Women’s Super League: talking points from the weekend’s action
Galton’s goals fire United clear
With Chelsea’s match against Tottenham one of two WSL games postponed because of Covid outbreaks – and another falling foul of a waterlogged pitch – Manchester United extended their lead at the top by thrashing the division’s bottom team, Bristol City, 6-1. There were another two goals for Leah Galton, who is absolutely on fire and enjoying playing higher up on the left. Though the US internationals Tobin Heath and Christen Press got a lot of the attention when they arrived in the summer, Galton has come in and undoubtedly been their star of the season so far. Bristol were resolute in the first half, and were 1-0 down until Millie Turner doubled United’s lead in the second minute of stoppage time, but opened up in the second half as they tried to find a way back into the game and got picked apart. Katie Zelem, United’s captain, got a couple of assists – she played an hour of this game having been on the bench recently, and three months after her positive Covid test she still isn’t finishing 90 minutes. Fortunately her team has the squad depth to cope, and after this game their manager, Casey Stoney, insisted there is more to come. They already lead the league by four points, and to win it within three years of first coming into existence would be extraordinary.
Foord driving Arsenal forward
Arsenal came into their game with Everton having lost to both Manchester clubs and drawn with Chelsea in their four previous league matches, a period in which they have not looked massively convincing. But on Sunday they were brilliant, winning 4-0, and in particular I really enjoyed watching Caitlin Foord rampaging through the middle. Vivianne Miedema started on the bench while Foord came in at centre-forward, and the difference between the two players’ styles is fascinating: Miedema is a bit more languid, and has an instinct for choosing the right moment to make a run; Foord is just relentless, she simply doesn’t stop. It was also great to see Jordan Nobbs back in the starting XI after a couple of months, and pretty much a full year struggling with injury, and both she and Jen Beattie, at the end of a very tough year for her in which she has battled breast cancer, were on the scoresheet on what was a very positive afternoon for the Gunners.
Fishlock a prize catch for Reading
There has been a real spark about Reading’s play in the last few weeks, a real energy and drive about them, and Jess Fishlock has been at the heart of that. She was certainly integral to their 3-1 win over Brighton, scoring two goals and creating the other. The spark, energy and drive you can see now in her team are all qualities she embodies, and theirs is a squad full of strong characters working in a positive way and with very strong team morale. Fishlock is 33, and has never exactly been known as a prolific goalscorer during her career as a defensive midfielder, but she has always driven forward with the ball really well, and been a leader for her teams. Reading lost narrowly to Manchester United last week but even then I could see the quality and togetherness they have, and they are improving fast.
Bronze adds to WSL lustre
Last week Manchester City’s Lucy Bronze was named the best woman player in the world in a Fifa ceremony, and five members of Fifa’s team of the year play in the WSL. Three of those, including Bronze, arrived in or returned to the league last summer, proving a point for those of us who were talking at the start of the season about it being a game-changer for the English top flight – plus Sarina Wiegman, who is about to take over as England coach, won the coach of the year award for the second time. There is no other major league in women’s football that has four teams, all packed with quality players, vying for the title plus others who will take points off the leaders. All of those four teams at the top are closely aligned to major men’s sides who have the financial resources to fund big moves – and the best woman players at these clubs might earn as much in a year as the best men do in a week – but this is a league in good health at the moment. Both of England’s Champions League sides – Manchester City and Chelsea – have qualified with ease for the last 16, and this weekend they were also drawn to play each other in the Conti Cup quarter-finals, clearly the tie of the round.