Another big weekend in women’s football, with no single event quite as important as Friday’s Continental Media Cup at St George’s Park. While we’re waiting on details for that though (some of us were denied entry of not apparently being women…not envious. Not at all.) the real world of FAWSL and Continental Cup football continued apace. And what a week of football it was.
Semi-Final stage in the Continental Cup, and with both sides of the Liverpool divide still in the draw the potential for a Mersey Derby cup final hung heavy over the competition. In their way stood a Lincoln side who have used cup progress to distract minds from a troubling and difficult FAWSL campaign (vs. Liverpool) and an Arsenal team that has finally found its feet after a difficult start under new boss Shelley Kerr (vs. Everton).
Ultimately, two very different games emerged with heartbreak on both sides of the Liverpudlian divide. In the former, despite Liverpool flying out of the blocks and into a first minute lead courtesy of the imperious Natasha Dowie, Matt Beard’s early season league pace setters were dispatched on penalties, after the visitors had drawn level through Courtney Sweetman-Kirk shortly after half time, Carla Cantrell scoring the winning penalty after a string of excellent saves from Karen Bardsley throughout the match. The second semi-final saw Arsenal post a comprehensive victory over a poor Everton side, flying into a 3-0 victory before half-time through goals from Jordan Nobbs, Danielle Carter and Ellen White, Steph Houghton putting a shine on the victory with a fine finish from Gemma Davison’s centre.
With Arsenal having lofted the cup in each of its first two seasons, both times beating Birmingham in the final, the odds will be stacked against Lincoln come the October final, but with Lincoln having kept the holders to a 1-1 draw earlier in the season, Kerr’s team will have a significant fight on their hands if they are to take the trophy for a third consecutive occasion.
Liverpool 1 – 1 Lincoln (Lincoln win on penalties)
Arsenal 4 – 0 Everton
Occasionally, just occasionally, the FA WSL throws up a real thriller of a match. All too frequently (though such examples are diminishing as the gap between top and bottom teams closes), certain matches have been more akin to ceremonial precessions than competitive fixtures. Yet from time to time, the league throws up a game to match the best of global football for its intrigue and drama. This weekend’s top of the table clash between Liverpool and Bristol turned out to be just that.
With Bristol having wrested the league leader’s spot from Liverpool in the last week’s fixtures, this was an opportunity to send a real message of intent to the league. Liverpool, meanwhile, smarting from league defeat to Arsenal and Continental Cup heartbreak had much to prove. In a game that could have been a tight, nervy affair, what emerged was a stunning match, and a legitimate rival to the USA’s 4-3 defeat of Canada at last summer’s Olympic Games. Despite falling behind midway through the first half to Ann-Marie Heatherson’s 20th minute strike and later seeing a two-goal lead eroded in 3 minutes by strikes from Bristol’s Spanish strike force Laura Del Rio and Natalia, Matt Beard’s visitors ultimately secured the three points through a brilliant 25-yard strike from Gemma Bonner, adding to goals from Louise Fors from the spot, Nicole Rosler and Katrin Omarsdottir.
Elsewhere, Arsenal, Birmingham and Lincoln all recorded home victories, with Lincoln taking inspiration from their Continental Cup victory to secure their first league win of the season courtesy of a 2-0 win over Chelsea. Birmingham edged past Doncaster Rovers 1-0 to continue the Belles’ miserable final season in the FA WSL, while Arsenal went one better than their Continental Cup semi-final by beating Everton 5-0, manager Shelley Kerr’s reshuffling of the Gunners’ front line pushing Danielle Carter into a central striking berth and being rewarded with two first half goals, while Jordan Nobbs continued her outstanding post-Euro 2012 form with yet another goal.
The results leave the FA WSL tighter than a proverbial tight thing, Liverpool and Bristol sharing the top spot with 18 points, while Arsenal arrive menacingly on the horizon, 6 points behind but with two games in hand on the current leading pack. Don’t go anywhere, ladies and gents – this one’s going down to the wire.
Bristol 3 – 4 Liverpool
Birmingham 1 – 0 Doncaster
Lincoln 2 – 0 Chelsea
Arsenal 5 – 0 Everton
Image from totalfootballmag.com – Thanks!