After an interesting international break, the domestic game kicked back into action and didn’t disappoint as Chelsea hammered Aston Villa but then announced their manager would be leaving, most likely for the USWNT job. These are the key talking points from the Women’s Super League (WSL), along with some highlights from Europe.
Hayes’ shock announcement after Chelsea dominate Villa
After Chelsea’s 6-0 drubbing of Aston Villa on Saturday, nobody would have expected the Blues to put out a statement saying much-loved boss Emma Hayes would be leaving her role at the end of the season. It was a surprise to all around the WSL, and there was soon another surprise in store as sources told ESPN that Hayes is set to land the vacant United States job in what will be a fascinating chapter in the U.S.’s soccer history.
Plaudits for Hayes’ impact on the WSL dominated things this weekend, but her team were also dominant on the pitch. The Blues, who have not entirely convinced so far this season, made sure to stamp their authority all over the match and, as they so often have, used one game as a statement to remind the competition just how good they are.
Millie Bright and Fran Kirby scored in the first half, but it was an 11-minute spell with three goals between the 56th and 67th minutes that saw the hosts crumble, before a sixth from Niamh Charles‘ added more gloss to the scoreline.
It’s back to the drawing board for Villa — who have five defeats from five WSL games — but the result showed that the champions have arrived after a somewhat shaky start. The depth and experience in the squad is clear and though Hayes’ announcement adds some intrigue to the rest of the season, May is a long way off and the team’s goal will be the same as every year: winning absolutely everything.
Arsenal punish Man City for missed chances
The story of Manchester City‘s 2022-23 season was of a team that didn’t want for shot creation but repeatedly failed to convert their chances. And that was the issue in a 2-1 defeat to Arsenal at Borehamwood on Sunday that saw their unbeaten run come to an end this season.
Again, it was a story of City creating with ease, but lacking a razor-sharp end product. City had 17 shots to Arsenal’s 10 and dropped into a lull when the Gunners found their footing in the 14th minute and scored with their first shot on target. Indeed, City didn’t look too dangerous until they found parity from Chloe Kelly 18 minutes from time, but couldn’t hold out as Stina Blackstenius capitalised on a misjudgement from goalkeeper Khiara Keating to seal a late winner.
The worry for City is not just that they were the better team on the day and still contrived to lose, but that there are similar patterns from last season of dominance without wins. They have players who clearly have talent but can’t make it count for them when it matters: something the likes of Chelsea and even Man United have done. Dropping points like this could ultimately cost them come the end of the season.
Brighton show growth but stumble at the last
Manchester United have a habit of scoring late goals in both the men’s and women’s teams. And on Sunday it was super-sub Rachel Williams — who has scored four times from off the bench this season — who was the saviour again to snatch a 2-2 draw with Brighton in the 98th minute.
Despite having almost twice the possession (63%) and shots (23), the visitors were repeatedly thwarted by a mix of good work from former United back-up goalkeeper Sophie Baggaley and their own sloppy finishing. While, at the other end, it was United No. 1 Mary Earps who pulled off some outstanding saves to keep the Seagulls out.
Brighton went ahead after half an hour, but Ella Toone‘s 78th-minute screamer levelled things. The pace of the game ensured the fans were kept on the edge of their seat and it looked over when Guro Bergsvand headed home in the final minute. But as added time ticked into the eighth minute, Williams’ fired home after she was left unmarked at a corner.
For both teams it will feel like dropped points. The new project under Mel Phillips on the south coast will require patience, although they showed resilience and belief to take the game to United late on.
Robins claim first WSL win
The pendulum swung back and forth in Dagenham as Bristol City claimed their first WSL win since March 2021 with a 3-2 victory over West Ham. Going behind to a Viviane Asseyi penalty, Bristol needed a slice of luck as Amalie Thestrup and then Ella Powell got the better of a sun-struck Mackenzie Arnold to put them ahead.
But their advantage was wiped out by half-time as Riko Ueki‘s stoppage-time finish levelled things at 2-2.
However, as coach Lauren Smith has spoken about after each loss so far this season, the newly promoted team have been learning from their mistakes and the players showed that by reducing the chances for their opponents in the second half.
Brooke Aspin‘s 55th-minute header gave them something to hang on to and, while it might not have been the most comfortable of performances, it highlighted Bristol’s growth in a short space of time as they rode out the storm.
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With 28 scored and only two conceded so far, Barca are firmly on course to defend their title and needed only 45 minutes to showcase their dominance as they went 4-0 up by half-time. An incredible four-goal haul in that timeframe from 19-year-old sensation Salma Paralluelo set the tone, as Caroline Graham also picked up a hat trick of assists.
Stylish Roma find Serie A cushion
Having been crowned the best team in Italy with their maiden Scudetto last season, unbeaten Roma gave themselves a three-point cushion at the top of the table with a strong 3-1 win against second-placed Juventus on Sunday.
The match offered few surprises as Roma (who have six wins from six games) continued to showcase the free-flowing style that coach Alessandro Spugna preaches, netting three goals inside an hour, while Juventus looked short of fresh ideas and lacked the spark that stood them in such good stead in their early years in Serie A.
The attacking style that Spugna has imparted is great to watch and carved out the better opportunities in this game. Roma will only improve as the team continues to bed it into their DNA.
Bayern find form at the right time
In a battle between the top two clubs in Germany, Bayern Munich got the better of Wolfsburg in a 2-1 win to take top spot. First-half goals from Linda Dallmann and Klara Bühl were ultimately enough, despite a late rally sparked by Lena Oberdorf‘s fine finish after an hour with what was Wolfsburg’s first shot of the game.
Wolfsburg, who have for so long saved their best football for their Bavarian rivals, continue to look increasingly off the pace. Unable to get much of a foothold in the first half, they laboured — as they did in both Champions League legs against Paris FC — and look far too reliant on striker Alexandra Popp.
Injuries (and pregnancy) among Wolfsburg’s forward line has clearly hampered how the team like to go forward, but there is a growing disconnect in a side who were only in the Champions League final six months ago. Wolfsburg are a team with a glowing history in the women’s game, so it won’t be panic stations just yet. But there are warning signs that can’t be ignored.
Another PSG postponement
With their match against Stade de Reims on Oct. 15 suspended because of fireworks last month, PSG have now had a second league game postponed as their Saturday meeting against Guingamp was called off due to an unplayable pitch after heavy rain.
Heading into a lengthy Champions League group stage this month, PSG are now facing possible fixture congestion and are already nine points behind Ligue 1 leaders Lyon, having played two games less.
And finally … Pomigliano plunge Serie A into turmoil
Following Pomigliano’s 1-0 loss to Sampdoria in Serie A on Saturday afternoon, the club took the highly unusual stance of announcing their withdrawal from the competition with “immediate effect.”
Hitting out at the league management, financial recompense and the involvement of the officials during the loss that saw Gaia Apicella given a red card and a late penalty awarded against them, Pomigliano insisted in a statement that: “Fighting against an invisible adversary becomes an unequal struggle which saps your energy and desire to continue.”
It remains to be seen if Pomigliano will be allowed to follow through on their threat by the Italian FA. The team are ninth in the league, one point better off than Napoli after six games, but look bound for the relegation round.