Football is back, everybody! Three major European leagues (among other) kickstarted their campaigns in style over the weekend, and the results and reactions have definitely filled the void caused by the COVID break.
Our attention went straight to the English FA WSL, because the last few weeks have only made our anxiety to watch football games worse. The hype around most of the signings, the ridiculous rosters in some of the teams (I am looking at you, Chelsea), and the promise of even more arrivals (no news of Lucy Bronze as of yet, or of the Heath-Press tandem) means this is definitely the league to watch this year. And the first round was certainly no disappointment. Still plenty of things to see from plenty of players, but the teams did not leave anything in the changing rooms, and gave the fans what they really needed.
Results & scorers
Aston Villa 0 – Manchester City 2 (Stanway 2)
Arsenal 6 (Little, Miedema 2, Roord 3) – Reading 1 (Carter)
Bristol City 0 – Everton 4 (Magill, Graham 2, Gauvin)
Brighton & Hove Albion 2 (Connolly, Kaagman) – Birmingham City 0
Tottenham 1 (Fisk og) – 1 West Ham (Leon)
Manchester United 1 (Galton) – Chelsea 1 (Kerr)
Game of the round
Whilst it was Man City and Aston Villa who got us under way on Saturday, the most interesting game of the weekend, for many reasons, was Man United v Chelsea. The blues had been wasteful but dominating in their Community Shield victory over the citizens the week prior, and the arrival of Pernille Harder during the week only added extra spice to the mix. The Danish superstar only came on in the last ten minutes; she was ready to go just before Leah Galton drew United level, but did not find the back of the net. Hard to pin it on her when Sam Kerr, Erin Cuthbert and Fran Kirby had an array of misses throughout the game. The Australian did break the deadlock in the first half by outmuscling her opponent and finishing from close range, but should have had a couple even before half time.
In hindsight, it is hard to believe Chelsea did not win by a comfortable margin. Whilst Mary Earps had a fantastic game and at times looked like the player who was keeping United in the game, most of the chances on target went straight to her. Where they were not missing chances, they were choosing to be unselfish when they needed to be selfish and vice versa. But Man United were able to hang in there, and in a well-timed piece of counterattack play, Jackie Groenen found Galton right in the middle.
Pernille Harder‘s debut lasted all of 15 minutes, as she was subbed on right after Galton’s equaliser. Despite the lack of time and preparation, her 15 minutes would have felt encouraging for Chelsea fans and Emma Hayes alike, as she sliced through United’s defence with ease and looked right at home in the number ten role. In fact, she set up England and Kirby beautifully in two occasions, but the Chelsea strikers just could not finish. Her pace looked distinctly fresh, and we would not be surprised to see her start in the upcoming games
Megan Connolly’s, surely. A stunner into the top bins, on the turn, and the opener for the game: ticks all the boxes. The team’s reaction is also priceless: a positive start against a direct contender.
From a technical perspective, Kim Little’s volley effort was also quite something. For me, it is a close second. And whilst Miedema’s second goal is also a total screamer, I am going to go with Adriana Leon’s goal for West Ham to complete the podium, for the bit of skill required to get the ball into the box beyond the strike itself. Simon Magill’s volley strike for Everton was also quite something, so decide for yourselves.
Here’s a recap of all the goals of the day on Sunday, which does not include Stanway’s brace for City. However, given both goals came from basic defensive errors, you are not missing much.
How things now look like
Arsenal take the chance to go top for the first time in many months, with their goal difference against Reading providing them a great starting platform. Everton follow closely after their very impressive performance in Bristol. After splitting the points, Chelsea and Man Utd find themselves in 5th and 6th position respectively.
Chelsea and Manchester City will host Bristol and Brighton at home respectively. Given the disappointing performance by the Robins in the first round, Chelsea are in a great spot to bounce back from their draw, if only their strikers can polish their finishing. Reading will also have the opportunity to shake off their bad start by hosting Aston Villa. After a tough first game, will we see the recently promoted team produce the type of performance they consistently delivered last year?
All action available on the FA Player and Optus Sport in Australia.
Saturday 12th September
West Ham United v Arsenal
Sunday 13th September
Chelsea v Bristol City
Everton v Tottenham Hotspur
Reading v Aston Villa
Manchester City v Brighton & Hove Albion
Birmingham City v Manchester United