Five things we learned from the WSL action

The league’s only just returned after the international break and the title race has already been blown wide open by results this weekend, writes Charlotte Stacey.

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Bunny rises to the top

Manchester City striker Bunny Shaw has been nothing short of excellent this season and her performance against Everton yesterday was no different. The Jamaica forward was instrumental once again in build-up play and in creation, being involved in both of City’s goals in their 2-1 victory over the Toffees. Shaw earned her second assist of the campaign, as well as her eighth goal, meaning she leads the way for the number of goals scored in the league this term, with all of them coming from open play. As City climb to fourth place in the table, it is clear that Shaw has made her mark as City’s number nine since the retirement of Ellen White.

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Glory, glory for Man United

A grounded display from the Red Devils brought the Gunners’ record-breaking 14-game league winning run to a grinding halt in front of 40,000 at the Emirates. United were the dominant side for a large portion of the first half and were eventually rewarded with a back-post volley from Ella Toone. Arsenal responded early in the second half through the in-form Frida Maanum and followed this up with a stunning debut goal from full-back Laura Wienroither. Despite their 2-1 lead, it felt as if Arsenal never held a strong grasp on the game as they were uncharacteristically disjointed, loose in possession, and almost felt defeated before they had lost.

Part of this could be down to Arsenal’s growing injury list which now sees regular starters Leah Williamson, Rafaelle Souza and Kim Little all gracing the bench. Little’s absence, in particular, was felt in Arsenal’s midfield, yet the calibre of the players in the Gunners starting XI should have yielded a performance of higher quality. On the other hand, United were aggressive when pressing, slicker in transition and not a single head dropped for even a second throughout the different phases of the match. Arsenal were ultimately the cause of their own undoing when two uncontested headers from Millie Turner and Alessia Russo turned the scoreline on its head and secured a 3-2 win in the final stages — much to the delight of travelling United fans.

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Zelem delivers deadball masterclass

Manchester United captain Katie Zelem played an integral role in the Red Devils’ victory in London. The England midfielder earned two assists from her exquisite deadball deliveries taking her total to five assists so far this term. Where Zelem’s lack of physicality and pace can at times prove detrimental, her eye for detail and her precision on the ball certainly give United an edge from set-pieces, which could prove to be a defining factor this season.

Arguably, Zelem’s performance against Arsenal was her best in a United shirt. From both deadball situations and in open play, the midfielder was near faultless. Offensively, in facilitating chances and, defensively, in limiting Arsenal’s threat with interceptions and clearances. In fact, to grossly oversimplify and strip it to its bare bones, the actions of Zelem this weekend have blown the title race wide open.

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Chelsea thrill at Stamford Bridge

Emma Hayes’ return to the touchline was a pleasing one as Chelsea comprehensively beat Tottenham 3-0 at Stamford Bridge. A crowd of 38,000 turned up to catch the London derby and Blues supporters were not to be disappointed as Sam Kerr put them ahead just 12 minutes in. Kerr, a serial pest for Spurs, netted her sixth goal against the visitors in five matches with a smoothly taken finish that alluded three Tottenham defenders.

An unmarked Erin Cuthbert then doubled the lead with a magnificent half-volley on the edge of the area that will no doubt be up there for Goal of the Season. A penalty earned by the illusive Lauren James saw Guro Reiten put the game to bed from the spot 36 minutes in and the Blues cruised through the second half to earn a crucial three points. Spurs were not wholly outplayed and showed glimpses of positive front-footed play at certain points, but their defensive lapses meant the mountain was just too high to climb.

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First draw of the season

Eight weeks in and we finally have our first draw of the season. Brighton looked to be on track to earn their second consecutive win of the season since the departure of former manager Hope Powell late in October. Yet some late drama concluding with goals from Shanice van de Sanden and an extra-time equaliser from Rachel Furness, meant Liverpool quashed the Seagulls’ lead and secured a 3-3 draw. Brighton will be disappointed to have wasted a two-goal cushion but will be satisfied to have at least added something to their points tally. Similarly, a single point could prove vital for Liverpool who may well find themselves in a relegation battle, having only earned four points so far.

Follow Charlotte on Twitter @char_stace

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