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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Suzanne Wrack, Sarah Rendell and Sophie Downey

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

Everton's Aggie Beever-Jones, Aston Villa's Jordan Nobbs and Leah Williamson of Arsenal.
From left: Everton's Aggie Beever-Jones, Aston Villa's Jordan Nobbs and Leah Williamson of Arsenal. Composite: Guardian Pictures

Skinner’s puts officials on the spot

Manchester United’s manager, Marc Skinner, raged over two penalty appeals waved away by the referee, Cheryl Foster, in their 1-0 defeat at the WSL champions, Chelsea. “They’re stonewall when I watch them both,” he said. “We have to invest in the officials, we have to invest in the surrounding technology that can help. We’ve come to the champions’ home ground and put our stamp on it – you need those things to go for you.” Skinner also pointed to other incidents this season and warned of the impact of poor decisions on the destination of the title. “It’s the same as what happened in the Arsenal game [against Chelsea in the Continental Cup final], where [Caitlin] Foord goes into the box and Kadeisha [Buchanan] brings her down – it’s a penalty. They need to be picked up, they’re obvious. If they are not obvious we would swallow the medicine and get on with it. We have learned about our resolve and resilience this season; we didn’t crumble. We shouldn’t have to address it, not in big games when we go on to this stage and these are big for what the league looks like in the next eight games. That’s huge decisions.” SW

Manchester United’s Nikita Parris appeals for a penalty after a challenge by Millie Bright.
Manchester United’s Nikita Parris appeals for a penalty after a challenge by Millie Bright. Photograph: Steven Paston/PA

Williamson’s midfield masterclass

Jonas Eidevall reserved praise for the midfield performance of Leah Williamson after Arsenal’s 4-0 defeat of Reading. It was “definitely her best match I have seen her play in midfield”, he said after Arsenal finished an eight-day stretch with three wins, nine goals, one conceded and a League Cup trophy. “Sometimes I feel like you don’t get her facing forward enough in midfield. We got her facing forward, but in more advanced positions. How today played out was probably the optimum scenario for having Leah as a central midfielder because you get one of the best passers in the world but you get it 15 metres higher up than you do as a central defender and she can break lines and engage in the final third. That really helped our attack.” Arsenal remain fourth, three points behind second-placed Manchester United and third-placed Manchester City with a game in hand on each. SW

Could Tottenham be relegated?

Tottenham’s match against Liverpool was billed as an important fixture in the fight for survival and ended with Spurs potentially facing the drop. They lost 2-1 and are two points ahead of bottom-placed Leicester. Tottenham’s defeat was their ninth in a row in the league since an 8-0 win over Brighton in October. They have three victories from 14 fixtures and eight games left, including Wednesday’s at home to Leicester. The Spurs manager, Rehanne Skinner, said: “You have to be disappointed, otherwise you don’t care, do you? You can see the commitment, the work ethic; there’s fight within every single player that’s coming on the pitch. That’s something that we have to hold on to.” SR

Everton’s goal search goes on

Everton drew 0-0 at Leicester to extend their goal drought. Aggie Beever-Jones had a few chances but was denied, the best effort bringing a great save from Janina Leitzig. Everton have not scored in their past three top-flight games, their longest run without a goal in the league since a five-match stretch in 2018. They have also not scored in six of their 14 WSL fixtures. Only Leicester (nine) and Liverpool (seven) have failed to score more often. SR

Signs of optimism at Brighton under Merricks

It has been a tumultuous week for Brighton, but their performance against Manchester City in a late 2-1 defeat showed glimmers that the tide could be starting to turn. Since Jens Scheuer’s departure on Monday, they have faced the toughest of tests, but, despite defeat, have discovered a resilience they can build on. Amy Merricks is in her second tenure as interim manager this season and with marked improvement on both occasions it is hard not to feel she should be promoted permanently. Before Sunday’s game, she called for her players “to compete from minute one until the end” and they responded. They had two goals disallowed before Elisabeth Terland cancelled out Bunny Shaw’s opener. A tenacious second half followed and they looked to be holding out for a vital point until the unstoppable Shaw pounced in the 89th minute. The result will hurt, but the performance may be the springboard they need with more important battles to come in the race for survival. SD

Bunny Shaw opens the scoring for Manchester City at Brighton.
Bunny Shaw opens the scoring for Manchester City at Brighton. Photograph: John Sibley/Action Images/Reuters

Villa show development with gritty win

Finding a way to win when not at your best is a sign of a team making progress. That was the story for Aston Villa as they held on against West Ham. Encounters between these sides are always highly competitive and it was the visitors who found an edge when they needed it most. The game ebbed and flowed and it was a question of who could finish their chances. Villa were clinical – two shots on target, two goals – as Rachel Daly and Jordan Nobbs produced the end product they desperately needed. They had to show their gritty side as they saw off West Ham pressure after Viviane Asseyi pulled one back. Hannah Hampton was commanding between the sticks and the defence resolute to ensure no damage was done. The win extended Villa’s gap over Everton in the fight for fifth as their unbeaten league run in 2023 continues. SD

Pos Team P GD Pts
1 Chelsea Women 14 27 37
2 Man Utd Women 15 29 35
3 Man City Women 15 18 35
4 Arsenal Women 14 25 32
5 Aston Villa Women 15 2 26
6 Everton Women 14 2 20
7 West Ham Women 15 -9 16
8 Liverpool FC Women 14 -11 14
9 Reading Women 15 -18 10
10 Tottenham Hotspur Women 14 -12 9
11 Brighton & Hove Albion Women 13 -28 8
12 Leicester Women 14 -25 7
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