By Andrew Crawshaw
Our Women completed their pre-season preparations by taking part in the Toulouse International Ladies Cup last weekend against three of the top teams in Europe – Montpellier and PSG from France with Bayern Munich being the fourth team involved.
Like the Emirates Cup each team played two matches, we were drawn against the two French Clubs, as were Bayern whom we didn’t have to play.
We took a 16 player squad with us, mostly due to long term injuries to senior players.
Goalkeepers – Sari Van Veenendaal and, new signing, Pauline Peyraud-Magnin-Magnin
Defenders – Emma Mitchell, Leah Williamson, Jessica Samuelsson, Louise Quinn,
Midfielders – Danielle Van de Donk, Jordan Nobbs, Kim Little, Lia Walti, Dominique Bloodworth (nee Janssen), Ava Kuyken (an 18 year old from our development squad)
Attackers – Vivianne Miedema, Katie McCabe, Lisa Evans and Beth Mead
Our first match was against Montpellier and we emerged winners by two goals to one.
Montpellier scored first somewhat against the run of play with a quick break, we should have equalised from the penalty spot but Little fired wide. We equalised on the stroke of half time thanks to Vivianne Miedema following a wonderful passing move.
Two substitutions, McCabe came on for Miedema (min 51) and Jordan Nobbs for Lisa Evans (in min 70). The second of these changes produced an immediate result as she set up Danielle Van de Donk for a close range header following a quick throw.
Two late substitutions saw Jessica Samuelson come on for Emma Mitchell and Ava Kuyken come on for Daniel Van de Donk. But there were no further goals.
The second match was against PSG which we drew two all.
We took the lead mid-way through the first half thanks to Beth Mead.
Pauline Peyraud-Magnin-Magnin replaced Sari Van Veenendaal in goal at half time but could do nothing to stop Lahmari equalising from close range and the game looked as though we would be lucky to emerge with the draw as PSG were in the ascendancy for much of the second half.
We gained a chance to win the match at the end when we were awarded a 90th minute penalty which captain Kim Little slammed home. PSG weren’t to be denied a share of the game however as their pressure in injury time provided an opportunity for Melike Pegel pouncing on a through ball which we failed to deal with.
Despite the draw we won the tournament with Jordan Nobbs being crowned best player and sari Van Veenendaal best goalkeeper.
Our domestic season commences on Sunday with a home match in the Continental Tyres Cup against West Ham on Sunday afternoon at Borehamwood with a 14:00 kickoff.
Tickets are still available and you can also pay on the gate.
The Continental Tyres Cup is the Women’s equivalent of the Carabao (League) Cup and is held in two phases. The 22 clubs in the professional leagues have been divided into four groups of 5 or 6 and each Club plays the others in the group once. The top two in each group then progress to a second knockout phase. We won the competition last year beating Manchester City in the final.
We are in Group 2 South comprising Arsenal, West Ham, Charlton Athletic, Lewes FC Women and Millwall Lionesses.
Group 1 South has 6 teams – Brighton and Hove Albion Women FC, Chelsea FC Women, Crystal Palace Ladies FC, London Bees FC, Tottenham Hotspur LadiesFC and Yeovil Town Ladies FC
Group 1 North has 6 teams – Aston Villa Ladies FC, Birmingham City Women FC, Bristol City Women FC, Leicester City Women FC, ManchesterCity Women FC and Sheffield United Women FC
Group 2 North has 5 teams – Durham Women FC, Everton Ladies FC, Liverpool FC Women, Manchester United Women FC and Reading FC Women
We should win our group quite comfortably, West Ham are the other top level team in the group but player for player we are better and our pre-season has shown that we have to a very large extent got over the heart in mouth playing out from the back phase and are now doing it calmly and confidently.
I would expect West Ham to be strong enough to progress in second place but last season Lewes surprised everyone by coming through their group and will be looking to pull off a similar feat this year.
Group 1 South should see Chelsea and Yeovil progress assuming that Yeovil have someone this year who can score goals (they finished bottom of WSL1 last season).
Group 1 North should see Manchester City win at a canter but I really have little idea who will be second.
Group 2 North should see Everton and Reading progress. Manchester United are a totally new team having bought their way in to the second tier of the Women’s game despite not having a team at any significant level for years. It will be interesting to see how they progress in their maiden season.
I would expect our squad to be the same as went to France last weekend and our likely starting lineup to be
Sari Van Veenendaal
Jessica Samuelsson Leah Williamson, Louise Quinn, Emma Mitchell
Jordan Nobbs, Lia Walti, Danielle Van de Donk
Katie McCabe, Vivianne Miedema, Beth Mead
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