by Andrew Crawshaw
Whilst I was at the Emirates on Saturday watching our men’s team at last play some football and score more than one goal Chelsea Women had a lunchtime game against Reading. In the fourth minute they had a defensive lapse and Deanne Rose raced through to score past Zećira Mušović who was selected ahead of their normal goalkeeper Katarine Berger.
It was a heavily rotated squad and maybe Emma Hayes, their manager, underestimated Reading. Reading hung on to their lead like glue and at full time that was the score one – nil to Reading probably the biggest upset in the league this season so far.
As I have said before I would expect Chelsea, ourselves and an on-song Manchester City routinely to beat all of the other teams in the division and the matches between those top three to decide the first, second and third places in the table. Three points dropped by Chelsea outside those games could well put the Championship out of reach.
Yesterday’s games saw Manchester United beat Brighton 2 – 0. They were generally on top albeit that the bits I saw had Brighton defending well and making chances to score but not quite finding the final pass. United took the lead on the stroke of halftime and added a second midway through the second half.
Everton drew with West Ham one each, a first-half goal by West Ham’s Zaneta Wyne being cancelled out by a second-half strike by Tony Duggan. Both teams are comfortably in the mid-table pack and should be clear of any relegation issues.
Birmingham City played Manchester City. Birmingham had only a solitary point from their opening eight games having scored only two goals. Manchester City have had a terrible start and had lost four of their first eight games conceding 16 goals (five against Arsenal). Christine Murray put Birmingham ahead from the penalty spot. Georgia Stanway equalised for City six minutes later. Birmingham went ahead in the 40th minute through ex gunner Louise Quinn only for Manchester City’s Lauren Hemp to make it all square just before halftime. The second half was mostly Manchester attacking and Birmingham defending resolutely and they made it to the 89th minute before Ellen White got a winner for Man City. So nearly a second point for Birmingham.
Aston Villa were at home to Tottenham in the first of the evening kickoffs. They took the lead in the 18th minute only to concede a penalty 11 minutes later making that game one all at the break. Rachel Williams got a second for Spurs midway through the second half to lift them up to third place in the table.
We had the last kickoff time and were playing Leicester who are propping up the foot of the table having lost all of their first eight games, they had scored three and conceded 19. The question was would Arsenal also rotate our squad massively or would we keep things reasonably normal and use this game to regain some confidence following our defeats by Chelsea in the Cup Final a week ago and also to Barcelona in mid week?
Our starting eleven was
Lydia Williams (GK)
Anna Patten, Simone Boye Sørensen, Lotte Wubben-Moy, Katie McCabe
Mana Iwabuchi, Jordan Nobbs, Lia Walti
Nikita Parris, Vivianne Miedema, Beth Mead
A degree of rotation but nothing extreme. Would this be the game where Nikita Parris would get her long-delayed 50th WSL goal and how many would Viv score were my first thoughts. None of the substitutions caused me any concerns. A good solid team and well capable of getting the job done.
Leicester lined up with a 4 – 5 – 1 formation, which always fills me with a sense of dismay and usually means a parked bus behind a train. But that wasn’t how Leicester played it as they were lined up with their back four virtually on the halfway line and squashed the play into the middle third.
The lineup looked suicidal at times. Time and time again in the opening exchanges our forwards were caught out starting their runs just a fraction too soon. When they were onside Demi Lambourne, the Leicester goalkeeper, got away with coming out of her area to get to the ball before our forwards could reach it.
It was a rather strange tactic that took a little working out. They rarely presented a threat to our goal, not surprising with their record of three scored in 8.
Eventually our pressure did tell and, midway through the first half, Jordan Nobbs scored from a Miedema assist. Just after the half-hour mark Miedema was on the scoresheet herself after a great through ball found Nikita Parris onside and she crossed the ball for an easy finish. Just before halftime Nikita was through again only for Jemma Purfield to pull her back. Red card I thought and pleasingly that’s exactly what the referee produced. She had already produced two yellows for Leicester players in the opening exchanges, again quite correctly in my opinion.
The second half was rather muted, things not quite going to plan. We kept attacking, Leicester defending. Miedema on another day could have had a hat-trick, Parris kept working very hard and trying to score, a couple of times I thought that she had better options with colleagues better placed in the box but despite being down to 10 players Leicester somehow managed to have someone in the right place at the right time.
On the hour mark Eidevall freshened things up; Viktoria Schnaderbeck replaced Boye Sørensen (CB for CB), Kim Little (MF) replaced Beth Mead and Steph Catley replaced Katie McCabe at left-back. 10 minutes later Frida Magnum (MF) replaced Viv Miedema and it was this that proved the key to unlocking the Leicester defence as she scored twice with great headers in 10 minutes after coming on. Her first from a Jordan Nobbs cross, the second from Steph Catley. Teyah Goldie got a few minutes at the end replacing Lotte Wubben Moy.
The final score: an emphatic 4-0 and we certainly made the most of Chelsea’s slip up.
Nikita Parris still has to wait for her 50th WSL goal, at the moment she can’t buy it. I really hope for her sake it comes soon as I’m sure it is getting to be a bit like an albatross on her shoulders. Once that is lifted I’m sure we will see a lot more from her.
These matches leave the League table like this:-
|4||Brighton and Hove||9||5||0||4||12||9||3||15|
|7||West Ham United||9||3||4||2||12||11||1||13|
So we now have a bit of daylight between us and Chelsea, all other things being equal it could be important, come the end of the season.
Birmingham and Leicester are both in lots of trouble at the foot of the table and need to find a way of getting some points quickly. At the moment one or other will be relegated.
The rest of the teams are in a real battle to try and get into the third-place Champions League qualification spot. Manchester City have the pedigree over recent years but are still looking far from convincing. They should get there with the players they have in their squad but still need to do more.
We have two more games this coming week – away to Hoffenheim in the last match of our Champions League Round of 16 group on Wednesday evening. 20:00 kickoff and live on DAZN and also Arsenal.com. We will qualify as second in our group unless we lose by an aggregate of five goals or more which is extremely unlikely as we won at Borehamwood by 4 – 0 earlier this year.
Next Sunday we have a WSL game at Borehamwood against Brighton 18:45 kickoff and this one is definitely on the FA Player, if not being shown by any other source. I won’t be at this game (singing in the Carole Service at Church) so if any other reader fancies doing a report it will be warmly received by Tony. (Email firstname.lastname@example.org)
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