbeaten in a remarkable turnaround, after having lost the season’s first four matches.

Leicester’s high line allows Arsenal to make light work of the Foxes

It is always hard to implement a fresh approach when taking charge of a team, but Lydia Bedford may have wanted to wait for a more obliging opponent before testing out Leicester’s new-look high line. Despite stand-in goalkeeper Demi Lambourne’s best impression of a sweeper-keeper, Arsenal made light work of capitalising on Chelsea’s loss the day before. They matched their points advantage over Chelsea with their number of goals scored – four – to put to bed a torrid week which saw them conceding seven goals across two games.

The inclusion of Jordan Nobbs and Mana Iwabuchi in the starting line-up might have been an attempt to unlock the Leicester low block which has proved tricky, although never impenetrable, for other teams this season. Instead, it was the runs of Beth Mead and Nikita Parris which saw the Leicester defence looking hopelessly over their shoulders especially after Jemma Purfield saw red.

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Rejigged Manchester United get back on track at Brighton

Marc Skinner’s Manchester United had not won in the league since the start of October, so a 2-0 away win over third-place rivals Brighton could not have come at a better time. The addition of the much hyped but rarely seen Vilde Boe Risa gave United a level of control in midfield that has been missing for much of the season. Too often United have struggled to connect their midfield with the rest of the side, but Boe Risa’s inclusion helped link up play and stop them being overrun. The fact she scored the second goal, which was approvingly noted by former United manager Casey Stoney, only further justified her start.

Last-gasp winner saves Manchester City’s blushes at Birmingham

Every week, it is assumed that this will be the week that Manchester City get their season back on track, and every week only proves how mired they are in mediocrity. The fact that Birmingham City managed to double their season tally of goals in a 3-2 loss is met with a simple murmur and nod rather than the shock that might be expected if this was last season. This week’s drama involved City having a COVID-19 outbreak, with Janine Beckie and Keira Walsh both testing positive, and with the much-touted return of Lucy Bronze further delayed due to her having to self-isolate as a close contact. Whilst the introduction of Bunny Shaw enabled City to escape from the Midlands with all three points, the continued City slump is astounding.

Follow Jessy on Twitter at @jessyjph

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