Women’s football weekend represented a bumper round of FA WSL action, as attendances swelled around the country to mark a landmark day for the sport.
But on the pitch it was the players who did the talking, as Chelsea extended their early hegemony at the top of the table with a win over Manchester United and Reading and Bristol City played out a thriller at the Madejski Stadium.
And on a weekend where the dynamic of the table continued to shift, we picked out five key talking points from what proved to be yet another absorbing round of action.
Records tumble in watershed weekend
No fewer than 70,000 fans turned out around the country to watch WSL football this weekend, a remarkable figure testament to the inexorable growth of the sport’s popularity.
— Barclays FA Women's Super League (@BarclaysFAWSL) November 17, 2019
And attendance records were broken at two different grounds, as 38,262 supporters flocked to the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium to watch Spurs’ derby day defeat against Arsenal and 23,500 were at Anfield for the Merseyside rivalry between Liverpool and Everton.
With 4,790 also at Kingsmeadow to see Chelsea topple Casey Stoney’s WSL newcomers, it proved a weekend to remember for a sport that just gets bigger and bigger every week.
Chelsea show their steeliness to regain top spot
Many may have questioned Emma Hayes’ side’s resilience prior to this season following the surrendering of their 2017-18 WSL crown last term, but they showed all their top of the table credentials as they edged past Manchester United 1-0.
Nick Cushing’s Manchester City had temporarily usurped the spot at the summit following their emphatic early kick-off triumph over West Ham, but Maren Mjelde’s second half penalty proved enough to topple a resolute Red Devils and rise back to the top.
— Chelsea FC Women (@ChelseaFCW) November 17, 2019
And with Chelsea still unbeaten this season – they have drawn just once – and now with four wins on the bounce, it appears they may be the team to beat as the competition at the business end of the table really starts to hot up.
Toffees seize bragging rights on Merseyside
While it may now be 20 years since Everton won at Anfield in Premier League football, Willie Kirk’s side were more than willing to fill that void with alacrity in the WSL as a Lucy Graham strike on the cusp of half-time was enough to break Liverpool hearts.
And it’s been a much-improved start to the season for an Everton side who finished tenth last term, tightening their defensive resolve to thwart a Liverpool team who now sit at the foot of the table without a win.
Although bragging rights have been restored on the blue half of Merseyside, Kirk and his players will know this is only the start of the journey as Everton now look to build on their promising fourth-place position.
Thriller at the Madejski as Salmon rescues point
The game of the weekend unequivocally came from Berkshire, as a late Ebony Salmon strike for Bristol City crushed a Reading side who at one stage held a two-goal first-half lead.
And it was an important result for Tanya Oxtoby’s side, who moved two points above Liverpool in the relegation battle and simultaneously derailed the hosts’ lofty top four ambitions.
— Barclays FA Women's Super League (@BarclaysFAWSL) November 18, 2019
Remi Allen, Brooke Chaplen and Agharad James all scored for the hosts, but Charlie Wellings' and Yana Daniels’ second half goals laid the foundations for the fightback that Salmon capped off in the closing minutes.
City and Arsenal maintain pressure
While Chelsea continued to show they are the real deal this season with victory over Manchester United, City and Joe Montemurro’s Arsenal extended their early pressure on the league leaders with wins over West Ham and Tottenham respectively.
Cushing’s players set the tone for a super Sunday of action with a 5-0 demolition of the Hammers, as Georgia Stanway scored twice along with goals from Ellen White, Lauren Hemp and Tessa Wullaert to inflict a second defeat in a row on the mid-table visitors.
And it was an eventful afternoon for England international Stanway, who also got an assist before being sent off for a second yellow card in the 72nd minute.
Down in the capital it was defending champions Arsenal who similarly applied the pressure on Chelsea, with goals from Kim Little and the prolific Vivianne Miedema crushing the hosts’ hopes and painting North London red in the opening derby of the season.
With all sides nearly one-third of the way into this compelling FA WSL campaign, all eyes will now be on how the division’s frontrunners fare as we head into an action-packed winter period.
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