A quieter week in the women’s football calendar with only two matches to report on from the last seven days, but both critical in the race for the 2013 FA WSL title and yet another seven goal thriller to add to this season’s already burgeoning collection of high-scoring games.
Having seen their early season advantage at the top of the table eaten away by Bristol Academy and a surprisingly slow-starting Arsenal side, Liverpool hosted Chelsea on Saturday evening knowing victory was crucial to regain their position as out-and-out league leaders for another week. Chelsea, having suffered from some largely inconsistent form in their opening seven matches, came into their tenth league outing of the season (some 4 games more than basement club Doncaster Rovers) with consecutive wins under their belt and a real sense that they could upset the league leaders.
The sense of potential upset seemed an absolute certainty as the visitors raced into a 2-0 lead, first Sofia Jakobsson taking advantage of an awful defensive mix up in the first minute and then Eni Aluko striking on the counter to give Chelsea a two goal advantage within seven minutes. Starting down the barrel, Liverpool rallied, Fara Williams’ lofted free kick somehow crept in at the near post to send Liverpool in just a goal behind.
Early in the 2nd half, Nicole Rolser restored parity, forcing home from close range and with Liverpool seemingly in the ascendancy, it was something of a shock when Jakobsson’s right wing cross was athletically headed into the Liverpool net by ‘Pool defender Becky Easton. And so things seemed destined to stay, until Liverpool mounted the sort of late comeback that so often characterises title winning sides.
With fewer than ten minutes remaining, Natasha Dowie brought Liverpool level with a stooping header from Rolser’s excellent driven cross. With Liverpool’s tails up, it was little surprise when Rolser found her second of the game, again forcing home from close range to earn Matt Beard’s side a 4-3 victory and a three point lead at the top of the table.
In the weekend’s other game, Arsenal travelled to Birmingham knowing that anything short of a victory would begin to open up the type of gap between themselves and the league leaders that has the term ‘unassailable’ written all over it.
Despite taking some time to gel under new boss Shelley Kerr, Arsenal had put together four consecutive league victories coming into Sunday’s match and looked in little danger of dropping points as soon as captain Steph Houghton had put the away team in front after seven minutes, heading home from Kim Little’s corner. 1-0 became 2-0 twelve minutes later when Ellen White headed in off the post after both Houghton and Gilly Flaherty had struck the woodwork in the buildup and the Gunners were three to the good before the halftime whistle when Gemma Davison ghosted in at the back post to slot home Emma Mitchell’s deep cross.
Birmingham did add a sheen of respectability to the scoreline with Jo Potter’s long-range deflected strike after 54 minutes, but in truth Arsenal had this game sewn up well before the final whistle.
Having endured a tough start, and no little experimentation including moving Houghton to a central midfield berth, Kerr’s Arsenal team suddenly looks ominously at ease, brushing aside a Birmingham side which has run them close in the previous two seasons.
If Liverpool (and, indeed, Bristol) can continue piling on the points, though, Arsenal’s games in hand may come to look more of a millstone than an opportunity.
And the pressure? Well and truly on.
Liverpool 4 – 3 Chelsea
Birmingham 1 – 3 Arsenal
Image from liverpoolladiesfc.com – thanks!