Goals, drama but no winner at Manchester City
Manchester City and Chelsea played out a brilliant 3-3 draw, full of relentless end-to-end action, quality play, and the pendulum swinging. There were periods when you were sure Chelsea would go on and win it and 10 minutes when it seemed a City victory was inevitable – we might not have seen the best of either team, but the entertainment was top-level. The league now takes a break while England compete in the SheBelieves Cup, and speaking to the managers afterwards they both agreed that the break will be an opportunity to recharge the batteries and change things up a bit. After a few months of seeing the same faces and hearing the same voices training has maybe become a bit flat, and you could see that in some parts of the game. The City forward Lauren Hemp was the player of the match, had the better of Maren Mjelde all game and nipped in ahead of the Norway captain to score the final goal of what was a stunning game – the last time two members of the top three will meet in the league this season – and make it 3-3.
Everton’s new era off to limp start
In front of a sell-out crowd at their new home ground at Walton Hall Park, Everton found themselves 3-0 down with a little over an hour played – a nightmare start. United had lost two and drawn two of their six previous league games but had obviously had a word with themselves, recommitted and they owned the first half. Willie Kirk must have really fired up his players at the break because they came out and played with a lot of pride in the second half. The wind was awful and affected the game in some ways and Storm Dennis should probably get the assist for Everton’s second as Lucy Graham’s cross flew into the net, but the damage had been done. Still, this is a positive moment for Everton. They have their own facility, just down the road from Goodison Park, which can draw in local fans. It’s small, but it’s a home – for a team that has previously played at Southport and Widnes, which aren’t anywhere near, this is a big step, a big commitment, and a sign of the ambition that Everton have for the women’s team. Not a good result, but a great occasion for the club.
Liverpool shamed by side’s slide
Sadly there are no positives to be drawn across the city at Liverpool. Like Everton, Vicky Jepson’s side scored a couple of late goals, but having been 4-0 down it wasn’t even nearly enough. Liverpool had kept only one clean sheet this season but they’re normally hard to score against – a fortnight ago they had not conceded more than two in any game this season. Now they have let in seven goals in two matches, and it was a bit jaw-dropping to see them fall so far behind against a West Ham side coming into this game on the back of 8-0 and 2-0 defeats. Matt Beard and his squad have done a lot of soul-searching, and the players responded. With Bristol City winning, Liverpool are now bottom of the league, and I think it is a bit embarrassing to see a club produce a men’s side having unparalleled success, thanks not only to having the best players and coach but also the best training facilities and backup staff, and a women’s side not being given the platform to compete. Nobody is questioning the players, who are well organised and work their socks off but just aren’t getting the results they need. The club need look around at what their Premier League counterparts are doing and consider if they are pulling their weight, but at the moment they are heading for relegation.
Victory lets Spurs start forward planning
As a game this was ruined by Lea Le Garrec’s first-half red card. I didn’t think the first yellow was needed, but once you’re on a booking you’ve got to be clever. Instead she made a rash decision and with only half an hour played her team were down to 10. There was never going to be much between the teams – even with an extra player Spurs needed a penalty to win it – so a sending-off was inevitably going to be decisive. Despite this defeat Brighton have almost certainly got enough to avoid relegation, but now Tottenham are far beyond any sort of worry on that front. This means they can already look to next season, start fixing budgets and identifying possible signings. It is such an advantage if you’re safe at this stage of the season, and in their debut WSL campaign Spurs have earned respect from other clubs and from prospective players. Good as it has been they will want to improve things in the summer, and the ability to get to work already puts them ahead of other teams, including Brighton who – like the weather – will surely have calmer, sunnier times ahead but for now still have to cope with the clouds and the wind.
Can Birmingham’s senior players come to their rescue?
A massive victory for Bristol City, who move off the bottom and will now be buzzing, full of belief that they can avoid relegation. For Birmingham this was a kick in the teeth, a result that sent them down to 11th and means they are in real peril. It has been a tough season for the Blues, given the number of players they lost pre-season, and they also had to cope here without their playmaker and senior player, Lucy Staniforth, who was suspended after having an argument with a fan during an FA Cup win at her former club Sunderland a week earlier. They have a young squad with a few senior players – Staniforth, Rachel Williams and Kerys Harrop in particular – whose nous and experience will be invaluable in what remains of the season, and could still be enough to keep them up. Birmingham would have been expecting to finish in mid-table this season, and the question now is how they will react to suddenly finding themselves in the thick of the relegation fight after a run of five league defeats. They would have seen this game, against the league’s bottom side, as a chance to get out of it, and there will be a feeling of deflation now. They will need those senior heads if they are going to get through this.
This season BT Sport is airing more women’s football than ever before, with live coverage of the FA Women’s Continental Tyres League Cup Final 2020 between Chelsea and Arsenal this Saturday 29 February on BT Sport 1, from 5pm.