Chelsea beat Manchester City in what was the highlight clash of the weekend in the Women’s Super League, but the game’s result — a shot in the arm for the defending champions — will be consigned as an afterthought because of the refereeing calls on an evening of high drama.
First, the occasion itself. The defending champions against the team with, arguably, the deepest squad in the league. Both teams had already dropped points this season and the clash would essentially serve as a title eliminator — even if it is actually too early in the season to use that phrase.
Chelsea dominated possession through the first half and the incident that changed the course of the game arrived in the 35th minute, Erin Cuthbert’s shot on goal ricocheted off City defender Demi Stokes. Almost immediately the referee, suspecting handball, pointed to the spot. Except, the ball didn't hit Stokes’ arm at all and the referee, in a case of mistaken identity — due to poor positioning — believed it had hit the City striker Ellen White on the ricochet. White, was behind Stokes when the incident happened and had her arms up in the air. The ball though was nowhere near her.
Inasmuch the penalty — and the subsequent goal scored by Maren Mjelde— was undeserved, Chelsea were duly rewarded for their dominance and went into halftime separated by one goal in a match that looked to be settled by fine margins.
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The Blues kept up where they had left off in the second half, but visibly eased off when it came to pressing their opponents, who were finding more opportunities to attack. It didn’t mean much though, because Chelsea were ruthless in exploiting spaces on the counter. And Sam Kerr, the Australian with a huge reputation buoying her skills, made no mistake, poaching in perfectly to connect with Fran Kirby’s cross to double Chelsea’s lead. City did conjure hopes of a comeback with a penalty of their own in the 73rd minute — another questionable handball call in a season where this will undoubtedly be a regular feature — but Kirby slotted home a third 10 minutes from time to give Chelsea a much deserved three points in this make or break encounter.
Everton Keep Rolling
There is something happening in the blue side of Liverpool these days. What it is nobody quite knows yet. Everton’s men side have been the talk of the town in the Premier League this new season, scoring goals at whim, with Don Carlo orchestrating a band of misfits into world beaters. The women’s team have matched them step for step. Four games, four wins. High profile signings in the summer. The Toffees are flying, league no bar.
Their latest victory, a 3-1 result against West Ham, may not have had the excitement of their previous big results (6-0 against Aston Villa) or the shock quality of their Cup victories (2-1 against Chelsea). But it was a reminder that there is genuinely a new team in town, serious about its ambitions and with enough grit to fulfill them.
French striker Valerie Gauvin’s arrival in the summer may have been one of those under the radar coups that wasn’t written enough about, but make no mistake, anyone who needs to notice has noticed that Everton have a brilliant squad at their disposal now.
If they keep their eye on the ball — quite literally — and manage to see off Brighton next weekend, they will go into the first week of October, unbeaten, top of the table to face the defending champions Chelsea. Get a result there and people may stop raising those quizzical eyebrows for a bit. There is a footballing revolution underway at Everton. It may be too early to judge the revolution’s effect but its safe to say that something is underway.
Small Margins and Pride
It is important to remember that Manchester United’s women team have only been in the WSL for one season as a professional outfit. That season being the one just gone by. The same is true for Tottenham Hotspur, whose women team were in fact promoted behind the Red Devils at the same time.
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It is testament to perhaps the competitiveness at the lower edges of the table — and an indictment of how far the gap to the others is — that United lost a Cup game midweek to Liverpool, a side that had been relegated last season.
“I asked for a reaction, I asked for a little bit more physicality and battle and I definitely think we got that,” United head coach, Casey Stoney said discussing her side’s performance against a Tottenham side, that for its lack of results has plenty of good PR riding behind them thanks to the superstar Alex Morgan’s inclusion in their ranks.
A reaction she got, even if it came at the end of a mostly dour, draining encounter decided by one goal scored in the 67th minute by Millie Turner — a regular now in United colours. Morgan was missing in action for Spurs, but United had enough American star power of their own with Tobin Heath and Christen Press both making their debuts over the weekend.
Stoney reinforced the importance of having them in the squad. “Those stories that they can share, you can’t buy those. They’re World Cup winners. They’ve played with some of the best players in the world.”
No doubt the Spurs co-managers Karen Hills and Juan Amoros share similar sentiments about Alex Morgan. The American superstar was present on the bench, but, to the disappointment of all Morgan watchers, never came on to the pitch. Which is a pity because it’s her position on the pitch that Spurs’ most need firing. Their lack of edge up front has been exposed constantly this season, and while stories and experience inspire the future, goals are important for the present.
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