Still hording all the goals, Arsenal avoided a scare at home to West Ham as Birmingham City notched their third 1-0 win, seeing off Reading as Chelsea continued their own trend of scoreless draws away to Everton. Meanwhile, Liverpool picked up their first win against Brighton as Manchester City came from behind to put the dampeners on a near-perfect Bristol City performance.
A tame affair from start to finish, the Seagulls were happy to let Liverpool have the lion’s share of possession, looking to counter their visitors, but failed to really get going in attack. Liverpool, despite having the possession, lacked a serious bite for almost all of the 90 minutes, clearly still a team in transition. With the match drifting to what seemed an inevitable draw, substitute Rinsola Babajide proved to be the difference, chancing her arm from outside the box five minutes after coming on. Her low effort skimmed away from Lucy Gillett and found the bottom corner to give Liverpool their first win of the season with Brighton still left to look for their first point.
The figurative unstoppable force in WSL so far this season, Arsenal continued their impressive scoring run but were far from having things all their own way at home. Bagging the Hammers’ first goal in WSL, Kate Longhurst gave the visitors the lead with a strong header nine minutes in. The response from the Gunners was however, swift with Daniëlle van de Donk flicking the ball beyond Becky Spencer three minutes later but West Ham came back again. And again, it was Longhurst who proved to be the spark in the box, charging in to connect and send the ball home after a flap from Pauline Peyraud-Magnin.
However, the hosts couldn’t be kept down and van de Donk restored parity just before the break with another close-range poke-home, completing her hat trick on the hour in similar fashion. Whilst the Dutchwoman’s goals had been rather scrappy, Kim Little’s drive from range was the opposite, the two-goal lead enough for Arsenal to finally relax late in the game.
There was to be one final goal however, Claire Rafferty’s free kick allowed to slip behind the goalkeeper at her near post, though it made for a nervy final five minutes it wasn’t enough to halt Arsenal’s title challenge.
In a match that lacked a real spark of quality, it was Everton who saw the better chances throughout with Carly Telford on hand to clear a pair of Inessa Kaagman free kicks, one in each half. The real moment of contention, when the shot-stopper miscued a parry and was forced to fall backwards into her goal in an attempt to claw the ball out, the home team sure they had scored but the referee unmoved.
It wasn’t all one-sided however and Kirsty Levell was called into action on a handful of occasions, twice to deny Drew Spence before substitute Fran Kirby skewed her shot from 11-yard. A late flurry in the bulky stoppage time wasn’t enough for the champions and they made it a third straight 0-0, the draw the first point of the year for the Toffees.
Following on from their scoreless draw against Chelsea in the midweek, Bristol hit the ground running at the CFA, taking the lead 16 minutes in when Danique Kerkdijk poked home Karen Bardsley’s parry. Defensively resolute in their two league games so far this season, Sophie Baggaley didn’t look like giving up her clean sheet.
Against all odds it was the Vixens who claimed the second of the match, a lapse in concentration from Bardsley allowing Juliette Kemppi to nick the ball away from her, 35-yards out. With time for two touches as the ‘keeper raced back, Kemppi remained composed to lob the number one and given the visitors a cushion.
The two goals wouldn’t be enough for all three points however, as the Citizens found a late route back into the match, a soft foul on Nikita Parris bringing about the first for the hosts as the attacker converted from the spot. Baggaley beaten again in stoppage time when Steph Houghton dug out a rocket from range to snatch a late point.
Going about business rather differently than Arsenal, Birmingham are still going toe-to-toe with the Gunners at the top of the table. With their third successive one-nil win, the Blues have kept themselves second, the moment of magic just seven minutes in when Paige Williams’ lofted cross across found fellow full-back Meaghan Sargeant well on the far side. Sargeant’s volley enough to get the better of Grace Moloney as it whisked into the air, looping over the goalkeeper and settling in the far side of the net. The remaining 83 minutes, a show of goalkeeping strength from both Moloney and Ann Katrin Berger, both alert to keep everything else out.