Goals and drama were the order of the day in the recent run of WSL 1 fixtures, with the games still coming thick and fast in the top tier of English football.
Blues ride luck to go temporarily top - Liverpool 1-2 Chelsea
An early Ji So-Yun goal looked to set the pace for Chelsea when they visited Liverpool’s Select Security Stadium but the Reds didn’t let their heads drop and kept coming at the away side, Hedvig Lindahl pulling off save after save to keep the hosts at bay. A Gilly Flaherty header from a Beth England corner looked to have sealed the win for the visitors but Liverpool didn’t relent.
After Lindahl went off with a head injury (Katie Chapman suffering a similar fate in the first half), the hosts started peppering the Chelsea goal. Rebecca Spencer made a string of stops to keep the Reds from scoring. With just less than ten minutes left, Caroline Weir finally bested the Chelsea ;keeper, latching into a smart Niamh Charles through ball and finishing past Spencer with ease.
A nervy final ten minutes ensued for the current champions but they held firm to claim a three points, arguably taking more than they deserved.
Hosts take all three from dominant performance - Birmingham 2-1 Doncaster
Although Doncaster took the lead through a Natasha Dowie goal inside of ten minutes, it was Birmingham who were running the game, and their dominance started to pay dividends when Freda Ayisi got her head on the end of a Kerys Harrop cross to even the scores up on the quarter hour mark.
The second Birmingham goal came through Mel Lawley, the attacker – a persistent threat all game – made her mark 30 minutes in, her angled lob catching the inside of the post on the way in. Even though the Belles saw more of the ball in the second half and markedly improved it wasn’t enough for them to break down the sturdy Birmingham defence as the Blues ran out worthy victors.
Royals make Gunners sweat - Reading 1-2 Arsenal
Arsenal were much the better team for most of the match and deservedly lead at the break through Jordan Nobbs’ long-range strike on the half hour mark. Dominique Janssen doubled the Gunners advantage on the hour, heading past Grace Moloney who’d been keeping the scoreline respectable all game. Reading rallied in the last twenty minutes and started testing Sari van Veenendaal more, Emma Follis reduced the deficit to one after her curler beat the Arsenal 'keeper.
The hosts made the last minutes of the game uncomfortable for the travelling side, Lauren Bruton headed just wide at the end of regulation time and Follis volleyed wide in stoppage. Arsenal very nearly paid the price for not having put the game to bed early; the Gunners managing a staggering 23 shots throughout the match.
City make it four wins from four - Sunderland 0-2 Man City
With Sunderland and Manchester City both having squandered chances early on it looked like they’d be heading into the break all square, however a smart move started by Jill Scott saw Daphne Corboz pick out an unmarked Nikita Parris at the back-post. The scoring was opened five minutes before the break, and Rachel Laws was bitterly disappointed to be beaten at her near post.
The second half followed in the same vein as the first. Man City searched for an elusive second and Sunderland held firm, looking to cause their own problems on the break. Injuries to Victoria Williams and Hayley Sharp in quick succession only made the mountain a steeper climb for the home side.
Fifteen minutes from time, City finally got the cushion they needed as Toni Duggan, fresh off the bench, was picked out by Demi Stokes and side-footed past Laws into the far corner with her first touch of the game. The goal sealing all three points for the visitors.
Two stalemates in the South – Arsenal 0-0 Birmingham & Reading 1-1 Sunderland
Birmingham will be happy with a point away from home but will feel they could have had all three when they travelled to Borehamwood. Arsenal were kept muted for most of the match, unable to find a way through a well set-up Birmingham. Very early in the season but it’s already looking bleak for the Gunners title challenge.
Twenty-five miles west of Borehamwood, Reading welcomed Sunderland to their new Adam’s Park home. The Lady Black Cats took a goal advantage into half time after Molly Bartrip fouled Beth Mead in the area. Mead was the one to take the spot kick, Mary Earps pulled off a brilliant save to thwart the striker however Mead picked up the ball on the rebound and found the back of the net at the second time of asking.
The Royals restored parity late in the second half, Helen Ward beating Rachel Laws from the spot after Megan Beer conceded the penalty and was dismissed for handling a Shelly Cox shot on the line. From start to finish, a very open game between the two, a hard fought point for each.
Clinical City shock Belles – Manchester City 6-0 Doncaster Belles
Less than ten minutes into the game, Doncaster were caught out on the counter. Lucy Bonze stroked into the bottom corner, just minutes later Jill Scott added a second, finishing from the edge of the area after Demi Stokes had seen her attempt cleared.
The third and fourth goals came from a corner; Nikita Parris’s effort rebounded off of the bar for Jane Ross to head home, and minutes later Jennifer Beattie burried her own header at a corner. A fifth goal in the dying seconds of the first halfwas added by Kosovare Asllani, found by an inch-perfect cross from Parris - the new signing with a tap-in.
The second half was much more contained although Man City continued to threaten throughout but there was just one goal. Parris chalked up another assist for Toni Duggan to tap-in at the back post. With more than one shot cleared off of the line and City hitting the woodwork a handful of times, the score could have been much worse. It wasn’t completely one-sided, however, and the Belles had their own chances but failed to capitalise.
Notts survive late scare to claim first win of season – Notts County 3-2 Liverpool
Although Liverpool had seen more of the ball in the first half, Notts County were clinical on the break. First loanee Rachel Yankey made a sharp run on the left, her no-look-pass picking out Ellen White in front of goal and the striker poked home mid-trip. The second goal was all Jess Clarke, keeping the ball alive on the right before cutting into the box and firing across goal to find the top corner; Siobhan Chamberlain unable to stop the strike.
Liverpool continued to dominate possession in the second half but after Caroline Weir blasted her penalty over the bar, Notts added a third. White went alone, sending Gemma Bonner the wrong way and emphatically blasting the ball into the net. At three-nil up the Lady Pies should have been cruising but after Amy Turner conceded a second penalty, Katie Zelem made no mistake.
Zelem added a second just two minutes later, keeping the ball alive after a corner and finishing into the far corner from a tight angle, Telford bested once more. Even with Liverpool throwing everything at the home side in the last minutes they couldn't find an equaliser.