Football Features

WSL: Arsenal, Man City and Chelsea move away from chasing pack | Week 11

By Harry Edwards

Published: 16:56, 6 January 2020

The first Sunday of 2020 marked the return of the FA Women’s Super League after its winter break.

Holders Arsenal were looking to tighten their grip at the top of the league when they hosted Birmingham City, while second-placed Manchester City took a trip to Tottenham Hotspur.

Chelsea, the only unbeaten team left in the division, were hoping to keep close to the top two sides with a positive result against Reading after entering the break four points off the top. Elsewhere, Manchester United hosted Bristol City, Brighton faced Liverpool and West Ham were scheduled to take on Everton.

So, what went down in 2020’s first taste of WSL action?

Arsenal 2-0 Birmingham

Story of the match: On a superb winning streak going into the game, Arsenal took the lead after just nine minutes thanks to Kim Little and doubled their advantage midway through the first half with Jordan Nobbs scoring. Things were much more even after half time but Birmingham’s struggles continued and they were unable to get back into the game.

What does this mean for the WSL table? Arsenal remain in control of the WSL, sitting three points clear at the top while Birmingham drop to 10th.

Player of the match? Jordan Nobbs worked tirelessly in midfield and capped off a fine performance with a goal.

Key moment: Although Vivianne Miedema’s assist for Kim Little was a delight, Nobbs’ goal put Arsenal in total control and it was some effort. Leah Williamson’s long ball cut out the Birmingham defence and perfectly found Nobbs, who lifted it over the goalkeeper after one bounce, looking so calm as she pulled off a difficult shot.

In their words…

“We were clinical today when we needed to be and we probably should have been more clinical.” – Joe Montemurro, Arsenal manager.

“It was not a bad first half but we gave them some important advantages and made mistakes to give them the opportunity to score.” – Marta Tejedor, Birmingham manager.

Brighton 1-0 Liverpool

Story of the match: Liverpool went into the winter break with an impressive draw with Chelsea but are still awaiting a first win after being brought back down to earth by Brighton. Vicky Jepson’s side were unfortunate not to get a point after piling on the pressure in the second half but positive signs do continue to show.

What does this mean for the WSL table? Liverpool sit bottom of the table, three points off 11th, with Brighton moving up to ninth — six points clear of the Reds.

Player of the match? Goalkeeper Megan Walsh had to be at her best to keep Liverpool out in the second half and stood strong.

Key moment: It wasn’t the prettiest of goals but Aileen Whelan’s third strike of the season is probably her most important so far. With Brighton putting Liverpool under pressure in the first half, the Reds were unable to deal with a high cross headed back across goal by Maya Le Tissier for Whelan to tap in. It put the Seagulls in control and ultimately won them three points.

In their words…

“It was a dogfight today and fortunately we won the fight.” – Hope Powell, Brighton manager.

“We definitely deserved something, but if you don’t score a goal you can’t expect to win.” – Sophie Bradley-Auckland, Liverpool captain.

Chelsea 3-1 Reading

Story of the match: Chelsea’s unbeaten start to the WSL campaign continued on Sunday but they had to come from behind to beat Reading. Fara Williams gave the visitors a shock lead before they were reduced to 10 players, allowing Chelsea to take control. Although there was no debut goal for the much-heralded Sam Kerr, her performance did bring an assist, setting up Bethany England’s equaliser. Guro Reiten’s wonderful strike and Erin Cuthbert completed the comeback.

What does this mean for the WSL table? Chelsea remain third, opening up an 11-point gap to fourth-place while Reading also stayed where they were in sixth.

Player of the match? Bethany England equalised for Chelsea and saw her diving header lead to Cuthbert’s goal, while also showing early signs of a deadly partnership with Kerr.

Key moment: If you haven’t already, go and watch Guro Reiten’s goal to put Chelsea in the lead. However, that wasn’t the key moment of the match. That arguably came in the first half with Reading 1-0 up. Chelsea had upped their attack after going behind and Kerr was racing onto a loose ball. Sensing danger, Reading goalkeeper Grace Moloney raced out of her area but caught Kerr rather than the ball and was sent off for the foul, helping to tip the game in Chelsea’s favour.

In their words…

“This team is one of the best in England for sure and hopefully we can be the best in Europe.” – Sam Kerr, Chelsea striker.

“We were more comfortable but the red card was a killer for us.” – Kelly Chambers, Reading manager.

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Manchester United 0-1 Bristol City

Story of the match: A result nobody expected, Bristol City got their first win of the season away at Manchester United. The Vixens had to survive an onslaught after Ebony Salmon gave them the lead against her former club, but they did so. United will be left cursing their missed chances, showing they are still some way off the top three although it is their first WSL season.

What does this mean for the WSL table? Bristol City moved off the bottom of the table with their first win and sit three points clear of Liverpool, while United remain fourth but are further away from the top three.

Player of the match? Sophie Baggaley made a number of impressive saves to keep her sheet clean and was instrumental in Bristol City’s first win.

Key moment: As previously mentioned, Baggaley was excellent in preserving Bristol City’s lead but one save stood out more than the rest. With United pushing late into the second half, Ella Toone launched a shot towards goal from outside the area. Looking destined for the top corner, Baggaley managed to get a hand onto the effort and push it out for a corner.

In their words…

“I take full responsibility as the leader of this team and will work tirelessly to try and improve what went wrong today.” – Casey Stoney, Manchester United manager.

“When you have a keeper like that, performing the way she did, that gives you the chance to compete.” – Tanya Oxtoby, Bristol City manager.

Tottenham Hotspur 1-4 Manchester City

Story of the match: This was all over before half-time with all five goals coming in the opening 45 minutes, starting with Pauline Bremer’s strike after just two minutes. The lead was doubled shortly after through Ellen White but Tottenham got back into the game via a Rianna Dean penalty. But goals from Bremer and Hemp sealed the win for the visitors.

What does this mean for the WSL table? Man City remain three points behind Arsenal and one ahead of Chelsea in second place, while Tottenham are seventh.

Player of the match? Ellen White was directly involved in three of Man City’s four goals, scoring one and providing two assists.

Key moment: Even though Man City took the lead after two minutes, it was still plausible for Tottenham to turn things around. However, they were given a harder task when White doubled the lead with a fine strike. The English striker received the ball on the edge of the area from Janine Beckie and allowed herself space to adjust before beating Rebecca Spencer with a powerful effort. A reminder of why Man City signed her.

In their words…

“The players have to sometimes regroup themselves and it’s about them learning from those experiences and working on themselves.” – Karen Hills, Tottenham head coach.

“I’m really pleased with the performance and how clinical we were, and I think this game had the potential to be a bit of a sticky game.” – Nick Cushing, Manchester City manager.

West Ham P-P Everton

Story of the match: Unfortunately, not all teams were in action this weekend with West Ham’s game against Everton postponed. Unlike previous postponements due to pitch problems, this one was called off on Friday evening due to a “significant outbreak” of a flu virus in the Hammers squad.

An FA spokesperson said: “Player welfare is of paramount importance and the decision has been made to postpone the match in accordance with Barclays FA Women’s Super League Rule 11.3.8.”

What does this mean for the WSL table? Even with their lack of action, other results mean both Everton and West Ham have kept their spots in fifth and eighth respectively.