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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Suzanne Wrack, Sophie Downey, Renuka Odedra and Emily Keogh

Women’s Super League: talking points from the weekend’s action

Mary Earps, Lauren James and Janina Leitzig.
Mary Earps, Lauren James and Janina Leitzig. Composite: Guardian design

Manchester United remain level below ‘big three’

In the history of the WSL, no team has lost three games and won the league. After suffering a first defeat of the season to a Manchester City side that have already lost twice, the Manchester United manager, Marc Skinner, said he thinks “it will be a different story this season”, before adding: “But I might be proven wrong.” Having finished second lastterm, the expectation has been that United would remain competitive at the top of the table, yet against City they were a shadow of the side that caught teams off guard late in games so often. At Old Trafford the home side took the lead only for their dominant rivals to punish them twice in two minutes before Khadija Shaw added a third in the second half. Skinner conceded there is still distance between his outfit and the traditional top three as they slipped down to fourth, seven points off league leaders Chelsea. “There is a clear gap. We have to deal with that fact. When you deal with facts, you have a choice on how you can next attack that gap,” he said. SW

Superb James lights up Stamford Bridge

Give the best players the stage and they will shine. That is what happened at Stamford Bridge on Saturday as Lauren James took the accolades in Chelsea’s 5-1 victory over Liverpool. She produced a player of the match performance that was an example of her talent and mature progression. “She’s the most naturally gifted footballer in the country,” Emma Hayes said. “The work Lauren did out of possession was outstanding. The way she back-pressed, the way she counter-pressed … I think her forward play was unstoppable.” Her hat-trick was a display of instinctive finishing and her intuitive link up with Niamh Charles added flair to Chelsea’s already potent left side. The 22-year-old pointed to the departure of Hayes at the end of the season as motivation to step up. “With the news that Emma is leaving, everything I do this year is thankful to her,” she said. “She was telling me at the end of how proud she is and let’s achieve big things this year.” SD

Lauren James celebrates after scoring her team’s first goal during the Women’s Super League match between Chelsea and Liverpool at Stamford Bridge
Emma Hayes dubbed Lauren James “the most naturally gifted footballer in the country” after her hat-trick against Liverpool. Photograph: Harriet Lander/Chelsea FC/Getty Images

Arsenal setting attendance standards

Brighton reached new attendance-heights this weekend, securing a record turnout against Arsenal despite succumbing to a 3-0 defeat. The north London side have regularly sold out their away allocations and on Sunday, 4,921 fans, including a hefty Arsenal contingent, packed into Broadfield Stadium to witness Stina Blackstenius, Caitlin Foord and Frida Maanum all net impressive goals. It was the fourth consecutive time that the Gunners have featured in breaking attendance highs this season. “It’s huge for us because the support is tremendous and helps us so much,” their manager, Jonas Eidevall, said. “With what we’re trying to build and what we as a club can capitalise on, it’s unique and special. That momentum for the club and that investment that so many fans have in the team is so important.” EK

Arsenal fans show their support following the team’s victory during the Women’s Super League match against Brighton at Broadfield Stadium
Arsenal fans have consistently shown their support for their team this season. Photograph: Alex Burstow/Arsenal FC/Getty Images

West Ham face rough waters

Claiming four of a maximum 21 points and only registering one win in seven this season so far, West Ham are lingering dangerously close to the relegation spot after a 3-2 home defeat to Aston Villa. The Hammers sit above Bristol City on goal differenceand their manager, Rehanne Skinner, acknowledged that her side are in a transition period, a young and inexperienced squad lacking vital seasoned players. And while they have no issue scoring goals – Viviane Asseyi and Lisa Evans both netted against Villa – West Ham are leaking them just as easily. Unless they can tighten up defensively, they are likely to remain in rough waters, fighting to keep their place in the WSL. EK

Everton defence unable to hang on … again

Everton self-sabotaged twice in their 2-2 draw against Bristol City, again failing to register a first home win of the campaign. After a lively start and debut WSL goal from Martina Piemonte things were looking up for the Toffees, but Amy Rodgers’ wonderful strike gave City parity at the break. Then, following Megan Finnigan’s goal, City were gifted the fightback narrative, Courtney Brosnan making a poor decision in coming off her line, allowing Amalie Thestrup to net a late equaliser. Everton have now conceded five goals in the last 15 minutes of games, a leaky defence now a worrying pattern for the side. RO

Lively Leitzig saves Leicester blushes

Tottenham will rue missed chances to take all three points at the King Power Stadium – with the contest ending in a 1-1 stalemate. Leicester, on the other hand, will be wiping the sweat on their brows as Janina Leitzig, who has helped Leicester stay resolute at the back on several occasions, pegged back a lively Tottenham side who weren’t short of chances in the final third. The German goalkeeper’s most notable heroics came when she made three successive saves from close range in seconds to deny Jessica Naz, Ashleigh Neville and Angharad James. Spurs were pushing for a winning goal in the game’s dying embers, but Leitzig was equal to everything that came her way, making a fantastic stop to deny Martha Thomas in the last 10 minutes. RO

Pos Team P GD Pts
1 Chelsea Women 7 18 19
2 Arsenal Women 7 9 16
3 Man City Women 7 8 13
4 Man Utd Women 7 9 12
5 Tottenham Hotspur Women 7 5 12
6 Liverpool FC Women 7 -1 11
7 Leicester Women 7 -3 8
8 Brighton & Hove Albion Women 7 -7 7
9 Aston Villa Women 7 -9 6
10 Everton Women 7 -9 5
11 West Ham Women 7 -9 4
12 Bristol City Women 7 -11 4
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