Jessy Parker Humphreys brings you the biggest talking points from a weekend which saw Chelsea close the gap on league leaders Arsenal to five points.
Late show keeps Blues on Gunners’ coat-tails in title battle
With 91 minutes played at Kingsmeadow on Sunday, it seemed like Chelsea’s control in the title race was going to slip away from them. In a week that had been dominated by off-field issues, goalie Hannah Hampton had played brilliantly to keep the ball out of her net, as a Blues side without Pernille Harder or Fran Kirby were forced to labour with a front three of only Sam Kerr, Bethany England, and Guro Reiten…
However, Aston Villa’s inability to deal with a long bouncing ball from Chelsea goalkeeper Zecira Musovic allowed Kerr to run through on goal and from such close range, there was nothing Hampton could do. As Kerr wheeled away, whipping her shirt around her head in the air, the late 1-0 win was a reminder that while Chelsea have yo-yoed in form this season, they have not won back-to-back WSL titles for nothing.
Devastating Arsenal brush Brighton aside
After Chelsea’s last-gasp win, attention then turned to Arsenal with the pressure on the Gunners to maintain their points advantage at the top of the table, even though the Blues have games in hand. It became apparent within the opening 10 minutes that the visitors were not looking to hang around, with Megan Walsh forced into a barrage of stunning saves as Brighton looked at sixes and sevens from dead-ball situations. When Stina Blackstenius broke the deadlock after 24 minutes after Caitlin Foord shrugged herself free of Fliss Gibbons, it had long been coming.
Arsenal’s recent surge in confidence was only highlighted further when they scored their second just seven minutes later with Vivianne Miedema deploying a nutmeg assist for Beth Mead to finish. It finished 3-0 but in truth could have been much more. If you had to pick between them and Chelsea as to who was less likely to drop points before the end of the season, you’d have to choose the red corner.Embed from Getty Images
Manchester United easily exploit Reading’s high line…
Much has been made in the men’s game as to how the advent of VAR has emboldened sides like Liverpool who play incredibly high lines, because they know that any offside will be sussed out through technology after the fact. It was unclear whether Reading thought the same support might be in place as their back four camped out on the halfway line, allowing Ella Toone and Alessia Russo to repeatedly thread balls between them for Leah Galton, who put United two up inside half an hour, and Martha Thomas to run on to.
Reading did get some help from the lack of technology though, as an Ona Batlle goal was not given despite being closer to the back of the net than it was the line itself. Unfortunately for them, Russo took it upon herself to correct that particular injustice by simply scoring from the edge of the penalty area to seal a 3-1 win.
But their defensive concerns remain
While United were racking up the goals going forward on Saturday, their defence were doing their utmost to undermine them. Once again, Hannah Blundell was the obvious culprit with a telegraphed pass being easily intercepted by Reading to allow Deanne Rose to equalise in the 16th minute. But there were a number of moments where United looked careless in possession with a midfield duo of Jackie Groenen and Katie Zelem not exactly screaming defensive solidity. Having a midfield player prepared to drop back and help support the build-up play could surely iron out some of United’s errors. They might have finished this game 3-1 winners but it could easily have gone in a different direction — and they would only have themselves to blame.
Spurs’ Champions League hopes dashed by City defeat
Manchester City continued their recent good form by downing yet another Champions League rival, beating Tottenham 1-0, although the hosts did not make it easy for them. Gareth Taylor’s side were unable to force Spurs goalkeeper Becky Spencer into a save until right at the end of the first half, and it was only a penalty-box scramble that allowed them to score the only goal from Caroline Weir. By the time it went in, Tottenham looked exhausted after Lucy Bronze had been given the freedom of the pitch. Rehanne Skinner will be disappointed her side only managed one shot on target, with their Champions League hopes now fading away.
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