A busy week in the world of women’s football which culminated in a little piece of of history being made late last night. But more on that later.
The FA WSL
This was one of those interminable early season weeks where absolutely no league action took place. It remains one of the major frustrations of the WSL setup that the early stages of the season lacks the dynamism that marks out more traditional league structures through multiple delays, not least in part because the Women’s FA Cup remains set in its autumn/winter season ways. It means that, for another week, Chelsea remain at the head of the table with 4 points, while Arsenal Ladies are yet to kick off their league season.
Away from the pitch, though, the structure for next season’s two-tier WSL league was confirmed with some big names making their entry into the new form competition, a result of last year’s ‘Game Changer’ strategy for women’s football.
The most significant change will see Manchester City Ladies compete in the top-tier of the league with Doncaster Rovers Belles moving into the second tier, while Lincoln Ladies will be known as Notts County going forwards. The league structures will appear as follows from the 2014 season:
FA WSL 1
Notts County (currently Lincoln Ladies)
FA WSL 2
Doncaster Rovers Belles
London Bees (Barnet FC)
The Continental Cup
This weekend’s one match in the Continental Cup saw Doncaster Rovers Belles secure a point in their home match against Chelsea in a patchy game, which saw the home side strike early through Jess Sigsworth before Olina Vidarsdottir levelled things up shortly before half time. A somewhat uneventful second half saw a draw which both teams will be relatively pleased with; the home side having held the season’s early league leaders, Chelsea securing a valuable away point.
Doncaster Rovers Belles 1 – 1 Chelsea
The FA Cup
Semi-Final week in the FA Cup threw up the intriguing prospect of English football’s dominant side, Arsenal, travelling to newly-arrived competitors Liverpool in a match that would have appeared far simpler to the North Londoners just a few months ago. With Liverpool buoyed by pre-season signings and Arsenal coming into the match on the back of a devastating Champions League semi-final defeat, the match had much riding on it even without the prize of an opportunity to contest the season’s first silverware for the victors.
In a closely contested game with considerable attacking quality from both sides, Shelley Kerr’s Arsenal side ultimately emerged victorious, sealing a 2-1 victory with goals from England forward Ellen White and Kim Little (more on her in a moment). Having taken the lead midway through the first half through White’s poacher’s effort, Arsenal could have extended their lead on a number of occasions, but were denied by a mix of wayward finishing and alert goalkeeping from Liverpool’s Sarah Quantrill. The Gunners’ profligacy was to prove costly and, having dominated proceedings, they found themselves going in level pegging at half time after one of Liverpool’s new contingent, former Everton striker Natasha Dowie, headed home in first half stoppage time from Amanda da Costa’s centre.
In a second half that began with Liverpool on the front foot, Arsenal retook the lead through Kim Little, last season’s top scorer meeting Gemma Davison’s adept through ball to finish with aplomb.
The weekend’s other semi-final saw Bristol Academy overcome Lincoln Ladies with an ultimately comfortable 2-0 victory. Going into the season, Bristol Academy had boasted of signing ‘the female Michu’ in forward Natalia, and the pre-season hype appears somewhat justified with the Spaniard opening the scoring on the hour mark to notch her second goal of the season. In truth, the Bristol forward may be more of a poacher than her counterpart in white of Swansea, but her ability to apply the critical touch will surely prove invaluable to Mark Sampson’s side over the course of the season. Despite dominating the match, Bristol struggled to put a seal on the victory until Natalia’s fellow-Spaniard Laura Del Rio scoring in the 81st minute to spark wild celebrations amongst the Bristol fans.
The Final will be contested on May 26th in a rematch of the 2011 showpiece event – a match which saw Arsenal emerge as 2-0 victors.
Liverpool 1 – 2 Arsenal
Bristol Academy 2 – Lincoln 0
PFA Player of the Year Awards
It’s taken time and some serious lobbying from key figures within the game, but the final steps towards equality of representation for women footballers was taken yesterday evening with the inclusions of women’s football in the annual Professional Footballers’ Association awards. While the men’s game gets a significantly stronger showing (awards for Player of the Year, Young Player of the Year and Team of the Year), the inaugural Women’s Player of the Year award is a huge step towards ensuring women’s footballers are given equal footing and representation by the bodies that are (finally) there to represent them.
A strong (and distinctly Arsenal-tinged) shortlist ultimately saw a young woman who is undoubtedly the country’s star talent emerge victorious, Scotland and Arsenal forward Kim Little rewarded for a series of staggering performances throughout the 2012 season. She was backed up by Jess Fishlock, now plying her football for Seattle Reign in the US, and Everton’s breakthrough forward Toni Duggan in second and third places respectively.
Although ultimately a tiny drop in the massive ocean of sporting recognition, to see women’s players feted in a gala event that even as recently as 15 years ago denied any female attendance is a huge step in the right direction. And Little, aside from being a worthy winner, is a spectacular advert for the quality that these days floods the women’s game.
Image from Scotsman.com – Thank you!!