With swathes of disparity over the number of fixtures played and an increasingly cluttered schedule, Arsenal, Everton, Yeovil and Bristol have all found themselves with two games in hand.
Though mistakes and tough matches against Reading have seen both Chelsea and City drop points, leaving a path to the top two for Arsenal there’s been little joy for the other three. Elsewhere Birmingham City have climbed into the top three as Liverpool and Sunderland have both shown their frailties.
After a run of low-scoring meetings the top two shared four goals in Manchester and neither could lay down a marker in the title race. A dominant first half from Chelsea saw the Blues take the lead, a bullet from Millie Bright doubled by a clean strike by Ji So Yun but a string of good saves from Ellie Roebuck just about kept the Citizens in the tie. More assured after the break, City cut the deficit to one after a strong header from Nikita Parris before a thunderstrike from Georgia Stanway brought about late parity.
A rocket from Rachel Williams got the Blues started at home, the advantage doubled four minutes later by a deflected Kate Longhurst header. Birmingham easing away in the match, Jess Carter’s low strike enough to leave the Reds with no way back 12 minutes before the break. The second half bringing about no joy for the visitors as their rare chances went begging before Ellen White added the fourth and final goal of the day after a turn and shoot in the box.
Chelsea 2-2 Reading
Already caused problems by the Royals, Chelsea somewhat made it out of their home clash with a slice of luck taking a point – a starkly different tale from their previous 2-2 that saw Chelsea drop two points in Manchester.
A good start from Reading saw the visitors claim the lead from the spot after a careless foul on Jade Moore by Erin Cuthbert, Brooke Chaplen clinical as the last from 12-yards. Sloppy work in their own half saw the Blues lose possession with Fara Williams the one to pounce and make them pay from just outside the box with a low drive. The match not without controversy as Reading were denied strong claims for a penalty moments later, the hosts immediately countering and finding their first of the match. With the ball swiftly whisked down the right flank, Fran Kirby’s smart ball across was fired home by Jonna Andersson before Kirby added a second late in the match.
Bristol City 0-2 Birmingham City
In their second match in four days, the Blues made light work of their opposition when they travelled to the Stoke Gifford, White’s brace enough for all three points. In a rich vein of form, White made no mistake when Charlie Wellings’ deflected effort dropped into her path seven minutes in. Not being posed a great many questions by the Vixens, Birmingham weren’t allowed to relax until late in the day when White pounced on another loose ball, this time capitalising after Williams’ effort cannoned off of the woodwork.
Sunderland 1-1 Everton
Two teams yet to find top gear this season, Sunderland and Everton were forced to share the points at Mariners Park bringing about the first draw of the season for both. Following a scrappy first half, Dan Turner fired the Blue Girls ahead soon after the restart, the goal sparking the game into life. With both ‘keepers suddenly at full alert, it was Lizzie Durrack who blinked first, the goalkeeper’s clean sheet dissolving just after the hour when Lucy Staniforth’s gol olímpico levelled the scores. Unable to take their best chances the pair were forced to play out the draw, neither in danger of finishing bottom but still plenty of points to be picked up and lessons to be learnt before the end of the season.
Reading 3-0 Yeovil Town
Off of the back of a strong showing against Chelsea, the Royals made light work of the tie when strugglers Yeovil visited Adams Park in the midweek fixture. After Chaplen saw her spot kick saved by Megan Walsh, Remi Allen’s goal late in the first half finally broke the parity. A second for the hosts early in the second half came through Lauren Bruton slotted home before Kirsty Linnett bagged her third of the season with a clinical header.
Yeovil Town 0-4 Liverpool
Needing less than a minute to get break the deadlock, Laura Coombs fired the Reds up with a firm strike off of the post before captain Gemma Bonner hammered an uncleared corner home. Defensively still well below the level required of them, the Lady Glovers let Niamh Charles jog into the box with the ball, her low cross turned home by Ashley Hodson was the backline scrambled. A number of good saves helped to keep the visitors somewhat at bay, Walsh one of the few bright sparks for Yeovil this term though the young ‘keeper could do little when Beth England poked Coombs’ free kick home after the hour.
Arsenal 1-1 Chelsea
Not having had the best time out against Chelsea the last time they clashed, Sari van Veenendaal had another shocker at home. The Dutch ‘keeper’s poor ball forward only reached Ramona Bachmann who swung it back towards goal for strike-partner Kirby, the attacker’s toe-poke enough to beat the number one. In a game marred with poor finishing, the moment of the match came through Beth Mead when the attacker went off running down the left, her footwork enough to see her open up just enough space in the box before firing low in first half stoppage time.
The weak finishing continued throughout the second half, both sides refusing to take their chances, nothing to separate them at the whistle.
Birmingham City 2-0 Sunderland
Making it three from three in eight days, the hosts took the lead through White as she continued her fine form with a neat strike before the England international set up Williams four minutes later to put the tie out of reach. Having climbed to third with the win, Birmingham finally seemed to have settled under coach Marc Skinner, the team finding the balance between defence and attack.
Manchester City 0-2 Reading
Remi Allen’s audacious bicycle kick gave the Royals the lead in Manchester as the Citizens struggled for their best against one of the surprise packages of the season so far, the lead doubled in the second half at another corner, Kirsty Pearce’s header too much for Roebuck. Reduced to ten after a straight red card to Jo Potter, Reading showed their grit to dig in and hold onto their lead and see the match out, the Royals having more than a little say in the title race.