One of the many, many things that The Sportist loves about women’s football is the way that the debate over officialdom – seemingly relentless in the men’s game – has next to no bearing in the women’s. Sure, the odd contentious call arises and some teams have occasionally been seen as pushing the limits of the law somewhat, but possibly our favourite demonstration of the way that women’s football simply compares differently is in the following tweet from the peerless OptaJoe:
0 – There were no yellow cards for foul language or simulation in the Women’s Super League. Refreshing.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) October 22, 2012
Sure, that may have lasted a whole 3 minutes into the 2013 season. But that’s a minor concern.
There are many different theories as to exactly why women’s football has a different relationship with officialdom than men’s. Is it better officials? Less gamesmanship amongst the players themselves? A body of players who have less money invested in their footballing careers, thus play more for the love of the game? Or might it simply be, as many referees-turned-pundit have suggested, that the lesser glare of media attention generates fewer points of continual contention? Whatever it is, we prefer it this way.
This week, though, there are two beautifully contentious pieces of officialdom to bring you from the FA WSL.
The FA WSL
First off, Birmingham City vs Chelsea and one of the greatest refereeing assists The Sportist has ever seen. The home side went into the match seeking their first win of the season after a difficult campaign to date and might have gone in behind at half-time but for some excellent work in goal from Marie Hourihan. 0-0 at half time, but it took Birmingham all of 12 seconds to open the scoring in the second half, Isobel Christian sliding the ball past Carly Telford after Chelsea failed to deal with Birmingham’s direct movement from the restart. Minutes later, Birmingham found themselves with a two goal cushion, Jo Potter’s outstanding 55th minute strike coming after the ball fell to her when a Chelsea ball out of defence was played into her path by referee Simon Barrow. Honestly, give it a watch. Brilliant assist. Chelsea pulled a goal back through debutant Hannah Blundell after 70 minutes, but Birmingham held on for a crucial three points.
Our second piece of ‘interesting’ officialdom comes in a rematch of the FA Cup Final, defeated finallists Bristol Academy playing host to Arsenal. Unlike the cup final, the game here remained level until deep in the first half. Like the final, the deadlock was broken by Arsenal captain Steph Houghton, seizing Kim Little’s perfectly weighted through ball to drive the ball beyond Siobhan Chamberlain. When Little made it 2-0 near half time from Gemma Davison’s measured pass things seemed comfortable fo the Gunners. Having wilted somewhat in the face of a two-goal deficit last week, Bristol demonstrated true steel to pull a goal back through Natalia early in the second half, though Emma Byrne will wonder how on earth she allowed the Spaniard’s weak effort to beat her at the near post. Gilly Flaherty restored Arsenal’s two goal lead minutes later, the centre half registering her first goal in an absolute age with a towering header from a right-sided corner before the away team should have put the game to bed when Bristol were reduced to ten players, Grace McCatty sent off for hauling down Ellen White in the area. Little’s penalty, though, was saved brilliantly by Siobhan Chamberlain before the game’s real talking point set up a seriously tense finish. We’ll just put the link here and let you make of this what you will; suffice to say, you’ll never, ever see another penalty awarded in these circumstances again. Corinne Yorston despatched the spot kick to set up a tight finale, but the visitors held out to register their own first league victory of the season.
The week’s other two games may have lacked refereeing contention, but were clear thrillers in their own right; first, Liverpool regained joint-leadership of the FAWSL with a 3-2 victory over Lincoln, goals from Natasha Dowie, Louise Fors and an own-goal from Bonnie Horwood cancelling out Carla Cantrell’s early opener and Precious Hamilton’s stunning late strike. Then, Everton and Doncaster Rovers played out a 2-2 draw with a flurry of second half goals, Nikita Parris opening the scoring for Everton in the 49th minute, before Victoria Williams levelled for Doncaster. Minutes later, Chaney Boye-Hlorkah put Everton back ahead before Cheryl Foster’s penalty finished the scoring.
All in all a hugely entertaining week in the FA WSL, which leaves Bristol and Liverpool joint top with 9 points from 4 matches, while Doncaster Rovers prop up the table, their point at Everton the first of the season.
Birmingham City 2 – 1 Chelsea
Liverpool 3 – 2 Lincoln
Bristol 2 – 3 Arsenal
Everton 2 – 2 Doncaster
Picture from Getty Images / Matt Lewis / The FA – thanks!