NPL Victoria Women Round Six Wrap

Kieran Yap provides his weekly round-up of all the action from the Victoria NPL Women’s competition. As usual, there is a detailed report on one game and a wrap of all the other matches along with photos (11/5/22).

Above: Aerial action between Alamein (blue) and Bayside United. Photo: Gary Cook via Bayside United.

MAIN REPORT OF THE WEEK:

Alamein 3-0 Bayside United

Alamein secured fourth spot on the table with a 3-0 win over Bayside. Kat Smith’s side was on the attack throughout and although Bayside showed much improvement from the previous two weeks, they were unable to reverse the run of poor results.

Bayside came into this game having suffered heavy defeats to Calder United and Bulleen Lions over the past two rounds. Alamein were looking for their first win in three matches after a draw at Box Hill and a loss to Bulleen.

Alamein started on the attack almost immediately. Bayside were content to sit back and to try and counterattack. Katrina Nikpour was Alamein’s most enterprising player early on. She found some space in midfield and her long-range shot missed the target but issued a warning for young goalkeeper Elisa Chechelnitskiy.

Nikpour was the creator of Alamein’s first goal. After being released down the right flank, she crossed the ball in dangerously. Nia Stamatopoulos was on hand to meet it. Her side-footed finish was perfectly executed, high into the net to make it 1-0.

Alamein were enjoying plenty of space on both wings. Bayside attempted to play the ball out through midfield but were often cut off. On the stroke of half time, a turnover created Alamein’s second goal.

Kiara Bercelli ran onto the through ball and cut inside her marker for a composed finish. The assistant referee signalled for offside but the central official overruled the decision and play continued. To Bayside’s credit, they played to the whistle, but it made for momentary confusion among those watching. It was a well-crafted and executed goal and on the stroke of halftime, it was 2-0.

Above: A tackle goes in during the Bayside United v Alamein match. Photo: Gary Cook via Bayside United.

Alamein continued to attack in the second half. Adelyn Ayton almost scored a long-range screamer with a shot almost out of nothing. Chechelnitskiy scrambled but had it covered as it whizzed high and wide of the goal.

A third goal felt inevitable and Bercelli provided one on the hour mark. Nikpour won the ball in midfield and her sliced pass fell into the ball of Bercelli who leapt to get above the bouncing ball and hit it into the net on the half volley.

Sidney Allen almost scored a fourth for Alamein. She raced onto a long clearance and outpaced her the defenders. After winning the ball she looked up and tried to beast Chechelnitskiy from range but her shot flew over the bar.

Molly-May Ramsay had Bayside’s best opportunity to pull one back. After finding space on the edge of the 18-yard box, she lined up a shot but did not challenge Evelyn Goldsmith in the Alamein goal.

Alamein next face a huge challenge when they meet third-placed Calder United. Bayside have a tough test ahead, but a winnable game against FV Emerging.

Squads: ALAMEIN: Goldsmith, Paraskevas, Renehan, Heysen, Hull, Allen, Ayton, Anastasopoulos (Wilson) (Parrone), Nikpour (Giummarra), Stamatopoulos, Bercelli.

Scorers: Stamatopoulos 32′, Bercelli 45′, 61′.

BAYSIDE UNITED: Chechelnitskiy, Gaudry (Porter), Cain-Edwards, Fogarty, Baker, Shearing, Jowett, Ramsay, Parker (Budiongo).

Referee: Luke Vaira

ROUND SIX ROUND-UP:

Across the other grounds, Bulleen Lions drew 1-1 against an impressive FV Emerging side. Caitlin Karic opened to scoring for NTC and it took a 74th-minute own goal by Emma Olsen to rescue a point for Bulleen.

Above: Calder United’s wall jumps against South Melbourne. Photo: Jack Dilks 171819.

Calder United continued their strong season with a 5-0 win over South Melbourne. Alana Cerne, Raquel Deralas, Natasha Dakic, Belinda Stojcevski, and Alexis Rossi scored for Calder. They now have 11 goals in their last two games.

Box Hill United defeated Heidelberg United 2-1  to complete the round. Laura Pickett scored in the 10th minute for Box Hill, before Danielle Wise levelled the scores. Anais Josekski regained the lead for Box Hill United in the 65th minute and that’s the way things stayed.

Table From: NPLW Victoria

Matildas Announce Spain Challenge

10/5/22

Above: The Matildas will be gathering together once more next month and will face a major test in Spain. Photo supplied to Impetus by: Football Australia.

Australia will head to Huelva to take on Spain on Saturday 25th June 2022 in the first of two international friendly matches for the June FIFA Window. 

The Matildas will meet the Women’s Euros bound nation at Estadio Nuevo Colombino with kick-off at 9.30pm (local time). 

With the hosts qualifying for the World Cup last month, it will be the first meeting between the two nations in women’s football just 15 months out from the tournament. 

At the announcement of the friendly, Football Australia CEO, James Johnson, said: “To have an opponent of the calibre of Spain lined up for June is an enticing prospect for all fans of the Matildas.  When it comes to the women’s game right now, Spain is one of the leading nations in world, whether it’s club or national team football.

Above: Alexia Putellas – just one of Spain’s superstars who will face Australia next month. Photo: One Football.

“We have been fully committed over the past 13 months to ensuring the Matildas have the strongest preparation possible for the World Cup, and Spain adds to the roster of top ten nations since national team activity re-commenced in 2021.  

“We are appreciative of the co-operation of the Royal Spanish Football Federation in organising this important preparation match with the world’s biggest women’s sporting event fast approaching.”

Spain will be the seventh top 10 nation Australia would have faced during head coach Tony Gustavsson’s tenure and the tenth nation ranked in the world’s top 20.  Football Australia will announce the second international friendly for the window shortly.

The Swedish Scene

Ben Gilby rounds up all the latest action in the Damallsvenskan and Elitettan with some big games played and major developments at AIK (10/5/22).

Above: Dramatic action in the game between Hammarby and Vittsjö. Photo: Hammarby.

DAMALLSVENSKAN:

Above: Djurgården show what it means to defeat big rivals AIK. Photo: DIF.

AIK’s dreadful start to the season reached a new low after losing 4-2 at home to bitter cross-city rivals Djurgården. Remy Siemsen had the first chance for the hosts, but struck the woodwork. The home support among the crowd of 998 were frustrated as Djurgården hit the front. Stinalisa Johansson’s cross from the right was turned into her own net by AIK captain Hannah Davison.

It got worse 10 minutes later as Sara Olai broke through to find Hayley Dowd to fire home. Three minutes before the break, AIK grabbed a lifeline when Chinyela Asher’s shot went in off of the post.

On the hour mark, AIK’s Linda Hallin saw her pass intercepted by Dowd who showed a clean pair of heels to score. However, just seven minutes later, the home side were back in it once more. Caroline Murray broke through and saw her shot rebound off of the post and in.

Jennie Nordin thought she had scored a dramatic leveller for AIK a minute into stoppage time when her shot bounced around on the goal line, but the officials ruled it had not gone over. Matters were decided four minutes later when Djurgården’s Lova Lundin scored from the penalty spot after Sara Nordin handled.

Since this match on Sunday, there have been major changes at the club with the departure of their entire management team. Sporting Director Anne Mäkinen, Head Coach Maiju Ruotsalainen and Assistant Coach Scott Swainston all left on Monday.

Above: Anne Mäkinen and Maiju Ruotsalainen who departed AIK this week. Photo: AIK Fotboll.

In their place come Herish Sadi as Acting Sports Director, with Jesper Björk and Nebojša Novaković as head coaches. Michael Nilsson is the new assistant coach. Speaking about the changes, Manual Lindberg, AIK’s CEO said: “Our goal this year is to establish ourselves in Damallsvenskan, which is also reflected in the resources allocated for the year. We can state that when a quarter of the season is played, we are not in line with set and expected performance goals and therefore we are forced to act.”

BK Häcken opened Round Seven on Friday night with a crucial match against top four rivals Linköping. After drawing three of their first six matches, Häcken knew that they could not afford to drop anything.

Spurred on by a crowd of 726 at their Bravida Arena home, the ever reliable Johanna Rytting Kaneryd gave her team the lead just after the quarter hour mark. Elin Rubensson’s sensational solo goal three minutes into the second half settled matters.

Taking possession just inside the Linköping half, Rubensson danced along the left, cut across the box and fired in a rocket from the edge of the box. It got worse for Linköping as Nilla Fischer was sent-off with twenty minutes left.

Rosengård are two points clear at the top after a 3-0 win at Umeå IK in front of 655 fans. Bea Sprung gave the defending champions the lead just before the half-hour mark with Emma Berglund doubling their advantage just ahead of half-time. The third came after 64 minutes thanks to Sofie Bredgaard.

Above: Action from Umeå IK (black)’s game with Rosengård. Photo: Umeå IK.

The biggest crowd of the weekend was at Hammarby Idrottsplats for Hammarby’s home game with Vittsjö. There were 1,016 in the stands to see Sarah Stratigakis give the visitors the lead with just six minutes played.

However, the Stockholm-based side levelled eight minutes before half-time thanks to Emilia Larsson’s strike. Madelen Janogly’s goal with 11 minutes to play gave the home fans high hopes of a third win of the season. Yet, less than two minutes later, Australian international Clare Polkinghorne struck to seal Vittsjö a point.

Above: Hammarby’s Madelen Janogy celebrates her goal. Photo: Hammarby.

Eskilstuna United are fifth after an excellent 2-1 win at Piteå who had only lost one game prior to this. Elin Rombing played in Mia Jalkerud to put the visitors ahead on 22 minutes. Hlín Eiríksdóttir supplied Aman Imo for Piteå’s equaliser just under 10 minutes into the second period to the delight of the crowd of 810. With five minutes to go, the points went the way of Eskilstuna after an own goal.

Above: Eskilstuna United get a shot in at Piteå. Photo: Eskilstuna United.

Kristianstads gained a comprehensive 4-1 win at home IF Brommapojkarna in front of 498 fans. With 20 minutes on the clock, Emma Petrovic supplied Michaela van den Bulk to put Kristianstads ahead. Just after the half-hour mark, Tabby Tindell grabbed her customary goal thanks to Delaney Pridham’s assist for her sixth strike in seven games. Pridham was involved in Kristianstads’ third as she supplied Petrovic in stoppage time at the end of the first half. Just after the hour mark, Bromma gained a faint hope when Tempest-Marie Norlin found Mathilda Splendor who scored. Yet, just four minutes later, once more Petrovic played in van den Bulk to seal the 4-1 success.

Above: Tabby Tindell (centre) celebrates her sixth goal in seven games. Photo: @issasjostedt.photos
Table From: Svensk Fotboll.

ROUND EIGHT FIXTURES: Djurgården v Umeå IK, IFK Kalmar v Vittsjö, Eskilstuna United v AIK, IF Brommapojkarna v Hammarby, KIF Örebro v BK Häcken, Linköping v Piteå, Rosengård v Kristianstads.

ELITETTAN

SELECTED MATCH DETAILS:

The already tight nature at the top of the Elitettan was further emphasised as four of the top five went head to head this week.

First up was the clash between Växjö in second, who travelled to third placed Alingsås FC United. A tough game ended goalless in front of 175 fans.

Leaders Lidköpings FK hosted a Sundsvalls side who went into the match with only one loss all season. It was the home side who emphasised their promotion credentials with a superb 3-0 success to extend their lead at the top to two points. Sarah Michael, and two goals from Ida Petersson (one penalty) sent the 156 fans home happy.

Above: IK Uppsala celebrate their 4-1 win over Jitex BK. Photo: IK Uppsala.

IK Uppsala renewed their promotion charge with a 4-1 thrashing of Jitex BK in front of 175 fans. They hit the front with just six minutes on the clock thanks to Nicole Robertson’s strike from Rosa Herros Ossorio’s link-up.

Herros Ossorio was a huge influence on the game. She also provided her team’s second as Helen Eke nodded home her cross thirteen minutes later put the hosts well on the way to the points. She then made it 3-0 just before the break after Wilma Thörnkvist’s ball from the left. with Robertson’s second goal on the hour mark sealing the win. Ella Ygfeldt hit a consolation for Jitex with 11 minutes remaining – she had previously hit the woodwork an incredible three times.

Round Six: IK Uppsala 4-1 Jitex BK, Team TG FF 2-0 Rävåsens IK Karlskoga, Alingsås FC United 0-0 Växjö, Bergdalens IK 2-2 Ifö Bromölla IF, Mallbackens IF Sunne 5-1 Älvsjö AIK FF, IFK Norrköping 2-1 Gamla Upsala SK, Lidköpings FK 3-0 Sundsvalls.

Table From: Svensk Fotboll.

Round Seven (Fixtures): Jitex BK v Bergdalens IK, Gamla Upsala SK v Lidköpings FK, Mallbackens IF Sunne v IK Uppsala, Sundsvalls v Team TG FF, Växjö v IFK Norrköping, Älvsjö AIK FF v Rävåsens IK Karlskoga, Ifö Bromölla IF v Alingsås FC United.

The View From France

Jean-Pierre Thiesset summarizes the 20th round of D1 Arkema.

Above: With 45 minutes played, Ada Hegerberg scores for Olympique Lyonnais after being played in by Amandine Henry. Photo: Jean-Pierre Thiesset for Impetus.

Montpellier won 3-0 at home against Soyaux. This game was edged by Montpellier (55% possession). However, after their goal at the 12th minute, they had to wait until the end of the game for their second (86th) and third goals (90th+1). Their final strike came from Matildas star Mary Fowler, who only came onto the pitch six minutes earlier. With this win, Montpellier stay in fifth place, but only three points ahead of Reims who are down in seventh. Goals for Montpellier from Faustine Robert (12, 86), Mary Fowler (90+1).

Above: Mary Fowler (far right) celebrates her last gasp goal for Montpellier that sealed their 3-0 win over Soyaux. Photo via: The Matildas.

Guingamp won 4-0 at home against Dijon. Guingamp were the dominant force against a Dijon team that was never really in a situation to put them in danger. With this loss, Dijon’s place in next season’s D1 Arkema is still uncertain. They have two games left and are only four points ahead of Soyaux who are 10th. On the other hand, with this win, Guingamp is now sure to be in D1 Arkema next season. Goals for Guingamp from Aissata Traoré (48), Sarah Cambot (68, 79), Alison Péniguel (84).

Fleury won 5-0 away from home against Issy. In a game largely dominated by Fleury (63% possession), Issy only managed three shots on target and had never really the opportunity to win this game.  Apart from two saves, Fleury goalkeeper Emmeline Mainguy had little to do during this game. The first save came after nine minutes with her right hand and second save two minutes into stoppage time at the end of the match. Fleury put a lot of pressure during all along the game and won many balls between the 30 and 50 meters zone of Issy’s part of the field but still they had to wait the second half to start to score. To be noted: Kenza Chapelle, 19 years old, scored her first two goals in D1 Arkema. Rosemonde Kouassi, 20 years old, scored one goal and made two decisive passes. Marine Dafeur also made two decisive passes. Goals for Fleury from Julie Debever (55), Rosemonde Kouassi (68), Kenza Chapelle (85, 90+1), Léa Le Garrec (89).

Above: Sonia Bompastor (left hand side), Lyon coach, and Sandrine Soubeyrand (right hand side), Paris FC coach, in discussion during the warm-up of their two team’s encounter at the weekend. Photo: Jean-Pierre Thiesset for Impetus.

Reims won 1-0 at home against Saint-Etienne. In a level game, Reims had to wait until two minutes into stoppage time at the end of the 90 minutes to score and win the game. With this victory, Reims, currently seventh, can still hope to finish as high as fifth place as Montpellier and Bordeaux (respectively fifth and sixth) are only three points ahead of them. Goal for Reims from Melchie Daëlle Dumornay (90+2).

Paris St. Germain won 5-1 away from home against Bordeaux. Despite the scoreline, it was a pretty even game. The difference was that PSG were more efficient and converted their opportunities. Kadidiatou Diani hit a hat-trick. Despite this win, Paris SG are still five points behind Lyon who they face next in Paris. Goals for Paris SG from Kadidiatou Diani (14, 51, 87), Marie-Antoinette Katoto (66), Jordyn Huitema (90+4). Goal for Bordeaux from Mélissa Gomes (76).

Above: Delphine Cascarino slots home Olympique Lyonnais’ second after Catarina Macario’s assist. Photo: Jean-Pierre Thiesset for Impetus.

Olympique Lyonnais won at home 2-0 against Paris FC. In a game between the teams placed first and third, Lyon had a little bit more opportunities, and it was a very pleasant game to watch between two excellent teams. Paris FC showed that they deserve their third place in the league, and they could have scored several times if Christiane Endler, Lyon’s goalkeeper, and her defence had not been on top form. We had to wait the end of the first half to see Lyon taking the lead when Ada Hegerberg scored after Armadine Henry’s pass. The scoring was completed after the hour when Delphine Cascarino received a pass from Catarina Macario to net. Goals for Lyon from Ada Hegerberg (45), Delphine Cascarino (61).

Above: The Paris FC team that played Olympique Lyonnais this weekend. Photo: Jean-Pierre Thiesset for Impetus.

No Jonas, Football Was Not “The Winner”

By Rachel Lara Cohen (9/5/22)

Above: Things get tasty in Wednesday night’s North London Derby. Photo: Arsenal WFC.

Following the North London Derby at the Emirates, Arsenal Manager Jonas Eidevall, stated that his team beating Tottenham Hotspur 3-0 meant that “football was the winner”.

It’s a tired cliché, but there are lots of tired clichés in football. More pertinently, it’s a cliché that’s usually trotted out to celebrate games that are hard-fought or a developing rivalry. Not used by a manager to gloat about his team’s home win over a significantly less well-resourced side, especially not one led by a manager in their first full year at the highest level.

Yet, both pre-and post-match Eidevall’s comments went beyond the usual ‘the better team on the day won’, choosing to make explicit criticisms of Spurs playing style.

Cards on the table: As a Spurs fan I am preternaturally disposed to dislike Arsenal. That said I respect and have long envied our North London rivals’ commitment to the women’s game. And am often awed by the quality of individual Arsenal players and at some of their combinations.

Moreover, on reflection, the outcome of Wednesday’s game was no worse than I feared it might be. I had hoped we might scrape a result – of any kind. Indeed, the draw in the reverse fixture (which could have – should have – been a win had Ashleigh Neville controlled her shot into an open goal) was an important step on the path to closing the gap. But the ongoing gulf in quality exists, not just between Spurs and Arsenal, but Arsenal and most of the league. Indeed, notwithstanding Spurs’ loss at the Emirates, our head-to-head record against Arsenal remains the fourth-best in the league (after Birmingham City, Chelsea, and Manchester United).

There’s no one way to play football

As noted by Rio Ferdiand in commenting on the Premier League Liverpool v Spurs game, “There are different ways to win a game of football”. Indeed, for many of us, the beauty of football is exactly this – that teams employ different tactics, and related, that the ‘best’ team may not always win.

Most of us gasp at the attacking verve of Brazil circa 1970 or, more relevant here, the current Barcelona women’s team, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t also appreciate the defensive nous, collective will to win, and occasional shit-housery of the Italian men’s teams of the 1980s and 1990s, admire the direct-play of Wolfsburg in this year’s Champions League (becoming the first team to beat Barcelona in 45 games), or marvel at Greece’s wholly unexpected and joyous if hard-fought and unstarry 2004 men’s Euro campaign.

Along those lines, the way that Spurs have played this season has, for those of us following it closely, been uplifting. Because it’s depended on and been underpinned by a commitment to one another, something the players and staff frequently talk about in interviews as ‘a family mentality’. The team’s strong defensive record is widely recognised, what is less often made explicit is that this is not simply the product of strong defenders (although it has clearly required that), but rather has involved the entire team working extremely hard, pressing, tracking-back and covering each other. In the North London Derby this was seen in the willingness of our attacking players (Jessica Naz, Rachel Williams, Rosella Ayane, and Kyah Simon) to put in blocks and try to win the ball back.

It is also seen in analysis of the season. The team’s desire to chase things down is evidenced by Spurs having won more loose balls than any other team this season. While ten Spurs players, as compared to just three Arsenal players, average over 20 pressures per 90 minutes played. Spurs have also won 30 more tackles than any other team and are second only to Chelsea in the number of aerial duels won. Ashleigh Neville tops the league in both tackles made and won and, until her injury, Ria Percival was also in the top five.

A corollary of that, as Eidevall pointed out in his pre-match interview, is that Spurs players have committed more fouls than Arsenal players. Does that mean that Spurs are a dirty team, as he unsubtly implied? Well, the difference is hardly massive – Spurs typically are called for four more fouls per game than Arsenal (12 as opposed to Arsenal’s eight), but for both teams, this has varied hugely across games against different opponents. In the game on Wednesday Spurs committed more fouls than Arsenal, but a few of those (in the first half especially, were marginal calls). By the end of the game Spurs had four yellow cards, but two (Summanen and Clemaron), as well as one for Arsenal’s McCabe, were for dissent as the Second half of this derby became increasingly feisty on and off the pitch.

The moment when both Clemaron and McCabe got booked. Image from @catherineivill

Perhaps it’s unsurprising that Spurs, a team that focuses heavily on whole-team defence, winning the ball back, and tackling will commit a few more fouls than a team with the personnel to control possession. But this is not to agree with Eidevall’s pre-match characterisation of Spurs as a team that shies away from possession and “doesn’t want the ball in play”. In fact, only the top four teams, and Everton, have (with one game remaining) averaged higher possession across the season than Spurs (who are on 50.3 percent).

It’s probably most accurate to say therefore that Spurs are equally likely to play in as out of possession, on the front or back foot, depending on their opponent. Indeed, even in the two games against Chelsea in the week before the Arsenal game, Spurs had 55 percent (home) and 45 percent (away) possession, while in their away game against Everton, which ended in a draw, despite less possession, Spurs had ten more shots, 6 more on target than their opponents. Moreover, by the end of the first half of the game at the Emirates, Spurs were starting to find spaces to play, with a few clear goalscoring chances. As the game went on, however, and as Spurs tired this reduced, with Arsenal increasingly dominant.

Timing

Speaking of tiredness, the North London Derby was Spurs’ fourth game (and third away game) in eleven days. As noted above, Tottenham’s previous three games included two hard-fought matches against Chelsea and a back-and-forth 2-2 draw at Everton. Weirdly, and something that speaks to the widely noted problems of WSL scheduling, across the previous two months Spurs had played just two games, mostly because of international breaks, but also Covid postponements.

In contrast, Arsenal came into the NLD after just two games in 11 days, the most recent a 7-0 home win over a hugely depleted Aston Villa side.

Spurs have a smaller squad than Arsenal, and had two fewer players on the bench. There is also a relatively large fall-off in quality between Spurs starting 11 and substitutes. Notwithstanding the injury to Jordan Nobbs last weekend, Arsenal’s bench on Wednesday included World Cup, Champions League, and WSL winners.

As such Eidevall had the capacity to make impactful substitutions, something that his counterpart, Rehanne Skinner was only able to do by not starting Evelina Summanen (who has been a consistent starter since joining in January) and bringing her on in the half. Perhaps most indicative of Spurs’ limited resources was the introduction on 69 minutes, 2-0 down, of Izzy Lane, an Academy player who had previously played once, as a 91st-minute substitute away at Manchester United. It was hardly surprising that she was unable to impact the direction of the game.  Arsenal, meanwhile could bring on key players like McCabe, Maanum, and Parris.

Izzy Lane. Image from @SpursWomen

Timing matters here because when games are spaced apart it’s possible to compete by relying on a group of starters who can play most of the 90 minutes. But as games come thick and fast and include difficult opponents, this dependence on starters is no longer viable. With a Spurs team whose average age is a whole year and a half older than any other WSL team tiredness can be even more of a problem, especially where games are coming thick and fast.

Resources

The Telegraph’s Tom Garry reported that for the 2019-20 season Tottenham ranked low for both total and average wages, above only Birmingham City, who have now been relegated. Garry suggests that things have since improved, but that he heard reports that up through last year Spurs were offering contracts that failed to adequately cover the higher cost of living in London.

With a rash of contract renewals agreed since Easter (Neville, Spencer, Zadorsky, and Graham so far) I very much hope this has been corrected and that Spurs players are paid at a wage commensurate with their skill and the club’s ambitions. Certainly, Spurs have committed additional resources to supporting the team in non-pay ways, for instance with full inclusion at the club’s state-of-the-art training facility. But at the same time, I doubt this will (yet) take Spurs anywhere near the wage bills of Arsenal (second top in 2019-20) or other top-four WSL clubs, where some players earn as much as £250,000 per year.

Spurs are a big club so, to some extent, it is the club’s choice to spend, or not, on the women’s team and if they don’t they have themselves to blame. Yet, it’s hard to make a big jump in quality. Spurs have created stability and cemented their promotion by bringing in older players with WSL experience (thus the team’s age profile). But, without Champions League games to entice players, and with mid-and low-table performances in their first two WSL seasons, and a still-relatively small fanbase, Tottenham’s work in last summer’s transfer markets was low key, with lots of churn, but no ‘star’ recruits.

Instead, most of those signed had been released from low/mid-level WSL teams undergoing equivalent churn. Several of these have become core to the team’s success this term (Molly Bartrip, Tinja Korpela, and Maeva Clemaron spring to mind), but none are the kind of player who is individually transformative.

Moreover, what’s notable about Spurs’ starters on Wednesday was that three of them had come up with the club from the Championship in 2019 (Ash Neville, Josie Green, and Jess Naz). One, Josie Green, has actually been at Spurs since the team was in the third tier of women’s football. Another, Ash Neville, has grown as a player under Rehanne Skinner, so that she is now a certain starter and won the FAWSL Player of the Month in February.

Spurs’ limitations are equally clear when we look at the January transfer window. They had already lost a key player in Kit Graham (ACL injury) by January and were having to play games with just three outfield players on the bench, so new blood was essential. In the event, however, the only signing was managed via the agent-skills of goalkeeper Tinja Korpela whose Finnish National Team ties netted the team the relatively unknown Evelina Summanen.

Additionally, Viki Schnaderbeck arrived on loan from Arsenal to play out the last few months of her contract, presumably to allow Arsenal to renew their own roster (her loan terms however made her ineligible for the North London Derby). In contrast, Arsenal recruited the highly rated Stina Blackstenius (who has already in her half-season in the WSL scored more goals than Spurs’ highest-scorer Rachel Williams has this season), Brazilian centre-half Rafaelle Souza and Austrian full-back Laura Wientoither.

Which is to highlight that Rehanne Skinner has much more limited resources. This season she has created a team that is greater than the sum of its parts, that is committed to playing for and with one another, and this has meant that they have ‘over-performed’ expectations. But there remain real limits.

When does ‘football win’?

When Arsenal beat Spurs they did so because they have objectively better and fresher players. But, as noted, they have better and fresher players because they have more resources. To ignore that and to argue that in winning you have secured the greater good of football is to celebrate the reproduction of existing inequalities in football, inequalities that make leagues uncompetitive, and uninteresting for all of those except the small minority of fans who support a top Four team.

For the rest of us, football may as often be ‘the winner’ when games are unpredictable, when the better team does not always win, and when teams play in ways that maximise their resources and improve the players they have to hand. By that standard, Spurs have contributed massively to the WSL this season, but so have West Ham, Birmingham, Aston Villa, and all the other teams who have produced upsets by playing their own way.

I hope that in the future this is something that Jonas can recognise and when the next North London Derby rolls around he manages to be more generous about his opposition. I also hope that by then the inequalities have shrunk further and, most importantly, that Spurs are the actual winners of that game.

Rachel Lara Cohen writes for Spurs Women Blog, on which this article was originally published. The site can be viewed here: https://spurswomen.uk/

Chelsea Second Half Super Show Seals Title

Impetus’ Ben Gilby was at Kingsmeadow to see Chelsea lift their third straight Barclays FA Women’s Super League title. But it needed a major second-half comeback. He captures the drama in words and photos (8/5/22).

Above: Chelsea lift the FAWSL title. Photo: Chelsea FC.

Chelsea have lifted the Barclays FA Women’s Super League title for the third season in a row after a sensational second-half performance which saw them come from 2-1 down to see off Manchester United.

Emma Hayes’ side went into the game knowing a win would give them the title. Anything less would see it go to Arsenal.

Above: Chelsea fans raising the roof from the start at Kingsmeadow. Photo: Ben Gilby.

Manchester United were aware that if they could spoil the party and Reading did them a favour in Berkshire, they could deny Manchester City the final Champions League spot. So, it was all on the line in front of a raucous Kingsmeadow.

The Red Devils were the better side in the first half. Leah Galton was hugely influential across the pitch and Martha Thomas was buzzing around making herself a nuisance. A clever defensive setup forced Chelsea on the back foot.

Above: Martha Thomas (9) celebrates after putting Manchester United ahead. Photo: Ben Gilby.

With 13 minutes played, United took the lead as Thomas headed home – you could not say it was not a surprise.

Five minutes later, Erin Cuthbert smashed home a leveller, but that was as good as it got for the Blues in the opening 45. They were forced into playing long balls forward and gave away possession cheaply. Ella Toone’s deflected strike from Galton’s ball in ensured that United went in at the break in front.

Above: Leah Galton supplies the ball into the box for Ella Toone to restore Manchester United’s lead. Photo: Ben Gilby.

At this point, the league title was going to Arsenal on goal difference, but Emma Hayes got her team in the dressing room and made some crucial changes.

On came Beth England and Ji So-Yun. England’s influence was notable from the start of the second period, linking with Sam Kerr with the Matilda becoming more prominent as a result.

Within a minute of the restart, Chelsea were level. A ball in from the right found Kerr who laid the ball back for Erin Cuthbert. The Scot’s shot was blocked but rebounded to the Australian superstar who hit an absolute rocket first time on the volley into the net from the edge of the 18 yard box.

Above: Guro Reiten puts Chelsea 3-2 ahead. Photo: Ben Gilby.

Just five minutes later, the Blues were in front as Ji played in Pernille Harder along the left. Guro Reiten ran across the Dane to get onto the end of her squared ball to roll the ball home.

Kingmeadow was at maximum volume all afternoon, but the noise was reaching levels that have rarely been reached in the 32-year history of this stadium.

With Chelsea now absolutely flying, the ultimate was reached with another sensational strike from Kerr. Reiten headed the ball forward to the East Fremantle-born star who had her back to goal, just outside the ‘D’. Kerr chested the ball down, turned, and saw United keeper Mary Earps positioned well to the left of the goal. In an instant, Australia’s all-time leading scorer lifted a stunning volley into the right-hand side of the net.

Above: Sam Kerr celebrates after her second stunning volley sealed the title. Photo: Ben Gilby.

Sam Kerr has scored some stunning goals in her life. But the two at Kingsmeadow this afternoon take some beating.

The remaining 25 minutes of the match were generally a procession on the pitch and a party in the packed stands. The introduction of departing club legends Ji and Drew Spence brought a clear desire for the pair to sign off at Kingsmeadow with a goal, but it was not to be.

This was a game of quality. Whilst both teams were not at their best simultaneously, there was so much to enjoy. Chelsea showed that, when it really matters, they know how to win matches against the better teams. This is the step that Manchester United need to take in order to finally play Champions League Football.

Ben Gilby’s EXCLUSIVE photo gallery from Kingsmeadow:

Teams: CHELSEA (3-5-3): Berger, Carter, Bright, Eriksson, Charles, Cuthbert, Ingle, Andersson, Harder, Kerr, Reiten. Substitutes: Musovic (GK), Nouwen, England, Ji, Fleming, Mjelde, James, Spence, Adullina.

Scorers: Cuthbert 18′. Kerr 46′, 66′. Reiten 51′.

MANCHESTER UNITED (4-2-3-1): Earps, Battle, Ladd, Thorisdóttir, Blundell, Groenen, Zelem, Thomas, Toone, Galton, Russo.

Scorers: Thomas 13′, Toone 25′.

Referee: Abigail Byrne.

Attendance: 4,378.

Above: Sam Kerr with the FAWSL trophy. Photo: Ben Gilby.

Above: The FAWSL Golden Boot winner – winners are grinners. Photo: Chelsea FC.

Reading’s Kelly Chambers on the Development of the FAWSL and Challenge of City

Ahead of tomorrow’s final game of the FAWSL season for Reading, Impetus’ Abi Ticehurst heard from their head coach Kelly Chambers (7/5/22).

Above: Kelly Chambers, Reading’s head coach. Photo: PA.

Reading head coach Kelly Chambers is well aware that her team face a serious test on the final day of the season against Manchester City, but is confident her players are prepared and ready for the task.

“It’s going to be a tough game, we’ve seen over their past fixtures that they’ve had how they’ve been quite rampant in front of goal. Also, I think Birmingham did a very good job for 45 minutes to frustrate them (on Wednesday night). Our game will be their third game in a week. We know what we’re going to be facing and for us we’ll be taking our approach into the game, in terms of tactically to try and frustrate them and try and be defensively really, really strong and that’s the stuff we’ve been working on this week.”

Reading’s opponents on Sunday have had a sensational couple of months. With what seemed for so long an unlikely Champions League qualification spot now in their own hands, and a fully fit team at the peak of their powers, it seems like a long time ago since Manchester City’s head coach Gareth Taylor was under pressure at the club.

Above: Gareth Taylor, head coach of Manchester City who Reading face tomorrow. Taylor’s future was under question before Christmas. Photo: Sky Sports.

“I think having players coming back has helped. He had a lot of injuries at the start of the season and players are obviously through that process and coming back into the fold and back into the team,” Chambers observed.

“For Gareth, he’s done exceptionally well and been exceptionally patient. He knows what the team can achieve, he trusted the process and trusted the players that they’d be able to turn it around and we’ve been able to see the fruitions of that now.

“You watch them and they’re unstoppable at the minute. They have world class players in their set up and for us on Sunday, we’ll need to make that game as difficult as possible and that for us is making sure that we’re defensively strong.”

Manchester City’s win over Birmingham City in midweek condemned the West Midlands club to relegation. With the Blues having been a foundation member of the FAWSL, Chambers sees this as an example of the direction that the women’s game is heading.

“They’ve been in it from the start, they’ve always been a team that have competed in this league and competed against the best. We’re starting to see the women’s game take a different turn. As much as we want to try and keep everyone on a level playing field, but unfortunately the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal, Man City in terms of the money that’s been invested there.

“They’re just pulling away from the other clubs and even if I look at ourselves, we’re now going to be the only team with a men’s Championship side in the league. But, when you’ve got Brighton, Leicester, Aston Villa, West Ham, those kind of mid-table teams, it’s about how do we get there. The investment in the women’s game from the top clubs is far superior to what the other clubs around them are getting.

“We thought the gap was getting smaller and don’t get me wrong, the league’s been very competitive this season and I think there’s not been a game where any manager would step into and go ‘this will be a three points in terms of planning ahead’, but I think we’re starting to see that divide again in terms of the top three and everybody else.

“In terms of the off-the-pitch stuff, like facilities, a lot of the teams’ training at the men’s training grounds. But, when you get to playing budget, I think it’s night and day in terms of what the top teams are investing. It might take time, Tottenham are very new, they’re probably going through a building process. I’d like to think everybody will be heading that way, it’s a case of looking at those clubs and they probably have double the player budget that some of who are in and around the table do right now.

Above: Kelly Chambers asserts that the gap between the top three and other clubs has widened this season. Photo: Robin Parker/FA.

“So, that gap is quite big but in terms of everything else, I think it’s great that the women are training at the men’s ground, clubs starting to try and play at their men’s grounds. Investment in being able to grow things off the pitch which allows you to then grow on the pitch.”

That investment from clubs in the FAWSL is seeing an increased focus on and recognition of fitness and tactics.

“There’s a lot more…elements this season for me, in terms of being able to look at ‘can we change? do we need to change?’ We’re adding so much more quality with regard to players, we’ve got some unbelievable world-class players in the league right now and that is driving the game forward.

“Some of our players haven’t been professional for that long, there’s still a learning element within that side of things. What does a professional environment look like, especially for our younger players?

“In terms of the league, we’ve definitely seen a rise in the quality and standard of football being played, that’s then leading to more people coming to watch it, then see the figure numbers for Sky and BBC. You see the flip side in terms of England games now. This league was put in place to create a winning women’s England team and I think that they’re in a very good place to step into the Euros this year.”

In terms of how she believes her own team have progressed this season, Chambers sees mixed signs. “It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster season, in terms of where we are, maybe (I’d like to be) one or two places higher if I look at the season as a whole I’d have liked to have finished.

“When we look at stats we’re fourth with clean sheets in the league, so why aren’t we winning games? We had that really good period, so we’ve had consistency this season and that’s what we need to iron out for next season. More consistent with our performances, more consistent with playing styles, and more consistent in terms of results.”

Off the pitch this week at Reading there has been mixed news with sadness at the announcement of Tash Harding’s impending departure, and the success of Amalie Eikeland at the club’s Gala night.

In terms of Harding leaving, Chambers said: “It was one of those (situations) in terms of pushing forward and in terms of freshness. In terms of where Tash was and where we were. It was a case of that decision was made and then she can start looking at what her next steps are.”

Above: Amalie Eikeland – a successful night for the Norwegian at the club’s Gala awards. Photo: Reading FC.

On Eikeland’s clean sweep of awards at their Gala night, Chambers was full of praise for her Norwegian star. “I think she’s been phenomenal.

“From start to finish, I think you’re guaranteed to get an eight out of 10 performance (from her) weekly. First and foremost the energy that she gives us, I think there’s been one or two games where she hasn’t played in midfield and she’s been a big miss there.

“Her energy, her willingness to get back and support the defence to prevent goals, but also her energy to get higher up the pitch. She’s been one of the first names on the team sheet across the season and been an integral part of the team.”

With this Sunday being the final game of the FAWSL campaign, Chambers cast her eyes ahead to preparing for next season and potential transfer targets.

“We’re looking to bring in a couple of players. For me what I’m really excited about is having a big core of the group moving to a second season together. It’s something that I haven’t had over the last couple of windows, I’ve had a turnaround of eight to 10 players in the last two windows.

“We’ve started something now, laid foundations, this season was always going to be one of these. The players are getting to know each other, I’m learning about the new players and everything else. I’ve got a big core of the group staying and what does that season look like.”

In terms of potential targets, the Reading boss said: “A lot of players if they are in the Euros, they want to try and get stuff done before they step into that zone because they want to come out of that knowing where they’re going.

“It’s important for me that we’re trying to get that part of the game plan done, so that if we’re bringing in someone from the Euros we concentrate on that and they know what we’re doing post that.”

Success For Sudbury In Suffolk Final

AFC Sudbury 3-1 Needham Market

By Darrell Allen at the Jobserve Community Stadium (7/5/22).

Above: AFC Sudbury celebrate with the trophy after their 3-1 win over Needham Market. Photo: AFC Sudbury.

Colchester United’s Jobserve Community Stadium was the venue on Friday night for the 2022 Suffolk FA Cup Final between two tier six teams, AFC Sudbury and Needham Market. 

Sudbury played in their traditional yellow shirts with Needham Market in their usual red.

The Suffolk FA had organised the evening well and ensured that the best possible atmosphere would be created with one stand open. Additionally, AFC Sudbury supporters were allocated the left hand side of the stand and Needham Market supporters on the right as you were looking at the pitch.

Above: Needham Market fans roar their team on at Colchester last night. Photo Needham Market FC.

Sudbury started the game with vibrant energy and enthusiasm as they began to pass the ball between themselves to get everyone confident in the initial phases.

However, they did not have it their own way as Lina Nagib had a chance from close range for Needham. Lois Balfour then found Ellie Rossiter but it was cut out by Sudbury. Needham did have penalty appeals waved away.

It was Sudbury who took the lead when a fine ball was picked up on the left by Evie Creaton who slotted beyond Clark in the Needham goal.

Above: Evie Creaton (3) gives AFC Sudbury the lead. Photo: Suffolk FA.

Sudbury doubled their advantage shortly afterwards when Kate Edwards found Creaton who forced a great save from Clark but the ball rebounded to Allen who finished well beyond Clark to put her team into a commanding position.

Sudbury continued their dominance as they looked to put the game out of sight. The next big chance was Alex Penny firing a ripper of a shot across the goal face and it needed a super outstretched save from Clark to prevent further damage to the scoreline.

Needham were next to have chances as a series of corners saw the best chance fall to an unmarked Ele Catchpole who fired over the bar.

Following a break in play for an injury and subsequent treatment required to the Sudbury keeper Millie Carter, it was Catchpole herself who had a decisive impact this time. A floated free-kick hit the crossbar and Catchpole was there to head in and spark wild scenes of celebration on the Needham dugout and amongst their fans.

The arrears had been reduced at a vital moment just before the break and there was renewed sense and belief that a remarkable turnaround could come in the second half.

Above: Jessica Allen (yellow shirt) doubles AFC Sudbury’s advantage. Photo: Clive Pearson.

However, Sudbury started the second half just as hungry as they began the first and scored immediately afterwards to restore their two-goal lead. A ball across the box from Creaton found Allen found who shot out to Penny who was there to finish. This was the moment when everyone in the ground knew the destination of the cup was Sudbury.

Needham tried to find a response as Abbie Fisher floated a free-kick just wide. Sudbury’s Phoebe Guiver had a shot from distance saved by Clark which fell to Allen but Clark was there again as this time stopped the shot with her legs.

The Sudbury captain Boni Shepherd was here, there and everywhere for the cause running her heart out for her club and ensuring they would experience no danger towards the climax. Alex Penny fired a late free-kick over the bar and that was the final act of a special night for Sudbury.

The victors game took the trophy by the authority of by scoring at the right times, two in the first 15 minutes and their other straight after the break to restore the two goal advantage. Whilst there was plenty of excellent football from Needham Market, this was Sudbury’s night and deservedly so.

Teams: AFC SUDBURY: Carter, Harrison, Provan, Mchale, Shepherd, Crawford, Edwards, Guiver, Creaton, Penny, Allen. Substitutes: Candice, Jeffrey, Smith, Dodd, Silva. 

Scorers: Creaton, Allen, Penny.

NEEDHAM MARKET: Clark, Pannifer, Thomas, Bloomfield, Catchpole, Rossiter, Henderson, Balfour, Etheridge, Nagib, Fisher. Substitutes: Ward, Brown, Wakefield, Sharp, Hall

Scorer: Catchpole.

Attendance: 566

“This Is A Joy” – Emma Hayes On Chelsea’s Must-Win Match

Impetus’ Kieran Yap heard from Chelsea boss Emma Hayes and key player Millie Bright at today’s media conference ahead of Sunday’s huge game against Manchester United (6/5/22).

Photo: Chelsea head coach Emma Hayes was in positive form at today’s media conference. Photo: Sky Sports.

Chelsea coach Emma Hayes is not feeling the pressure in the decisive game of the season.

The equation for Hayes’ top placed side is simple. If they defeat Manchester United they will be guaranteed a third FA Women’s Super League title in a row.

If Arsenal better their result in their match at West Ham United, the title goes go the North London club.

It will not be an easy task, The Blues will face a Manchester United side who are hunting a result to secure a Champions League place.

Speaking the media on Friday, Hayes detailed how both she and the club both deal with the intensity of repeated must-win games.

“We take everything in small chunks, daily chunks to build towards the game,” she said. “I don’t think this game has any different impact on us than the week before… because we’ve had to win every game. So it’s easy for us in our mindset to know that you have to do that, but you have to build towards it.

“You have to train properly, you have to recover properly, you have to prepare your mindset and all of that energy can be spent on game day not in the days leading up to it. I think our squad do really really well at managing that.”

It is a concept that was echoed by star defender Millie Bright. The England international described a team that had great balance but also extremely driven individuals.

Above: Chelsea’s inspirational defender Millie Bright. Photo: Chelsea FC

“We know what we need to do to get the job done, and we know what’s expected of one another,” said Bright. “Everyone’s got a lot of experience in our team. “Everyone’s been in different scenarios where they’ve had to deal with this sort of pressure. For me it’s just another example of being at a top club. For us it’s what is expected, it’s what Emma’s prepared us for.”

Like her coach, Bright was unfussed at the prospect of another vital match. Chelsea’s players have been accustomed to this. Last season they were also crowned on the final day of the season after cruising to a 5-0 over Reading.

“I think for us, every game is a must-win and that’s the mentality that we’ve had throughout the season,” reflected Bright.

“It really doesn’t make a difference in my opinion. We want to go there, we want to get a win, a good performance and end the season on a high so that would have been the same no matter what.”

If they are crowned league champions, the celebrations will be extra sweet for the home fans. In the previous two seasons, they have won away from home or during COVID lockdowns. On Sunday, they will be at Kingsmeadow, their fortress home ground where they enjoy strong support and an enviable record.

Bright described the home fans as like a 12th player that gives her teammates a lift when needed.

“A lot of the trophies we have won have been hard to celebrate. So to be given an opportunity to do that back at home in front of the fans who have been absolutely amazing the whole season would be incredible.”

If Bright seemed relaxed, Hayes was almost Zen-like in her approach to the season’s most important fixture. She reflected on the anxiety and stress of raising a son in the world and the daily issues many people face. Compared to those concerns, competing for a title was not stressful, but a case of living the dream. It was exactly where she and her players wanted to be.

Above: Millie Bright who spoke of the importance of the support from the Kingsmeadow fans. Photo: Ben Gilby.

“Look at the rising cost of people paying their bills, this is far from pressure. This is a joy, I love my job. I enjoy these situations and more importantly I enjoy representing a club that I absolutely adore and want to be in a position where we can continue to win on behalf of Chelsea is something I was born for.

“There’s no pressure… maybe an older wiser coach who is enjoying it a little more perhaps than the past.”

Hayes’ outlook was born from her unsuccessful tenure in the USA with Chicago Red Stars. Under her management, the team only recorded six wins in 26 games. Times have certainly changed for the reigning winner of FIFA’s Best Women’s Coach award. She credits those early struggles with crafting a new philosophy.

“I never forget failing so badly when I was in Chicago, and it sticks in my brain how I let so much affect me. The growth of social media, lots of different owners in my head, not feeling like I could find a clear solution. I promised myself that whatever happened from that day, that I was always going to live much differently as a coach, and I have ever since.

“I’m just blessed to be in the position I’m in for as long as I’ve been in and grateful that we have the opportunity to compete for the title on Sunday.”

In many ways, should Chelsea be triumphant, this will be the most impressive of the three league wins.

Aside from the constant uncertainty about the club’s ownership, they have had multiple long-term injuries to important players. Captain Magda Eriksson was injured early in the season, Pernille Harder joined her on the sidelines and Fran Kirby has been unavailable through illness.

In addition to that, Melanie Lupolz is on maternity leave, and both Sam Kerr and Ji So-Yun departed for the Asian Cup mid-season.

Above: Kingsmeadow Stadium – A firm favourite venue for Chelsea boss Emma Hayes. Photo: Chloe Knott for the FA.

For Chelsea to have survived these absences with championship aspirations intact is something that Hayes is particularly proud of. She highlighted the improved form of Jess Carter, the starring role of Guro Reiten, and the selfless teamwork of Erin Cuthbert.

“My question is how many top teams would have coped with that?” she said of the multiple obstacles they had to overcome to reach the pinnacle again.

A title win at Kingsmeadow will cap off another remarkable season by Chelsea and their manager, but she is quick to spread praise around the entire club.

“The one thing I’ve loved about working at this club is that everything that’s been done, has been done by everyone. The build at Kingsmeadow, the build of the fan base, the marketing, the media, the commercialisation of the club. That whole one (club) approach I think has put the team in a place where it could be successful on a pitch at Kingsmeadow.”

That stadium is often referred to as a fortress, but both Hayes and Bright agreed that it is their spiritual and footballing home. Although the club can sell out Wembley at an FA Cup Final, they are resistant to playing league games at Stamford Bridge.

“I’d much rather play in front of a packed crowd than a big stadium with 5,000 people in the back of a doubleheader where people don’t want to be there,” said Hayes. That for me is not the right way to go.”

If the players needed any extra incentive, this may be the last time star midfielder Ji So-Yun is seen in the WSL. It will also be a likely farewell to Drew Spence and Jonna Andersson.

Bright is determined to send them off on a high. “It will be, I think, the biggest high and I think it will be biggest win that we’ve ever done with the season that we’ve had with the challenges, how competitive the league’s been. But ultimately it will be a great send off for the players that have been so good for so long.”

Chelsea face Manchester United on Sunday at midday.