Okay, maybe we don’t have so many goals to begin with, but you just wait ’til we get onto the Continental Cup…
The FA WSL
Three matches in the FA WSL to report on this week and something of a shock as the season’s newest front runners are a team The Sportist confidently predicted would endure a difficult season with a likely fifth placed finish this year. Shows what we know.
First off, though, a pair of stalemates as Everton and Birmingham played out the sort of game our American cousins might refer to as a ‘DOUBLE DONUT NO-SCORE SHUTOUT’, or something equally ridiculous, while Arsenal’s early league struggles continued with a 1-1 draw away to a Lincoln side who had only picked up a solitary point in their first three league games. This one at least had more life in it, though, with Lincoln taking the lead in the 88th minute before stand-in central midfielder Steph Houghton rescued a point for the Gunners with an absolutely thunderous strike from fully 30 yards. Take a freakin’ bow. Lincoln have proven to be a bit of a bogey team for Arsenal in the last couple of years, inflicting a Continental Cup defeat and home draw (stunning matches finishing 4-3 and 3-3 respectively) on the 2012 Champions, so perhaps a point wasn’t a bad return for either side in this particular incidence.
Thursday evening saw the week’s real result of note, with Bristol Academy taking a thoroughly-deserved 3 points from Chelsea, winning 2-0 with goals from Jemma Rose and the effervescent Natalia, going an awfully long way to living up to her ‘Michu of women’s football’ tag. With a women’s FA Cup final coming up, Bristol go into the next round of fixtures in the unfamiliar position of looking down on all beneath them. Keep this up for very much longer and we could be on the verge of seeing something truly spectacular from Mark Sampson’s wonderfully entertaining charges.
Everton 0 – 0 Birmingham
Lincoln 1 – 1 Arsenal
Bristol 2 – o Chelsea
The Continental Cup
4 games. 16 goals. Who needs Man Utd 5 – 5 West Brom for entertainment?
Before we begin, though, a quick Sportist confession. The Continental Cup is the competition that we really, really don’t ‘get’. The fault lies entirely with us, of course, but with its bizarre early season structure, group stage/semi final/final set-up and sponsor-laden marketing, it just feels like a bit of a poor cousin to the wealth of genuinely exciting domestic women’s football action at this time of the year. Still, when it’s going to throw this many goals at us, we’re going to shut up and enjoy it.
With all four semi-final slots up for grabs going into the weekend’s fixtures, the first slot was emphatically booked by an Everton side who rediscovered their goalscoring touch, coming from behind to beat Doncaster 3-1 with goals from Nikita Parris, Vicky Jones and an injury-time penalty from Toni Duggan after Beth England had put the Belles ahead. The game was equally notable for a return for star midfielder Sue Smith after over a year out through injury.
In an early run of the forthcoming FA Cup Final, Arsenal boosted their flagging season with a 4-2 victory from behind against Bristol Academy, the Gunners fighting back from 2-1 behind to win 4-2 and book their place in the Semi-Finals against Everton. Ellen White set Arsenal on their way in the first half, before a stunning volleyed-equaliser from Nicola Watts put Bristol back on level terms. Despite having already suffered elimination from the competition, Bristol were buoyed by Watts’ strike and took the lead when Ellen Curson lifted the ball over Rebecca Spencer in the Arsenal net. Knowing a draw would be enough to qualify for the semis, Shelley Kerr’s side drew level in the second half through Jordan Nobbs’ goal early in the second half, before provider Danielle Carter nosed the Gunners in front, last season’s star player Kim Little applying late gloss with the finishing touches to a beautifully executed team goal.
The second semi-final will see Lincoln face Liverpool with the former snatched the draw they needed for qualification through Carla Cantrell’s strike after Remi Allen’s penalty had been saved, cancelling out Rachel Williams’ third minute opener. Liverpool, meanwhile, continued their early season juggernaut form with a 4-0 hammering of Chelsea, built up on a first-half brace from striker Natasha Dowie. It can be easy to forget that Dowie is still only 24 years of age, given that she seems to have been around forever, and the striker continued to bely her relative youth with a veteran’s composure granting Liverpool a 2-0 lead through two lobbed goals in less than five minutes. Further strikes from Nicole Rosler and Fara Williams on the cusp of the full time whistle put the seal on a superb victory for the Reds.
Doncaster 1 – 3 Everton
Arsenal 4 – 2 Bristol
Birmingham 1 – 1 Lincoln
Chelsea 0 – 4 Liverpool
Teams in ITALICS progress to the semi finals
UEFA Women’s Champions League
A proper preview to follow on this later in the week, but there’s still time to get tickets for Thursday evening’s showpiece event at Stamford Bridge. Kickoff is 7.30pm and tickets can be bought here. Without wishing to hyperbolise too heavily, this is an outstanding opportunity to see probably the greatest club side playing women’s football against a real emerging power. We’ll be there and we desperately hope you will be too.
Image from thefa.com – Thanks!