Women's Football: An action-packed WSL weekend with some world-class goals, a surprise win and some heavily anticipated debuts!

The WSL launched itself into 2020 yesterday with some world-class goals, a surprise win and some heavily anticipated debuts – it was a start to the decade that we’ll remember for a long time.

Chelsea vs Reading

With Australian football icon Sam Kerr admitting to feeling “nervous” for her well anticipated Chelsea debut, fans were eager to show full support for the new ‘striking’ signing. 

“I am stoked to see Sam Kerr, absolutely buzzing” one fan quoted to Give Me Sport.

But it was England’s most capped player of all time – Fara Williams – who broke the deadlock for Reading, despite Kerr having an early chance on goal two minutes into the first half. Williams positioned herself perfectly just inside the box to receive a chested ball from teammate Brooke Chaplen, followed by a beautiful left-footed volley to find the back of the net.

With the game growing increasingly tense, goalkeeper Grace Moloney found herself in a questionable challenge just outside the box that caught Kerr as she was chasing down a through ball, resulting in a red card for the Reading keeper.

As the game grew by seconds, Kerr grew by strides and, having received the all-clear to carry on, Chelsea went looking for an equaliser.

With a backheeled pass into the path of Bethany England, the Chelsea forward was one on one with substitute goalkeeper Rachel Laws and did what she does best – with a sharp cut across the keeper she was through on goal and calmly slotted it home just before the break.

With Kerr on the hunt for her first goal with the Blues, a powerful shot stumbled the Reading keeper who deflected it into the hopeful path of Guro Reiten who volleyed the second goal home from outside the box.

Erin Cuthbert also found the back of the net at Kingsmeadow, with three goals to one Chelsea concluded up their first victory of 2020. 

Despite Kerr not finding the net on her debut, she made an instant impact and it was evident how much the Chelsea players respect the Australian already.

“Anything (an assist) is good I guess,” the 26-year-old said, before explaining that she would have to “sharpen up” on her shooting as she could not convert any goals today.

Bethany England commented on the new signing, “(Sam Kerr) is a lovely girl, fitted in really well and we’ve had a good few link-ups in training and I think that showed today. It’s a shame she didn’t get a goal today but I’m excited by what she will bring to this club.”

Chelsea manager Emma Haynes described debutant Kerr as being “humble, hard-working and honest”, from the attacking display that she provided at Kingsmeadow today – it would be hard to disagree with the statement.

“You can have top players, but to have a top player who is a top person, happy days” added Haynes.

Bristol City vs Manchester United

Bristol City conspired together to achieve their first three points of the season, as well as managing to secure just their second clean sheet. Against newly promoted and high-flying Manchester United, it was the perfect start to the new year for the visiting team.

With several ex-vixens including Mary Earps, Millie Turner and Hayley Ladd starting for United, the game certainly delivered the passion that the fans were waiting to see.

But it was ex-United player Ebony Salmon who provided the clinical edge for her new side. Salmon, who didn’t get much of a chance in red, showed her quality after the half an hour mark turning McManus with ease and firing beyond a helpless Earps in the United goal.  

Lauren James, who had signed her first professional contract with Manchester United just before Christmas, created several attacks in the first half including a game defying one on one with United attacker Galton and the Vixen’s keeper Baggaley. Baggaley showed her pace and star quality by dashing off her line to reach the ball first.

In spite of United throwing everything forward to salvage something from the game, including Toone hitting the post and Arnot amazingly hitting the bar from on top of the goal, a mixture of sensational defending and prime Sophie Baggely back to her best in goal saw Bristol see out the game to pick up a crucial 3 points.

After a winter break consisting of just over three weeks, Manchester United’s manager Casey Stoney took to Instagram to take responsibility for the side’s defeat.

“Not good enough by our standard at all today. I take full responsibility as the leader of this team and will work tirelessly to try and improve what went wrong today. We are Manchester United, and we are all accountable in defeat. Our fans were incredible as always and deserve better.” 

Arsenal vs Birmingham City

Top-of-the-table Arsenal hosted Birmingham City in their first game of 2020.

With Arsenal losing just one of their last ten WSL games against Birmingham City, the odds were not in the Blues favour as they travelled to Meadow Park for a late afternoon kick-off.

The home team completely dominated from start to finish, with #CaptainLittle proving a key driving force for the Gooners. Little managed to find the back of the net to break the deadlock in just the ninth minute.

England international and Arsenal academy product, Leah Williamson, is continuing to prove her vision excellence as she delivered an impressive long ball into the trail of teammate Nobbs who delivered a breath-taking volley to find the back of the net – to think that this time last year she was only just starting her ACL (anterior crucial ligament) recovery, it is truly was inspiring to see her back to her goalscoring self.  

As the second half started, it was easy to see that Birmingham would come back fighting. With an excellent display of defensive shape and some world-class saves from goalkeeper Hannah Hampton, the Blue’s managed to stop Arsenal from converting any more goals.

With the Gooners gaining the three magical points today, it means that Arsenal has now gone ten games undefeated at home in the WSL, which is the longest run of any club in the history of the competition.

Elsewhere in the WSL

Vicky Jepson’s side started their 2020 campaign with a trip to the People’s Pension Stadium. With summer signing Rinsola Babajide having an open goal on sight halfway through the first half, her effort painfully drifted wide of the goal. 

The travelling team were forced to suffer as Aileen Whelan lifted the game’s only goal home 33rd minute. Liverpool’s new addition Rachel Furness displayed her quality with a possible equaliser going just wide with 17 minutes of game time to play.

With Brighton taking the three points, they stay six points clear of the Reds in the table.

West Ham and Everton will have to wait to kick off their new year following the postponement of the game as a result of multiple West Ham players getting flu.

Read more on the story here. Details on the rearrangement of the date and time for the fixture will be confirmed by West Ham United in due course.

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