WSL 1 Recap: The year so far

A look back at the first six weeks of the year in WSL 1

WSL 1 Recap: The year so far
Credit: Getty/Marc Atkins/Offside

A quick look back at how 2018 is playing out for each WSL 1 club.

Arsenal

Still looking for their feet under new boss, Joe Montemurro, the Gunners started the year out in frustrating fashion, doing their best to match Chelsea blow for blow at Kingsmeadow. Maren Mjelde’s goal was the different at the break before Vivianne Miedema restored parity only to see Ji So Yun hit back for the hosts before Dominque Janssen equalised three minutes later. As the match rolled towards a point a piece, late substitute Jonna Andersson proved to be the difference as her scuffed shot was punched home by Sari van Veenendaal to keep Chelsea on course.

Having recently bested Reading in a cup game to reach the final of the WSL Cup, Arsenal found themselves blunted when they clashed with the Royals once more, both sides digging in in defence and offering little in attack. A scoreless draw about right on the measure of the match.

Struggling from the spot, the Gunners had little joy from 12-yards in Widnes, Miedema given a second bite of the cherry when Becky Flaherty parried her penalty, the striker far more clinical with her second chance. A goal to the good, Janssen’s sublime effort on the stroke of half-time left the Reds with it all to do, Lisa Evans' second for her new club enough to decide the tie.

With a spring in their step after their win over Liverpool, Arsenal showed their strength as they compounded Yeovil’s misery having only just eased past them in the cup. Showing their depth both Dan Carter and Beth Mead bagged themselves braces as the London-based team leap-frogged the Reds into third.

Birmingham City

Looking for both more punch in front of goal and a return to their former defensive strength, Birmingham started the year out with a heavy loss to surprise package of the season, Sunderland. Dominique Bruinenberg’s goal just before the hour left the visitors with it all to do, Hayley Sharp’s effort just before full time enough to confirm the win before Abbey Joice put the gloss on, deep in stoppage time.

On a four-match winless run, the Blues finally started to work their way back up the WSL table with back-to-back wins over Bristol and Yeovil. Aoife Mannion’s converted penalty ten minutes into the second half against the Vixens enough to give Birmingham the edge before Charlie Wellings added a second seven minutes later, leaving the visitors no room for a comeback. With a spring in their step, the hosts dug out a second successive win, a Mannion penalty the catalyst once more, with Meaghan Sargeant the one to add a second before Ellen White put the match out of reach just after the break.

With their third win of the season in the bag, the Blues had little luck at home when they clashed with Chelsea, a superb effort from Ji So Yun enough to put the match out of reach after Fran Kirby had opened the scores in the first half. Half-way through the season, Birmingham find themselves in the middle of the table, top three well out of reach.

Bristol City

Doing their best to give a good account of themselves on their return to WSL 1, the Vixens started the year out with a healthy win over fellow promoted side, Everton. Lauren Hemp’s brace enough for all three points, Courtney Sweetman-Kirk’s 74th minute goal a conciliation for the Blue Girls.

After a frustrating first half, the Vixens found themselves hit for two in less than ten minutes when Charlie Wellings got the better of Caitlin Leach after Aoife Mannion had broken the deadlock from the spot early in the second half. Back in action two weeks later, Bristol found themselves succumbing to the same scoreline against another established WSL 1 side, Beth England’s brace enough for the Reds in Widnes.

Scrapping for eighth with Everton, Bristol were pushed back down to ninth after their tight loss at home to Sunderland. Bridget Galloway’s opener was fast cancelled out by Hemp as the 17-year-old found her fourth of the season, Rachel Pitman’s gambit just before the hour all to separate the two at full time.

Chelsea

Within touching distance of table-toppers City, Chelsea survived a strong fight from familiar foes Arsenal to claim a late winner when Sari van Veenendaal turned Jonna Andersson’s effort home after both Maren Mjelde and Ji So Yun had given them the lead with Vivianne Miedema and Dominque Janssen notching the equalisers for the Gunners.

Fielding a much-changed team to rotate and rest players for their clash against City, Chelsea left it late against a fine Everton side. The Blue Girls left frustrated after Courtney Sweetman-Kirk had seen her penalty send Hedvig Lindahl the wrong way but fail to beat the post, their resolve undone six minutes from time. The unlikely catalyst, Andersson proved her worth when she tipped the tie in Chelsea’s favour for the second match running with a late effort that got the best off Lizzie Durack.

Having pulled off late wins, the Blues had no such luck when they hosted Man City at the start of February, having ridden out pressure from the visitors it was the hosts who turned the heat up after the break. With first choice ‘keeper Karen Bardsley forced off early with a shoulder injury, Chelsea were left frustrated as they failed to find a way around City’s determined back-up, 18-year-old Ellie Roebuck. Forced to settle for a draw, the Blues remain in touching distance of their closest rivals.  

After a ten-goal rout in the FA Cup, Chelsea returned to league action and faced a much sterner test in Birmingham, Fran Kirby’s poached goal enough to give them the early advantage. Left looking for a cushion until after the hour, the visitors were given breathing space when Ji got the best of Ann-Katrin Berger with a stunner from range, leaving them top over-night before City regained the top spot.

 

Everton

Struggling for consistency on their return to the top flight, Everton found themselves two goals down at the Stoke Gifford in their first match of the year, Lauren Hemp’s double enough to see the Blue Girls leave empty-handed despite Courtney Sweetman-Kirk’s late gambit.

Given a tough test with a trip to Chelsea’s Kingsmeadow home the Blue Girls played some of their best football of the season, unfortunate not to be a goal to the good when Sweetman-Kirk’s penalty cannoned off of the woodwork and stayed out. Cruising towards a credible draw, Everton’s hard work was undone late when Swedish defender Jonna Andersson fired into the top corner to give the hosts all three points.

A perfect start at home to Reading helped Everton climb up to eighth, tied for points with their opposition, but four goals worse off. The match got underway in fast fashion when Sweetman-Kirk worked an opening and got the better of Mary Earps four minutes in, Chloe Kelly’s smart counter half-way through the first half enough for a second. Not going down without a fight, the Royals pulled one back courtesy of Rachel Furness though couldn’t work another opening, the hosts holding on well to claim all three points.

Liverpool

Not enjoying the best run of form so far this season, the Reds started the year with a bang when they hit strugglers Yeovil for eight. After Annie Heatherson had put the goal into her own net the hosts turned on the style, Beth England catching the eye for Liverpool as she found the back of the net twice in each half. Comfortable after the break, Caroline Weir and Jess Clarke both got the better of Megan Walsh before England’s fourth and final goal on the hour. Seven goals to the good, there was still time for Laura Coombs to add an eighth fifteen minutes from time and give the Reds’ goal difference a healthy boost.

England was again in fine form in the Reds next league outing, her second half double enough for the hosts to see off a determined Bristol team.

Given a sterner task against an improving Arsenal side, Liverpool found themselves two goals down at the break. Vivianne Miedema’s follow-up from her own saved penalty enough to give the visitors some momentum before Dominque Janssen slammed in a glorious volley from range with the last kick of the first half. The game put to bed after the break by Scottish international Lisa Evans as Arsenal showed their class to keep the hosts at arm’s length.

On the back of their loss to Arsenal, Liverpool had to make the short-trip to City’s Academy Stadium, the Reds on the back-foot seconds in when the ball ricocheted off of Nikita Parris’ face and left Becky Flaherty helpless to stop it. Parris was involved again when she was felled in the area early in the second half, Izzy Christiansen clinical as ever from the spot before Parris fired in her second of the match. As the game had started with a strange goal so it ended with one, Abbie McManus left in space in the box, her initial effort deflected back to her, the ball jumping off of her knee and beyond Flaherty to cap off a week to forget for the Reds.

Manchester City

Nadia Nadim needed just five minutes to open her account with the Citizens this year, the Dane heading home early at Adams Park. Claire Emslie doubled the advantage before Remi Allen pulled one back for the hosts, Brooke Chaplen’s equaliser only allowed to stand for two minutes before Izzy Christiansen reopened a goal advantage just before the break. The match quickly wrapped up before the hour when Jill Scott completed a two-minute brace to leave the Royals with no room for a come-back.

Having conceded two to Reading, the Citizens were more regimented next time out away to Sunderland, letting nothing slip at the back the visitors eased to another win, Nikita Parris’ opener doubled by Christiansen just after the break before Parris added a third.

After putting five past Reading and three beyond Sunderland, City struggled for inspiration against title-rivals, Chelsea, the biggest upshot of their top of the table clash, injuries to both Karen Bardsley and Steph Houghton. With a point in the locker for a hard evenings’ graft, the Citizens were more effervescent at home to Liverpool, Parris in inspired form as she fluked a second minute goal before winning a penalty after the break which Christiansen converted with ease. Two goals up, Parris added a third on the hour before Abbie McManus notched the fourth, her first time effort parried back at her as it bounced off of her knee and in. The Citizens back into first, still just two points ahead of Chelsea.

 

Reading

The goals came thick and fast in Reading’s first match of the season, Remi Allen and Brooke Chaplen both doing their bit for the hosts after Nadia Nadim and Claire Emslie had given the visitors a two-goal lead. Izzy Christiansen’s goal at the end of the first half taking the momentum out of the Royal’s charge, Jill Scott’s brace at the start of the second half enough to give the Citizens all three points.

After the frenzy of their seven-goal game, the Royals next outing at Adams Park was far more subdued, neither Reading nor Arsenal able to dig out a goal on a cold day, with both forced to settle for a point each.

On the back of a four-match winless run in all competitions the Royals found no joy in Widnes, a goal down four minutes in after Courtney Sweetman-Kirk had fired low past Mary Earps. Recovering well, Reading couldn’t find the right touch to get the better of the home defence and were left short when the Blue Girls struck on the counter, Chloe Kelly bright to double the lead. Rachel Furness’ header not enough to see the visitors mount a comeback, the Royals slipping down into seventh with a game in hand.

Sunderland

Looking a much stronger side since Melanie Reay took charge, the Lady Black Cats were able to turn on the style at home to Birmingham, Dominique Bruinenberg’s opener tipping the tie in their favour. Though the hosts had to wait until late in the day to wrap the win up, Hayley Sharp’s 87 minute goal enough to double the advantage before Abbey Joice added a third late in stoppage time.

From a 3-0 loss, Sunderland were forced to see things from the other side as they welcomed high-flyers, Man City to the North East. Nikita Parris’ double sandwiching Izzy Christiansen’s eighth of the season.

Wrapping up their hattrick of three-goal games, Sunderland struck early at the Stoke Gifford when Bridget Galloway opened the scores ten minutes in before Lauren Hemp pulled the hosts level with a neat header. With both sides coming close it was the visitors who found the all-important third goal, Rachel Pitman’s snap-shot at a Lucy Staniforth free kick enough for all three points, leaving the northern most team in WSL 1 up in fifth.  

Yeovil Town

Having a torrid time of it in WSL 1, Yeovil were given little room to find their rhythm at the Select Security against a rampant Liverpool side, Beth England’s four goals over half an hour inflicting half the damage. Along with England, Caroline Weir, Jess Clarke and Laura Coombs all found themselves on the scoresheet after Annie Heatherson’s early own goal had tipped the scales in Liverpool’s favour.

Still looking for their first goal of the season, let alone their first win, the Lady Glovers came up against another brick wall at Damson Park, Aoife Mannion’s early penalty enough to leave them on the back foot. Meaghan Sargeant and Ellen White’s goals either side of the break leaving them no room for a comeback.

Up against the Gunners for the second time in eight days, Yeovil only fared worse away from home, shipping two to both Dan Carter and Beth Mead, the southern side now having conceded 29 goals in eight league games.

WSL 1 table as it stands (Credit: The FA)
WSL 1 table as it stands (Credit: The FA)