The WSL In Focus: Manchester City Women See Some Clear Blue Sky

by | Mar 28, 2016

Perhaps it was the absence of a significant men’s league programme over the Easter weekend, perhaps it was a sign of the continued growing interest in women’s football as a spectator sport, or perhaps it was the rapid growth in interest in the Women’s Super League in the mainstream media. No matter what the rationale, a crowd of almost two thousand people turned out at the Academy Stadium in Manchester earlier today to see Manchester City Women continue their winning start to the new season in the Women’s Super League One with a comfortable two-nil win against Arsenal. City have now won two out of two to start their season following on from their one-nil win against Notts County last Wednesday, and their position at the top of the table was assured when Chelsea’s match against Liverpool at Staines today was called off on account of a waterlogged pitch.

On the da, City had a certain amount of luck on their side as well. Arsenal – who had begun their season last week with a comfortable win against Reading – hit the cross from a Fara Williams free-kick early on and then had to play seventy-seven minutes a player short after Jemma Rose was sent off for a reckless challenge on City’s Nikita Parris. In spite of this significant advantage, it took until early in the second half for the home side to finally snatch the lead with a Jane Ross header from a Toni Duggan cross, and City finally sealed their win with eleven minutes to play when substitute Dominique Janssen fouled Parris, which allowed Duggan to score from the resulting penalty kick.

This followed on from another slightly fortuitous three points for City in their opening match of the season, with Notts County perhaps being justified in feeling a little aggrieved at not taking anything from their trip to the Academy Stadium. Both teams missed penalty kicks in the first half, and it took until four minutes into stoppage time at the end of the match before a thirty yard free kick from Steph Houghton finally broke the deadlock. A win, of course, is a win, but this wasn’t the fluid sort of performance that manager Nick Cushing will have been hoping for if his team – which came into the match off the back of an FA Cup win against Liverpool – is to launch a serious bid for the title. Cushing got to see a considerably improved performance from the team against Arsenal, at least.

In spite of not playing today, Chelsea stay in second place in the table with a game in hand on Manchester City on account of their four-one win away to Doncaster Rovers Belles last Wednesday. An own goal from Doncaster’s Claire Rafferty, a penalty from Karen Carney and further goals from Katie Chapman and Eni Aluko were enough to seal the win for Chelsea, who had beaten the Belles by the same scoreline in the FA Cup the Sunday before, and although Manchester City currently sit atop the table, it’s Chelsea whose form is the most ominous so far this season, especially when we consider that they ended last season by winning a double consisting of the Women’s Super League and the FA Cup.

On top of the wins for Manchester City and Chelsea, another of the teams expected to challenge for trophies this season, Arsenal, had also kicked off their season last Wednesday with a comfortable win against Reading. Arsenal, who were the champions of England ten times in eleven seasons between 2001 and 2012 but haven’t lifted the trophy since, took a two goal lead with goals from Dominique Janssen and Asisat Oshoala before Jade Boho Sayo pulled one back for Reading, who were promoted into WSL1 as the champions of WSL2 at the end of last season. This, however, didn’t prove to be enough for them and a third Arsenal goal from Danielle Carter completed a comfortable win for the home side.

In their opening match of the season, Liverpool beat Birmingham City by a goal to nil at Widnes thanks to a goal from Shanice van de Sanden. It was, however, a more eventful evening at the other end of the pitch as Birmingham missed two penalty kicks, and the visitors most likely left somewhat disappointed at not having picked up at least a point considering these wasted opportunities and the sending off of Liverpool’s Mandy van den Berg. Reading, meanwhile, recovered from their opening day loss at Arsenal to pick up their first point of the season from a one-all draw at Sunderland, where Lois Roche’s deflected free-kick gave the visitors the lead before Beth Mead, who ended last season as the top goalscorer in the WSL1 with sixteen goals, brought Sunderland back into the game.

In the WSL2, meanwhile, spare a thought for Oxford United, who are bottom of the table after two matches despite being the second highest scoring team in the division. Oxford have scored four goals in their two matches, but lost both of them – five three against Millwall Lionesses and two-one against Aston Villa – and sit at the bottom of the pile on goal difference from Yeovil Town, whose trip to Watford today fell foul of the weather. Durham sit atop the table with two wins and two clean sheets out of two following wins against Sheffield and London Bees, but just below them are four clubs – Millwall, Everton, Bristol Academy and Aston Villa – who are separated by just one point. It may well be tight at the top of both divisions this season.

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