Darrell Allen provides a fans-eye perspective on Chelsea’s WSL winning victory at Reading on Saturday (29/5/23).
Above: Millie Bright (left) and Sam Kerr celebrate with the WSL trophy at the SCL Stadium on Saturday. Photo: Andy Wicks for Impetus.
As comfortable as it gets
Days shouldn’t come more high-pressured than a title-deciding final day away to a Reading team who had to win to stand any chance of avoiding relegation. With Manchester United taking an expected win at Liverpool, Chelsea themselves needed at least a draw to win the title.
In the end, this was as comfortable as it gets: a total breeze, as Chelsea dominated the game from start to finish and barely had to go through the gears to sweep aside Reading, who played from the off like a team already down.
After missing a hatful of chances, (Sam Kerr firing over and an Erin Cuthbert shot being palmed onto the crossbar), Kerr finally gave Chelsea a deserved lead on 18 minutes when she headed in a beautiful cross from Guro Reiten.
Reiten herself doubled the lead just before the halftime break – and Kerr scored again to put the gloss on it late in the second half and made it 3-0 so the party could really start.
A home game on all bar paper
Honestly, you might as well have played this game at Kingsmeadow or Stamford Bridge. This was a Chelsea home game in all ways apart from on paper. Held, of course, at The SCL Stadium in Reading, but you wouldn’t have known it. As we drove into the car park, all you saw was a sea of Chelsea fans as their club took over the ground – well beyond the four blocks allocated to them.
Chelsea brought the flags and the fans waved them wildly. Legendary Chelsea fan Basil was conducting the crowd with his instruments and dancing up and down all the blocks. This felt so emotional in different ways: firstly it was brilliant to see the Chelsea support, a crowd of more than 7,000 as the Blues fans did the club proud but secondly a sad feeling that the best it got for Reading at home was Chelsea fans taking over the stadium.
When we came out of the ground after the title celebrations had concluded, Chelsea fans were again there waiting to applaud their team onto the bus as they set off into the night to party. Emma Hayes casually escaped in a car behind, cuddling her young son in the back seat. Once the fans noticed “There’s only one Emma Hayes” rang out as the Blues boss waved back.
This was a Chelsea occasion in all ways. The Reading stadium announcer was superb in honouring Chelsea, and the Reading stewards allowed the Chelsea supporters to celebrate in the stadium for as long as they wanted, it was a great football family-feeling day.
Where Reading should rightfully be applauded is the fact they host all their women’s team matches at the wonderful SCL Stadium. No matter the opposition, they treat their female team as everyone should by using the same stadium as their male counterparts.
The stunning facility just off the M4 with as much parking as the eye could see, a lovely hotel on site, and fantastic fan park which looked glorious in the sunshine yesterday. This really is a fabulous place to watch football. Sadly, on the pitch, it has not worked this season for Reading’s male and female sides, both of whom have been relegated, but I very much hope they will continue to host all Reading Women fixtures at this ground.
Reading are a fantastic club that welcome you brilliant and I personally wish them every success in the Championship next season.
It’s a family affair
A tremendous family feel on Saturday was emphasised by the fact that injured Chelsea stars Millie Bright and Fran Kirby were present to receive their medals along with their teammates and celebrate winning the Barclays Women’s Super League for the fourth time in a row.
The emotion yesterday was extra special as this was a beautiful way to conclude their hugely successful Chelsea careers for Magdalena Eriksson and Pernille Harder who played their final matches in a Chelsea shirt.
The sweetest moment of the day was when Emma Hayes together with her young son lifted the trophy before posing for photographs in front of the celebrating Chelsea fans. This was a moment that reduced many to tears.
The greatest title
As Emma Hayes said, this is her greatest title, and rightly so. From losing on the opening day of the season to missing a chunk of the season herself after undergoing an emergency hysterectomy. So to come out on top by two points is an amazing triumph.
Picking up a point at Arsenal in January when they were dreadful performance-wise, the double victory over Manchester United, and stringing win after win together late in the season when they were playing every weekend and midweek was a fantastic show of champions and this is why they deservedly took the crown home again.
A league and FA Cup double once again for Hayes and Chelsea. Whilst Arsenal lowered their colours in the Conti Cup Final, the South-West London-based side are the dominant team in the country still.
What follows is fascinating. How will Chelsea adapt after the departures of Eriksson and Harder? Will the global stars rumoured to be linked with Kingsmeadow arrive? Those are questions for another day, as now it’s time to celebrate this great team.
Above: Glasgow City lift the SHAAP 18s National Academy Programme Cup Final after thwi win over Rangers. Photo: Ger Harley / Sportpix.
Glasgow City have secured a cup double in the under-18s elite youth game after beating Rangers 3-1 in the SHAAP 18s National Academy Programme Cup final.
The result follows Heart of Midlothian winning the treble by lifting the U16s NAP league cup on Saturday with cross city rivals Hibernian winning the 14s NAP league cup.
With one or two regulars promoted to the bench at Hampden, U18s league champions Rangers nevertheless played some nice football, particularly in the second half, with Mason Clark looking lively up front. But Glasgow City used their experience and physical presence to take control of the game, and Cara Gray scored the opener, latching onto a cross after 13 minutes.
On 37 minutes Sophia Martin controlled the ball out wide and curled a precise finish from 25 yards into the near top corner, leaving Rangers keeper Lucy Inman with no chance.
In the second half, Rangers upped their physicality and were unlucky not to poke home from a corner, before City broke on a quick counterattack after the hour mark, 11 Wright cut into the box to receive a diagonal ball from Forrest and stroked it home. Mason Clark quickly pulled one back for Rangers after running onto a long ball, but City would hold on and create a few chances on the break themselves to see out the final 3-1 and secure an impressive cup double following their Scottish Youth Cup win over Celtic in January.
On Saturday, Hibernian ran out 2-1 winners over Celtic to lift the U14s NAP league cup. The Glasgow side Celtic looked to get the ball down on play in the early stages, but the Hibs defence were comfortable dealing with attacks, while Jessica Ramsey in midfield looked lively running the channels. And it was Hibs with the ball in the net after 18 minutes but the flag was up.
The Hibees grew in confidence, and on 23 minutes, forward Ava Keenan drove a low free kick just outside the far post. She would make up for it five minutes later, latching onto a wonderful chip by Ramsey and lobbing it over the onrushing keeper for the opener.
Celtic equalised within a minute of the second half kicking off, Lily McLaughlin cutting in from wide and firing home.
Keenan came under some heavy challenges and Hibs were forced into a change, but they worked a corner well which found Ramsey but her shot cracked off the bar, then Celtic broke up the other end and won a free kick on the edge of the box, that, too was denied by the bar after the Hibs keeper got a hand to it.
The game looked to be heading to extra time as the teams jousted for control of the midfield, but Ramsey would prove to be the matchwinner, driving home from a diagonal pass from 25 yards to send the cup back to Leith.
The U16s game was full of excellent football from both sides, with Hamilton Academical taking the game to league and Scottish Youth Cup holders Heart of Midlothian.
Indeed, it was Accies who had double-winning Hearts on the back foot in the early stages, utilising the high press to good effect in midfield, and the Hamilton wingers looking lively going forward. A resolute Hearts defence managed a goal-saving tackle in the box after 26 minutes.
As the half neared its conclusion, commanding Hamilton keeper Emma Thomson came out bravely to charge down a strike by Izzy Young, ensuring it was goalless at the break.
But it was Hearts who emerged for the second half hungrier, Jessica Husband cutting in on the right with a great finish into the far corner.
Hearts were starting to pull the strings through Olivia Chomczuk, and on 53 minutes Young burst free and her shot beat Thomson but rebounded off the upright and the keeper did well to smother it.
But shortly afterwards, Hearts would double their lead through Emily Shanks with a rocket into the top bins. And with Hamilton working hard through 22 to get back into the game, Hearts would add a third through Amelie Chomczuk, cutting into the box and controlling brilliantly before poking home to secure an impressive treble for this young Hearts side.
Report and EXCLUSIVE photo gallery from Jon Smalldon(29/5/23).
Above: Ashford United celebrate with the London & South East Division One South championship trophy yesterday. Photo: Jon Smalldon for Impetus.
Ashford United celebrated their promotion to tier five with a day in the sun and a big crowd at the Homelands Stadium.
Sadly, for the home side at least, they were on the wrong side of a nine-goal thriller with the visitors Eastbourne United AFC, coming away with a 5-4 win.
Eastbourne hit the front early on, however, Jenny Newman levelled matters with 24 minutes on the clock, and less than 60 seconds later put her side in front with a header.
Yet the early rapid-fire exchange of goals continued with the visitors equalising just eight minutes later thanks the two sides went in locked at 2-2 at the break.
Within nine minutes of the restart, Eastbourne went back ahead from the spot, and extended it to 4-2 20 minutes later.
However, this just served as the start of yet another period of goals galore. Ashford got back in the match within two minutes thanks to Rebecca Wyatt, and Jodie Cain levelled with 10 minutes to go.
However, the drama continued, and with the last kick of the afternoon, Eastbourne United sealed the win. Across the afternoon, the visitors’ scorers were Grace Hill (two), Georgia Townsend, Millie Barker, and Bethany Chambers.
The result didn’t matter to the table though and the girls in green were able to celebrate their title and promotion to the London & South-East Premier on the full-time whistle. Eastbourne United finished fifth.
Jon Smalldon’s exclusive photo gallery from Homelands Stadium for Impetus:
Above: Hayley Raso, who announced her departure from Manchester City at the weekend. Photo: Adam Johnstone for Impetus.
Hayley Raso and her ribbons are departing Manchester City after two seasons. Her time at City was rather disappointing, her game time was inconsistent and dependant on the fitness of her teammates.
City manager Gareth Taylor, did not play to her strengths or properly utilise her speed and skills. Even throughout this struggle, Raso still managed to make somewhat of an impact and will be missed. No longer light blue, what colour ribbons will she wear next?
Although there have been rumours that her new club could be Real Madrid, it is inarguable that whatever her new club may be, it must give her the playing time she deserves. This may mean dropping a level below Manchester City, but frankly, the Matildas star is good enough to start in most of the world’s best clubs.
The skill set that Raso possesses is best suited to a team that plays counter-attacking football or a team that plays quickly and aggressively. She is a relatively fluid and versatile player, able to play all over up front, as well as doing a decent job at wingback.
Raso succeeds when she has the freedom to sprint up the field to create or score, but also when she must sprint back to put in a good challenge. Any team that has Raso should utilise her speed, drive, and determination.
The Matilda has a strength and resilience few could understand. In 2018, while playing for the NWSL’s Portland Thorns, Raso fractured her spine. A player at the peak of her career, she was devastated, and wasn’t sure if she was ever going to be able to walk again, let alone play top tier football. Miraculously, after extensive rehabilitation, Raso played just six months later for Australia, and actually scored a goal on her return. This grit could bring Real Madrid to the next level.
If Raso does indeed go to Real Madrid, there would be healthy competition for a starting spot, but she should be able to get playing time. The attacking power that Madrid already possess is formidable, but Raso will add an extra bit of magic.
Her competition with Athenea Del Castillo would push both players to become better and could open up opportunities for both to venture out of their respective comfort zones. Raso could connect with former City teammate Caroline Weir, giving both of them the chance to improve upon their previous seasons. Hayley Raso at Real Madrid could be special.
Real Madrid is a very different team to all of the clubs Raso has previously played for. This new challenge could add to her incredible journey, finally get her some real Champions League experience, and allow her to explore a new culture, style of game, and pool of opponents.
Will Raso wear white ribbons for Real Madrid next season?
Ben Gilby provides a full report from the game of the week plus all the details from the other matches in Western Australia’s NPL Women’s competition (29/5/23).
Above:Kat Jukic (arms raised), pictured last season, scored Fremantle City’s equalising goal at Murdoch University Melville on Saturday. Photo: Fotoenzo.
Main report of the Week:
Murdoch University Melville 1-2 Fremantle City
Fremantle City’s top-four challenge continues to gather pace as they extended their recent run to only one league defeat in their last seven matches with victory at Besteam Stadium in the late Saturday match.
Murdoch University Melville (MUM FC) went into the match making two changes from their defeat at Perth RedStar last week – a result that ended their run of four successive victories. Rosie Lehane and Vanessa Miller dropped out of the starting line-up with Danielle Brown and Elysse Shore coming in.
Fremantle started strongly with Perth Glory A-League Women captain Tash Rigby driving up the right flank before cutting in and seeing a cross-shot come back off of the angle of post and bar.
Whilst the visitors had the most of the possession and territory, it was the hosts who went ahead thanks to a moment of individual brilliance from their hugely talented young gun Jessica Johnson. Gaining possession just inside the Freo half, Johnson danced through the middle of the park, past any number of potential tacklers, and slotted cooly into the net. In a MUM FC side of young starlets, Johnson is shining bright this season.
The port city side responded by producing their most consistent spell of attacking football all match. Four minutes after going behind, another of Fremantle’s Perth Glory players, Abbey Green showed great skill to break through the left of centre to unleash an effort destined for the top corner, but Stacey Cavill in the MUM FC goal held the shot.
Moments later Green was causing problems again, this time to the right of centre, and once more let fly with a high effort that Cavill grabbed. The same player would later see another shot blocked in the box.
The hosts did show just how dangerous they can be when they get a chance as Sam Mathers broke through along the left just after the half-hour mark, and cut in before firing agonisingly just wide of the far post.
However, just before the break, Fremantle finally turned their possession into a goal. Rigby played a pass from the right to former Perth Glory player Kat Jukic, and Cavill saved with the ball rolling out to the left for Green to float back in. Cavill went up to claim, but couldn’t under pressure from Freo shirts and the ball fell for Jukic to score.
The second half was virtually all Fremantle in terms of possession and territory, and within three minutes of the restart, they were awarded a penalty when Olivia Trueman was felled on the edge of the box between two MUM FC players. Annabelle Leek took the ball, but her low shot to the right-hand corner of the goal was brilliantly saved by Cavill.
However, 10 minutes into the half, the visitors hit the front. Green broke free along the left and played a ball back for Jamie-Lee Gale to play in a sensational pinpoint pass directed into the gap between Cavill and the onrushing Olivia Trueman with the Freo youngster getting there first to head home.
Fremantle were now totally dominant, with the hosts rarely seen as an attacking threat. The visitors had time on the ball to build patiently and look for the right moment to play a probing pass.
As the game approached the final 10 minutes, Green’s skill created another opportunity. She danced her way along the left and squared a ball for Jukic, but the resulting shot was well over the top.
MUM FC collected themselves for a final flurry of pressure. Charli Wainwright was fouled five yards outside the box to the right of centre, and Charlotte Meaden stepped up to curl a free kick towards the bottom right-hand corner, but Dayle Schroeder got across to push the ball away for a corner. Then Johnson hit a long-range shot with three minutes remaining that Schroeder gathered comfortably.
The final opportunity of the encounter fell to the impressive Green who broke through once more and hit a powerful shot that forced a superb one-handed save from Cavill.
Fremantle City look to have put their indifferent start to the campaign behind them. With their Perth Glory stars shining and linking well with the experienced heads in the team, it has allowed their young players to develop the confidence to express themselves further.
Whilst the league pauses for State Cup Quarter-Final action next weekend, Freo will be going all out to continue their fine run when the NPLW WA resumes in a fortnight and they travel to winless Curtin University.
Teams: MURDOCH UNIVERSITY MELVILLE: Cavill, Brown, Schubert, Hope, C. Wainwright, C. Meaden, Hoarau, Shore, Johnson, Mathers, S. Meaden. Substitutes: I. Wainwright, Ierino, Strickling, Hayes, Miller.
Balcatta won their third match in succession with success at Edinburgh Oval on Friday night against bottom side Curtin University.
The visitors hit the front after 17 minutes. Monique Prinsloo exchanged passes with Carys Davis outside her on the left before the ball finally work its way across to Monique D’Opera on the opposite flank. She in turn found Tia Stonehill who ran on and fired a low shot into the bottom right-hand corner.
Stonehill grabbed her and Balcatta’s second goal four minutes before the break. Andrea Bulgaru’s throw-in just inside the Curtin half on the right found Claudia Hocking. Her ball into the box was deflected up by defender Ava Malata for Stonehill to nod home.
It stayed like that until the 69th minute when Monique D’Opera was found about 25 yards out from goal and hit a shot that bounced through the box and rolled into the net.
The scoring was completed just four minutes later as Stonehill got away along the right, cut inside, and played a low ball across the box which was turned home by Opal Mohammad Zainurrafiq parallel with the back post on the six-yard line.
After a slow start to the season, Balcatta are now firmly in the hunt for a top-four place, and they will resume their bid to qualify for post-season football in a fortnight when they host Subiaco.
Hyundai NTC 0-2 Perth RedStar
Perth RedStar are six points clear at the top of the NPLW WA after winning their sixth league game on the bounce on Saturday against an NTC side whose strong start to the season is fading.
When these two sides met in a repeat of last season’s Top Four Cup Final on the opening day of this NPLW WA season, the NTC’s win raised hopes of a concerted challenge to RedStar’s dominance of the 2022 campaign, but that result feels like a long time ago now.
The game took place at Retravision Stadium in Albany, 417km (just under 260 miles) south of Perth, as part of the Regional Festival of Football. It was RedStar who hit the front with 22 minutes on the clock as Reina Kagami gained possession from a loose NTC pass as the teenage side looked to play out from the back. In the form she is in, Kagami needed no second invitation to advance into the box and drive home into the bottom left-hand corner.
It remained that way until 25 minutes from the end as the NTC suffered again in playing out from the back with the consequence that Sophia Neal laid off an excellent sidefoot pass to Kagami outside the box, centrally. The Japanese attacker took a touch before firing home to go clear at the top of the NPLW WA scorers charts.
The NTC have now lost three of their last four matches and have dropped out of the top four, but there is more than enough talent in this team for them to get back to winning ways. Their next NPLW WA match, after the week’s pause for the State Cup sees them travel to Murdoch University Melville, in a huge game. Both sides will be looking to pick up three points again to push for the top four.
Subiaco 0-1 Perth SC
Perth SC went back into second place after defeating hard-working Subiaco at Rosalie Park yesterday.
The Azzurri edged the chances in the opening half with six shots on target to Subi’s two and had a similar record in the corner count, but it remained goalless at the break.
Perth stepped it up after the break and produced several chances. Subiaco suffered a blow when goalkeeper Ash Riddle, who had made a number of important saves, was injured in denying Judy Connolly, and had to leave the pitch.
The visitors hit the front in the 75th minute when a high ball in from Gemma Craine, returning from injury, on the right was missed by the Subi defence and fell for Monique Godding to sweep home from close range at the second attempt.
The NPLW WA pauses next weekend for the quarter-finals of the State Cup. At this stage of the competition, seven of the eight places are filled by NPLW clubs, with the one remaining lower-tier side, Hamersley United, drawn at home to Murdoch University Melville. There is a repeat of last year’s final with Perth SC hosting Perth RedStar, and two in-form NPLW sides go head to head with Balcatta Etna welcoming Fremantle City to Grindleford Reserve. Subiaco travel to Hyundai NTC in the final tie of the last eight.
Impetus‘ Ben Gilbyis part of the judging panel that picks the weekly Squared Ball Analytics NPLW WA team of the week. Their weekly selections can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/squaredball
Report by Aimee Logan in the press box at Meadow Park.
EXCLUSIVE photo gallery for Impetus by: Adam Johnstone.
Above: Aston Villa’s Rachel Daly looks to get away from Arsenal’s Lotte Wubben-Moy at Meadow Park yesterday. Photo: Adam Johnstone for Impetus.
Arsenal’s season ended with a defeat on their home soil against the ever-improving Aston Villa, but despite the rocky and injury-strewn season that Jonas Eidevall’s team has endured, they have secured a place in the Champions League and leave the 22/23 season with another piece of silverware – the Conti Cup – in their trophy cabinet.
After the home side’s ambition and drive in the first half, their hope of ending the season with a victory was destroyed by a goal from Rachel Daly that closed the first 45.The hosts seemed dominant in the first half of the game and dominated the possession, but just weren’t accurate enough in front of goal to trouble Hannah Hampton in the Villa goal. A cross in the seventh minute from Jodie Taylor found Stina Blackstenius in the six-yard box but her efforts didn’t break the Villa defensive line.
There was a consistent pace from both teams down either side of the pitch that was creating chances for there to be a break of either defensive line. Steph Cately was faced against young star Laura Blindkilde on the left wing and the pair were both committing to attacking and defending for their teams’ success.
Cately’s calmness and composure that she brings with the ball at her feet ultimately enhances the high technical ability she already displays, to take on defenders. Her Australian teammate, Caitlin Foord, was however missed of off today’s team sheet. With Foord herself recently sustaining an injury, her precautionary rest was at the best interest of the upcoming World Cup, in her home country, this summer.
Neither team managed to gain a secure run into the penalty area until Frida Maanum took aim and forced a save from Hannah Hampton to keep the score level 20 minutes in. The passion for the club wasn’t just shown on the pitch but off the pitch, with the fans in the stands around the stadium filled to the max with people here to support the Gunners. Fans have been a key part of Arsenal’s record-breaking season. The sell-out Emirates Stadium for the home leg of the Champions League semi-final only names one of the times that they have turned out to support their team through the winning times and the losing ones.
The first half was concluded with that strike from the Barclays WSL Player of the Season, Rachel Daly. Her signing for Carla Ward’s side at the beginning of the 22/23 campaign has been one of the biggest successes of the developing Villa team. She has been significant in every fixture and scored equivalent to the record 22 goals scored in one season in the WSL (previously set by Vivianne Miedema), to win the golden boot this season. Her drive to be in the number nine shirt for England in the World Cup this summer has been clearly shown and, with the season she has had, Daly looks to be in a great position to be filling this role.
The second half commenced as rocky as the first finished for Arsenal after they conceded a second to Alisha Lehmann in the 49th minute, taking Aston Villa 2-0 up. Arsenal lost possession more quickly and were generally more careless with their positioning and technique after half time which led to some strong blocks from the Gunners’ Canadian goalkeeper Sabrina D’Angelo.
The introduction of new young signing, Katherine Kuhl at half time, in replace of Blackstenius, brought some fresh legs to the field and her high skill set and ability at only 19-years-old was evident when she had possession of the ball. Despite her undeniable talent, she didn’t have a chance to display her technique in front of goal as the Aston Villa defenders held their line firmly.In the final 10 minutes, there was little sight of a successful pass into the six-yard box for either side and the teams played through the additional nine minutes added to the clock by the match officials.
Post-match saw presentations for Lotte Wubben-Moy who reached her 100th appearance for her childhood club. Jordan Nobbs, a significant player in Arsenal’s history, was awarded with a framed shirt to represent her successes and numerous appearances for the club in front of the home crowd that evidently have nothing but support and love for her as a player. Finally, to conclude the post-match presentations, Arsenal centre back Rafaelle was thanked for her commitment to Arsenal and the fans shared their last goodbye as she departs for a new endeavour next season.
Speaking with Rafaelle after the game, when asked what she was going to miss most about playing in an Arsenal shirt, she replied: “I think I am going to miss the fans and playing around such amazing players. They are going to be the thing I am going to take from this club”.
Reflecting on this season’s successes with the Continental Cup win she said: “It felt really nice, I loved it. I told them that one of my goals here was to win titles and we did; we won the Conti Cup. Even though I am leaving, I know my name is going to be on the wall with that trophy and I am really proud of it.”
The Arsenal manager, Jonas Eidevall, also expressed that he was going to miss the defender being a part of his team next season: “I think she has been an incredible athlete, player but also person and she’s fitted so well into what it means to be an Arsenal player in the way that she has played the games and expressed herself. It’s a sad one that she is leaving, it’s not often that you lose players that you would like to keep. I think it’s the first time that’s happened in my two years here. It was beyond our control, but we have to wish her the very best.”
Eidevall wanted to make it clear that the score at the end of the game wasn’t a representation of the season that the Gunners have had: “It doesn’t take away from what all the players and staff have done for the whole season. They went above and beyond what anyone could have expected of them.
“With all the injuries, we’ve won a trophy, we reached a Champions League semi-final, and achieved Champions League qualification for next season, I don’t think, realistically, we could have asked for anymore”.
The injury epidemic has struck the Arsenal women harder than any other team this season. With Beth Mead and Vivianne Miedema tearing their ACLs at the beginning of the season and Laura Wienroither and Leah Williamson joining the ACL injury list, nearing the end of the campaign, along with the many other injuries picked up by other players, like the captain herself Kim Little, it’s fair to say that the team has faced many setbacks.
The WSL finishes after a season full of surprises and women’s football sets up for the World Cup this July and August.
Matthew Appleby was at Prenton Park to capture all the action from an important North-West derby in front of a recordcrowd for Liverpool at the venue (28/5/23).
Above: Alessia Russo (white shirt) looks to break through for Manchester United yesterday. Photo: Matthew Appleby for Impetus.
Liverpool 0-1 Manchester United
Manchester United ended their greatest season with a win, but it was ultimately not enough to secure a maiden WSL title due to events some 204 miles to the south.
Chelsea’s comfortable 3-0 win at Reading was enough for Emma Hayes’ side to secure a fourth straight title, but United have so much to be proud of this season. A first FA Cup Final, WSL runners-up, and qualification for their Champions League debut next season.
Liverpool had the first major chance with Dutch international Shanice van de Sanden’s cross almost going in. Emma Koivisto also drew a fine save from Mary Earps in the United goal.
The only goal of the game came from substitute Lucia Garcia – who scored her second big goal in as many weeks after securing victory in last weekend’s Manchester derby on 72 minutes.
Liverpool also need to take great pride from their first season back in the WSL. Matt Beard has constructed a tough side to beat. A seventh-placed finish with six wins – two of which came against the big duo of Chelsea and Manchester City, and five draws.
Matthew Appleby’s photo gallery for Impetus from Prenton Park:
Teams: LIVERPOOL (3-4-1-2): Laws, Fahey, Bonner, Matthews, Koivisto, Nagano, Kearns, Hinds, Holland, van de Sanden, Stengel. Substitutes used: Dowie (for van de Sanden 66′), Roberts (for Fahey 66′), Humphrey (for Kearns 75′), Robe (for Koivisto 75′), Daniels (for Hinds 86′).
MANCHESTER UNITED (4-2-3-1): Earps, Batlle, Le Tissier, Turner, Blundell, Boe Risa, Zelem, Parris, Toone, Galton, Russo. Substitutes used: Garcia (for Parris 69′), Williams (for Toone 70′), Thomas (for Galton 75′), Naalsund (for Russo 87′).
It was a huge game yesterday at the SCL Stadium. Reading had to win to have any hope of avoiding relegation. Chelsea needed a win to take the WSL title. Andy Wicks was pitchside to capture this set of stunning images from the day (28/5/23).
Above: Chelsea are crowned FA Women’s Super League championsafter their 3-0 win at Reading yesterday. Photo: Andy Wicks for Impetus.
Darrell Allen‘s match analysis from the SCL Stadium will be appearing on the site shortly.
Rachel Cohen looks ahead to Tottenham Hotspur’s final game of the WSL season today against West Ham United by profiling the rising influence of Eveliina Summanen and reporting for us from head coach Vicky Jepson‘s media conference (27/5/23).
Above: Eveliina Summanen in action for Tottenham Hotspur. Photo: John Ward/PA.
Tottenham Hotspur’s Finnish international Eveliina Summanen has thrived as a number 10 and has become an increasingly important player for the club.
Summanen came to Spurs in January 2022 from Swedish side Kristianstads DFF. Most news stories about the transfer at the time were brief. She was not a star, nor even widely mooted as an ‘exciting prospect’. Spurs’ then-manager, Rehanne Skinner, touted the new player’s “fantastic work ethic.” But all that most Spurs supporters knew was that she had been recommended by Spurs goalkeeper, Tinni Korpela, a fellow Finn, and Summanen’s international team-mate.
When she joined Spurs, it was a squad beset by injury problems that over the next six months only worsened. This meant that the Finn quickly got a lot of game-time, playing in the 10 final matches of 2021/22, starting seven. Quickly popular among supporters for her willingness to cover the pitch and battle hard in central midfield, Summanen fitted seamlessly into the style of play that marked Skinner’s 2021/22 side.
But this season, after a difficult summer with Finland competing in the Euros ‘Group of Death’ (losing all three games to Germany, Spain, and Denmark), Summanen returned to North London and to a very different side – one that lacked the defensive solidity that had defined the previous season. Not least because a raft of new injuries meant that players were frequently moved into new positions and formations.
And we saw the rotation of Summanen, alongside Drew Spence, Angharad James, and (occasionally) Cho So-hyun in the defensive midfield pairing, with none obviously making it their own. Indeed, the Maeva Clemaron-shaped hole seemed to grow, not shrink, as the season went on and longer from the French player’s departure (to pastures new, aka Architecture and Servette).
Over the last quarter of the season, things have, however, changed in terms of what we are seeing from Summanen – or at least how she contributes to the team. Notably, this followed close on the heels of her return from ‘that’ suspension but more importantly coincided with Vicky Jepson taking over as Interim Manager.
This weekend may be Jepson’s last game as manager. If it is, fans can remain grateful that in her eight games in charge, she took Spurs out of relegation danger and also, that in doing so she unlocked the Finn as a number 10.
Since Jepson’s third game (Everton away) Summanen has played much higher than she had previously this season – excepting one game away at Leicester City, when injuries across the front line saw her suddenly moved up as sole striker.
Jepson describes her formation as a 4-3-3. But it often looks more like a 4-4-2 or a 4-2-4, with Summanen playing as a very high 10, almost alongside Bethany England, although still occasionally dropping deep to cover in defence.
Summanen has spoken about learning from England. And when the two of them are next to one another on the pitch some similarities are striking – their white-blonde hair rolled into buns – but also the willingness of both to do the hard work – and to twist their bodies to get into the right position.
The Finn appears fearless. She is the player who runs into a foot or elbow in her desire to meet the ball. That can result in a bloody nose (as it did last time out) and hard tackles in defence. But in attack it can mean that she throws herself into the box, straining to get onto a chance (as in her first goal against Aston Villa). It is at least in part her willingness to do this that has meant that Summanen is currently the second highest goal-scorer under Jepson – netting three and getting another assist during the new manager’s tenure.
Her scoring record is important in its own right but also means that Spurs are not (entirely) a one-trick pony – that despite Beth England racking up almost a goal a game defenders cannot focus solely on her and assume they have dealt with Spurs’ threat.
Another upside of playing Summanen at in the 10 role is that for the first time this season, Spurs are pressing, and pressing high. This is no doubt partly due to Jepson’s instructions, but in Summanen they have a player who can carry these out and we see her on the pitch organising others.
Summanen is still young: turning 25 later this month. She has, however, considerable experience, having played 45 games for the Finnish senior team, her first call-up coming soon after her 19th birthday. In those appearances, she has scored 10 times. The last two goals coming just at the time that her three-game ban following the incident against Manchester United was announced and a media storm hit. Both were glorious free kicks.
Yet for Spurs, before Jepson took the helm, Summanen had only limited success in front of goal – scoring twice and forcing a third own goal – all in Cup games against lower league opposition.
So there were signs that she had goals and set pieces in her wheelhouse but these had not been wholly unleashed. And we had less evidence of her ability to regularly contribute to attacking patterns of play or create goals. Yet in just the most recent game, against Reading, she played a couple of defence-splitting passes for Ayane (who was not able to finish) and for Bizet’s goal.
Moreover, she seems comfortable playing one-touch football and posesses an awareness of other players. Part of it is of course that she is now playing alongside a player with the potency and movement of Beth England but it is also that with her move forward she spends more time close to – and able to make incisive passes into – the penalty area.
Fans regularly note that Spurs struggle to attract top players in their prime playing years. As a middling WSL club, they have typically brought in experienced players on their way out of ‘better’ clubs (Spence, Iwabuchi, Williams), relied on players growing with the club (Nevillie, Naz) or taken chances on young players with potential, crossing our fingers the bet will come good. In the case of Celin Bizet who was brought in this summer as a young talent, the club are starting to see that pay off (as it may also do with striker, Nikola Karczewska).
Summanen’s transfer felt less ambitious and was less heralded than most of these others. But it may end up being as important. If she can keep up the rich vein of form in front of goal that she has recently found, and combine that with the running and combative energy we already knew she had, she may emerge as a real midfield star, and a player who is key to Spurs’ improving fortunes.
Of course, there remain unknowns. Specifically how whoever takes over from Jepson decides to use Summanen alongside the growing list of players competing for central midfield spots at Spurs. Not just Spence, James, and Cho but also the recently returned (and much missed) Kit Graham and Ria Percival, and the no-longer-disappeared Ramona Petzelberger. This might mean that Summanen gets fewer minutes or that she shares the 10 berth with Graham, as against Reading.
More practically Spurs have an option to extend Summanen’s contract after summer 2023 but are yet to confirm this will be taken up (there are 13 players whose contracts expire or need to be extended this summer). Given Summanen’s form, it would be good to see the club show its confidence in her by not simply taking up their option but offering her a new contract. One that keeps her at the club long enough for us all to enjoy Eveliina in her prime – and all the bloody noses and goals that come with that.
Jepson: Players’ belief critical in beating Reading last week
In her media conference ahead of this afternoon’s final game of the WSL season against West Ham United, Tottenham Hotspur Interim Head Coach Vicky Jepson reflected on her team’s vital win over Reading last weekend that ensured their top-flight status.
It was a convincing win, and Jepson conceded that after the 4-1 victory that her team were out of “the pressure cooker.” But, she argued, the job was was not done. The main thing now was to maintain that level. “We haven’t took our foot off the gas and our main focus now is to make sure we display this consistency going into the game against West Ham as we want to finish the season on a high.”
The key to last week’s win was belief she said. “I’d say the belief that we had in the dressing room, I’ve never not seen belief like that this season. The way that they turned up, the way that they had their shoulders back, heads held high. We sent every single player an individual video of themselves of their highlights of what they look like at their best and I know that they watched those videos.
“And we said to them one of the key things was when you watch, that video is actually at your best. If you play like that, tomorrow we will have no trouble against Reading because we know the quality that we have in the room.”
Jepson also reiterated that her strategy has been to simplify things so that players have easier decisions to make: “Keeping the game plan really simple and specific so that they can think less and do more because that’s key when you’re playing under a lot of pressure.
“For these players, when they’ve been through so much this season, consistency was key and they all understood their roles inside and out.”
Jepson recognized Beth England’s contribution to the team’s survival in the league saying that “the stats don’t lie”. She pinpointed both “individual brilliance” but also the striker’s “elite standards” which mean that even in training she works at 110% and with precision going “above and beyond every day”.
Jepson said that England was also “a great leader” and someone who had “contributed in helping those players get through the high level of pressure that we’ve had to face over the last couple of games.”
When asked about her star strikers’ potential contribution to the Lionesses at this summer’s World Cup Jepson said that she thought England deserved the call-up: “How can you leave out a top England goal scorer out of your squad” and highlighted the striker’s ability to deal with pressure, to manage time on the bench and “in terms of coming on to big games and pulling out goals from nowhere”.
Speaking about today’s opponents, West Ham United, the Spurs boss noted that they had won their last game despite having little possession and said that West Ham’s “super strength” is “the way that they block shots in and around the area and that they’re quick on transitions” and “a threat on set pieces.”
This is something that might worry Spurs since defending set pieces has not always been the team’s strength this season. But Jepson remained confident that Spurs if they stuck to their game plan would be too much for their London rivals.
Finally, and perhaps more controversially, given the criticism it has received, Jepson described the double-header of Spurs game with Reading last week that followed the men’s team’s game with Brentford as “a massive success for the women’s game .”
“We made history. We want many firsts in the women’s game and the club has made a first. We’ve had a doubleheader – the WSL and the Premier League have come together for a significant day. And we got the win, which is fantastic for our club.”
Perhaps most importantly, Jepson believes that Spurs Women may have made some new fans. “I spoke with some of the fans that had stayed that had never watched the women play before, but they were at the Brentford game, and they said, ‘We’ll definitely come back; that’s really cheered us up.’
“So for me, inspiring a new group of fans to come and watch us at Leyton or Hotspur Stadium or even away, that’s what it’s about.”
As Impetus builds towards its coverage of the 2023 World Cup, Genevieve Henry looks at the joint host nation’s troubled relationship with penalty kicks and considers Tony Gustavsson’s options this July and August (26/5/23).
Above: The Matildas’ distraught reaction after their penalty shoot-out exit at the last World Cup to Norway. Photo: Football Australia.
We all remember the nightmare of Australia’s exit at the last sixteen stage of the 2019 World Cup; beaten 4-1 on penalties by Norway with star striker and figurehead of the team Sam Kerr missing hers in shocking fashion.
Almost every team has a designated penalty-taker; The Matildas do too. But, unlike others, Australia’s doesn’t often score them. Sam Kerr carries her team on her shoulders, and come 2023, she’ll be carrying an entire nation’s hopes and dreams, too. This pressure clearly causes her to have a very inconsistent record of success when it comes to penalties.
Kerr has taken 11 penalties in her club career and only scored six of them. That’s a 54.5% conversion rate, which is frankly, not good enough. Considering the importance of the games she often steps up to take penalties in, this can end up disastrously. Tony Gustavsson’s team need someone who can handle this pressure.
Unfortunately, there is no clear answer. Not enough of the current crop of Matildas players take penalties at club level to accurately assess the other options. But, there are a few people to consider.
Emily van Egmond used to take penalties for Australia from 2013 to 2019 and has actually scored more penalty goals than Kerr. While she hasn’t been playing quite as much recently, this could give her another reason to be in the squad.
Another thing to consider is the position of the player taking the penalty kick. Often, defenders and midfielders do quite well from the spot, as they are expected to stay calmer during the game, which they can carry over and apply to the penalty kick.
The Matildas have a few current defenders and midfielders that have scored penalties for Australia in the past: Steph Catley, Clare Polkinghorne, Katrina Gorry, and Chloe Logarzo. Not only could they possibly accomplish the task at hand, but we know how much these players (especially Polkinghorne) love a goal! There are many options, and any of them could do better than Kerr, by simple virtue of the pressure riding on them.
In the end, it doesn’t really matter who is taking the penalty kicks that Australia are awarded. They just need to be calm. A kick from the penalty spot is one of the easiest technical skills to master. It is also the hardest mental task to complete. The entire country is watching. Who will step up come the 2023 World Cup?