It took a stunning strike from Dutch record goalscorer Vivianne Miedema to give the Gunners a narrow win at home to Everton, but the scoreline made the league meeting look far less comfortable than it ultimately was.
“I felt OK until the last five minutes,” said Arsenal’s manager, Jonas Eidevall. “I’m a little disappointed that we didn’t put the game to rest because we had chances to do it.”
Despite the utter dominance of the home team in this fixture, with the Gunners having won the past 13 games against Everton, scoring 36 and conceding six, number 14 (which would be the longest winning run of one team over another in the WSL) was not a foregone conclusion.
Everton are a renewed force under Brian Sørensen and while it is taking time to show in their results, the fledgling signs of growth are there.
Meanwhile, Arsenal fell to a first league defeat last time out in the WSL, losing 3-2 to Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium and ending an 18-game unbeaten run and 14-game winning streak.
“Winning is strong for the team,” said Eidevall when asked how important the result was. “We see a team here in an adverse moment that we are hopefully on the verge of turning around with players returning, but I think we have been managing a difficult period so far very well, and that’s important if you want to build a winning team.”
For Sørensen, it was a sign of growth that they held Arsenal to one goal for so long. “It’s probably where we are,” he said. “They are a really good team and we had a chance to go away with a point but we weren’t sharp enough.”
Against United the absence of Kim Little, who picked up an MCL injury in Arsenal’s defeat of West Ham in October, felt like one too many. She joined Lina Hurtig, Leah Williamson, Rafaelle Souza and Teyah Goldie in the treatment room, while Beth Mead ruptured her ACL in the team’s first loss of the season to join them.
It was a welcome sight for Arsenal fans then, to see influential centre-back duo Williamson and Souza back in the matchday squad for the visit of the Merseyside team, who themselves could recall Nicoline Sørensen to the squad for the first time since her ACL injury.
The Gunners dominated from the off, as they have so consistently this season, but they lacked bite up top, giving Everton hope when they got rare opportunities on the counterattack. The fluid formation of the Toffees would see them drop into a back five whenever Arsenal pushed towards the final third, meaning options were limited. Despite being in control, after 20 minutes each team only had one shot apiece, with neither on target.
It needed something special and then it happened. Miedema, making her first league start since Arsenal’s 1-0 defeat of Reading on 16 October, and having benefited from a rest over the international break, collected from Caitlin Foord who, with her back to goal, shielded the ball into the feet of the WSL record goalscorer. Miedema cut onto her right foot before lashing into the top far corner.
Arsenal should have doubled their lead in the second half, when goalkeeper Emily Ramsey, on loan from Manchester United, pulled off an impressive double save to deny Miedema before being beaten by a third consecutive effort only for a blue shirt to clear off the line.
With 20 minutes remaining Williamson would enter the fray in place of Jen Beattie and instantly blasted the ball clear to the delight of the home crowd.
This was a well-balanced encounter as Arsenal were held to a draw by Juventus. Closely matched throughout, the Gunners had to battle from a goal down to maintain their unbeaten European record this season. The influential Lineth Beerensteyn put the hosts ahead in the 53rd minute before Vivianne Miedema hit back, heading home to ensure her side earned a valuable point.
As soon as these two sides were drawn together back in October, there was an extra weight added to this fixture. Fondly dubbed the “Joe Montemurro derby” by fans, this was the first time the former Arsenal manager was coming up against his old side and their new manager, Jonas Eidevall. Having spent almost four years at the helm in north London, the Australian departed for a new challenge in 2021, having previously led the Gunners to a first WSL title in seven years.
Football, as always, moves on, and Montemurro and Eidevall are building with their new clubs. Arsenal have impressed in this Champions League campaign, but they arrived in Turin after falling to their first loss of the season and with their injury worries mounting. Beth Mead was the latest to be added to the list having suffered a significant ACL injury against Manchester United at the weekend. Her absence brought Miedema into the starting lineup in her now customary role in the pocket behind Stina Blackstenius.
Juventus, meanwhile, went into this fixture two points behind their opponents in Group C and knowing that victory would massively bolster their chances of progression. Things are not going entirely their way this season – they are second in Serie A behind high-flying Roma. The Italian champions were also without the midfield stalwart Sara Gunnarsdottir but were bolstered when their captain, Cecilia Salvai, was declared fit.
Arsenal started brightly, enjoying the space the expansive pitch provided. Jordan Nobbs and Frida Maanum were able to influence play while Caitlin Foord’s running and delivery from the left provided a productive outlet. Pauline Peyraud-Magnin, also formerly of Arsenal, had to be alert in goal when Blackstenius broke through the defensive lines on multiple occasions. The Sweden forward should have been more clinical, in particular when she was set away by Maanum only to direct her shot straight at the goalkeeper.
Juventus offered their own threat with the pace of Beerensteyn causing Arsenal problems. The hosts finished the half on the front foot and should have gone in ahead: just before the break Arianna Caruso found herself unmarked in the box but sent her header wide.
The temperature may have dropped as the teams re-emerged, but Juventus were determined to turn up the heat. They bided their time, remaining compact in the face of Arsenal possession before taking the lead. The electric Beerensteyn had provided the backline with enough warnings and finally made them pay when she broke on to Cristiana Girelli’s defence-splitting pass and fired clinically past Manuela Zinsberger. A roar reverberated around the stadium, as more than 8,000 supporters cheered with delight.
Juventus had the wind in their sails, but Eidevall’s Arsenal can never be discounted. They have shown plenty of grit this season, and here they battled hard to draw level. Miedema, always one for the big occasions, rose highest in the box to meet a pinpoint Frida Maanum corner. Towering over Julia Grosso and protected by Lotte Wubben-Moy, she glanced a header home to level.
The equaliser caused Eidevall to shuffle his pack with the limited options he had available. Jen Beattie was brought in to offer aerial solidity with Katie McCabe pushing further upfield. The final quarter, however, was a stuttering encounter with niggling fouls and substitutions disrupting the flow. Neither goalkeeper was really troubled as the game drew to a close and the points were shared.
Arsenal will travel homeperhaps the happier of the two. A draw away from home in this competition is no mean feat and they maintain their cushion at the top of Group C. They will host the same opposition at the Emirates in a fortnight time, a stage that they will feel gives them the advantage as they look to secure progression to the next stage.
The England forward Beth Mead has suffered a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament and “is set for an extended period on the sidelines”, Arsenal have announced. The 27-year-old sustained the injury in Saturday’s 3-2 Women’s Super League loss to Manchester United at the Emirates Stadium.
A statement from Arsenal on Tuesday said: “We can confirm that Beth Mead suffered a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament in our match against Manchester United at Emirates Stadium on Saturday. Unfortunately, this means that Beth is set for an extended period on the sidelines. She will see a surgeon in the coming days, after which further details on timescales will be established.
“Everyone at the club will now be supporting Beth and working hard to get her back on the pitch as soon as possible.”
Mead has scored three goals in the WSL and two in the Champions League for the Gunners this season, which follows her starring role in England’s triumph at the Euros during the summer. She was named player of the tournament and claimed the Golden Boot with six goals, and last month was the Ballon d’Or runner-up behind Spain’s Alexia Putellas.
England will be back in major tournament action next summer at the World Cup taking place in Australia and New Zealand, from 20 July.
Alessia Russo’s injury-time header helped Manchester United recover from a second-half collapse to end Arsenal’s perfect start to the season and draw them level at the top in a thrilling 3-2 win at the Emirates Stadium.
In front of the second-largest WSL crowd of 40,604, after the 47,367 that attended Arsenal’s defeat of Tottenham at the Emirates, United took the lead through Ella Toone late in the first half before Arsenal struck back in the second. Frida Maanum drew Arsenal level before Laura Wienroither gave them the lead.
United flipped the script though, with Katie Zelem delivering twice from set pieces, first for Millie Turner, then Russo to send the hefty away contingent wild.
Manchester United manager, Marc Skinner, had urged his team to step up against the top teams before this game. “As a group, we have to keep pushing each other because we want to be in these games, winning these types of games even though we know how difficult that is to do,” Skinner said.
In the reverse fixture against Arsenal last season, a 79th minute goal from Arsenal’s Swedish forward Stina Blackstenius denied the visiting side a huge three points at Borehamwood after Alessia Russo’s first-half opener.
Skinner said his team’s growth has been huge since that 1-1 draw but, ultimately, the real test of that growth will be reflected on at Christmas, after they have played Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester City in three of their last four games before the winter pause.
The international break has taken its toll on the increasingly depleted Arsenal but centre-back Lotte Wubben-Moy was fit enough, following a mild quad strain, to return to partner Steph Catley at the back with Leah Williamson and Rafaelle both still out with foot injuries. Jordan Nobbs, Beth Mead, Manuela Zinsberger and Laura Wienroither all also started despite all suffering injuries at different points during the break.
United, meanwhile, welcomed back Ona Batlle for the trip to London with the right-back having not played since mid-October.
You could have been forgiven for thinking the visiting team in green were the unbeaten side that is flying in the league in the first half, rather than a team emerging from a tough defeat to Chelsea. United were slick and rampant and the Gunners gifted them possession in the middle far too often, with the trio of Nobbs, Maanum and Lia Wälti struggling – the influential captain, Kim Little, who has a knee injury, an obvious miss.
It looked like United could having been following a similar path of one trod often under Skinner – of not capitalising on a strong first half performance – but a richly deserved goal to given them the lead came six minutes before the break, having won possession in the middle the ball was played wide to Hayley Ladd on the right and the midfielder swung a cross to the back post where the unmarked Toone, who had snuck in behind Wubben-Moy, sidefooted in.
Their profligacy would be punished instantly in the second half though, as Maanum hustled the ball from Nikita Parris inside the centre circle before gliding towards the edge of the area and sending in a shot that would loop off centre-back Maya Le Tissier and in. Arsenal had come out of the dressing room fighting, playing with an intensity sorely lacking in the first half and United were rattled. A hefty but fair challenge on Parris by Caitlin Foord in front of the United technical area resulted in Skinner receiving a yellow card for remonstrating with the referee.
After the hour mark Vivienne Miedema came on, in place of Nobbs, after she was rested for Arsenal’s 4-0 defeat of Leicester and the international break.
Hard work from Miedema would lead to Arsenal’s second, having broken in on the left the Dutch forward was forced to shift the ball backwards to Foord, who fed Katie McCabe who swung the ball to the back post where Wienroither volleyed in her first goal for Arsenal from close range.
“It shows how much more powerful love can be than hate,” Beth Mead says as she reflects on a year of tumult and glory which has changed her life. The Arsenal striker won the Golden Boot and Player of the Tournament as she helped England become European champions in the summer but also had to endure the pain of her mother’s cancer and the upsetting memory of how, last year, she had been excluded from the GB squad at the Olympic Games.
Those football woes, and her worry and care for her mum, meant that Mead began last season in a frame of mind which, I suggest, seemed to fuse anger and love. The 27-year-old replaces “anger” with an even starker word in “hate” as she conveys her hurt. “I would say me hating that situation I was in [after missing the Olympics and with her England future unsettled] was my main motivator in pre-season. But the perspective of what my mum is going through meant I needed to snap out of it, stop being a baby and enjoy my football again. I wanted to find the enjoyment I had as a six-year-old girl when I started playing football.”
Mead smiles on a dark afternoon at Arsenal’s training ground as she says: “A lot of people have mentioned that the last year was a revenge tour for me. Actually, it’s been more of a love tour.”
She has just written a book where the most moving pages emerge in a chapter about her mum’s cancer. The situation is so raw that Mead asks not to talk about her mother in too much detail. Even the memory of how she found out that her mum was ill, when Mead answered her phone while having a bath, is bruising and still very painful. “I felt dazed, winded. I put the phone down reeling with shock, unable to register everything Mum had just said to me. My tears mingled with the bathwater until I couldn’t tell which was which.”
Mead explains that the brave and stoical way in which her mother has confronted the disease inspires her. She has spent all year “trying to put a smile on my mum’s face. Obviously this summer was incredible, to share that moment with her when we won the Euros. I try to find where my parents are during the warm-up to every game. But for me to get to them straight after the final was special because all I wanted was to share that moment with them. We had so many happy tears but lots of emotion came out about the struggles I’ve had throughout. We were thinking of everything that went before that moment and for us to share that together in front of a packed-out Wembley was incredible.”
Mead’s voice remains steady when I ask how her mum is coping with her treatment. “She’s in hospital at the moment. There’s obviously a lot of repercussions about management of chemo. It’s taking its toll on her a little bit but she’s doing OK.”
The admirable way in which Jen Beattie, her Arsenal teammate, has kept playing football while recovering from breast cancer has been a source of comfort and hope for Mead. “Jen’s been amazing. All the Arsenal girls and the staff have been incredible to me but Jen’s experienced cancer. She understands how it affects the family as well as the person involved. She’s been great.”
Mead suffered anxiety as a young girl and her book captures how she sometimes claimed to be ill, or even developed psychosomatic symptoms, as she tried to avoid leaving home or going on England youth training camps. “They made me the player and person I am today,” she says of those early insecurities. “Lots of things unsettled me. I was very much a home girl with a great family around me. Leaving that was always difficult.”
At the same time Mead felt she “always had a point to prove. I’m still doing that to this day, to prove people wrong, but that set in from a very young age.”
Her formative years were spent playing for a boys’ team and she got used to the sniggers and mocking words when the opposition and their parents saw she was a girl. “It became the norm but I love playing football and as soon as I got on that pitch, over that white line, I didn’t hear them. By the end of most games, I had so much respect from the other boys and their parents.”
Life became more complicated as she began playing girls’ football. Her prodigious goalscoring meant that she was offered a chance to join Sunderland – which she initially resisted by telling her parents that, after throwing her kit and boots in the bin, she was giving up football. They were patient and helped her find the confidence to accept the opportunity. But when she was picked for England youth teams, “I would never sleep the night before. I curled up on the end of my mum and dad’s bed and then I would make up that I was sick or I made myself sick because I was that anxious and nervous.”
Even when she signed for Arsenal in 2017, at the age of 21, Mead found the transition from the north-east upsetting. She needed her mum to come south for a while to settle her homesickness. It did not take long for Mead’s talent to flourish and she was soon called up for the national side. She made her international debut in April 2018 and set up Ellen White’s equaliser in the World Cup semi-finals a year later. England eventually lost 2-1 to the United States in a defeat which Mead believes fired her and her teammates with the resolve they needed to become European champions.
Mead had a “love-hate” working relationship with Phil Neville when he was England manager. He recognised her potential but often warned Mead that she was “too nice” and needed to develop an angrier edge. That anger duly came when Neville’s replacement, Hege Riise, echoed an earlier England manager, Mark Sampson, in making it clear that she did not have much faith in Mead. Riise left a devastated Mead out of the GB Olympic squad.
“This was the first time I’d not been selected for a squad,” Mead says. “I struggled mostly with the reasoning she gave me. My bread-and-butter is being aggressive on the pitch, being on the front foot, winning balls back, and she basically told me that was the reason for me not going to the Olympics. For the next four weeks I was pretty low, not in a good place, and hated the way I was thinking. I didn’t want [GB] to do well even though I love some of the girls in that team. I was borderline depressed but then I got back for pre-season and things happened with my mum. I knew I had to stop being a child, snap out of it and work hard.”
Her new determination coincided with the arrival of Jonas Eidevall as Arsenal manager and he surprised Mead by suggesting she was good enough to win the Ballon d’Or. By the time the Euros were under way Mead, after an outstanding domestic season, was in superlative form. She picks out her hat-trick performance against Norway, when she was described in this newspaper as being “absolutely unplayable”, as the highpoint in terms of the sheer quality she produced in an 8-0 victory: “I felt I could have done anything and it would have gone right that day. That was a game where nobody was going to bring me down.”
She stresses that so much of England’s European triumph was down to Sarina Wiegman, who transformed the squad and an atmosphere which Mead describes as “flat” and “bitchy” towards the end of Neville’s tenure. “It was difficult for anyone to come in but she stamped her authority, and what she wants the culture and environment to look like, as soon as she got here,” Mead says of the Dutch coach.
“In a short period she changed the environment to one we love. Sarina has this amazing knack of helping you know exactly where you stand and her communication is impeccable. She also has this incredible ability to make you feel so calm as a team and an individual when it’s a high-pressure moment. In the changing room before the final she was as calm as you like. She is just an incredible human being and obviously she’s won a Euro championship before in her home country.”
Mead stresses that the quarter-final against Spain was England’s most difficult match of the tournament. “Germany in the final was hard but coming from behind against Spain, and getting the equaliser so late before going on to win, was so tough.”
Spain were without arguably the best player in the world as Alexia Putellas missed most of last season with a bad knee injury. Putellas’s absence from top-flight football meant that Mead should really have won the Ballon d’Or as the European game’s most prestigious individual prize is meant to be awarded to the player who achieved most in the preceding season. “Yes,” Mead says simply. “I didn’t think I was that invested in it until I came second and it was so close, by one vote. It was something like 163 points for her and 162 for me. Considering what we did at the Euros, and my individual achievements, I could have won it. But I’m even more hungry to win things now.”
Winning the World Cup next year is Mead’s and England’s next testing target. But I am curious as to why there are so few black players in England’s squad. Mead shakes her head when asked whether this anomaly suggests there might be a residual issue of racial prejudice in the development of English women’s football: “I think it’s completely coincidental. We put out our best 11 and you don’t think of anyone’s race or anything like that. I think that’s more an outsider’s perspective.”
Mead, who has spoken out against homophobia in Qatar, where the men’s World Cup is about to be played, highlights how healthy the women’s game is in regard to sexuality. “I’d love to bridge that gap to make it more normal [in men’s football], but it’s a culture,” she says. “The men’s game needs to catch up and get in the 21st century. As women we don’t sit there and put out a big fancy statement that we’ve got a girlfriend or we’re gay, bisexual or whatever. We’re normal human beings. If you’re happy it doesn’t matter who you fall in love with.”
Mead is settled in her private life as she and Vivianne Miedema, the brilliant Dutch striker and her Arsenal teammate who was also nominated for the Ballon d’Or, have a happy relationship off the field. Their parents first met each other in Zwolle in 2007 when Miedema and Mead made their international youth debuts in the same under-15 game between the Netherlands and England. “Small world, eh?” Mead says with a grin. “It’s crazy because we both scored and our families met.”
It still took years for them to fall in love because Miedema’s arrival at Arsenal came just as Mead was trying to establish herself. “Obviously I had to move positions [and play in a wide role rather than as the central striker] because Queen Viv came in.”
Mead laughs. “It worked out well because that position suits me much more. In our first few years we weren’t jumping with excitement for each other but things have worked out great for us. We know and understand each other’s life and schedule and expectations and we’re pretty good at being able to switch off and not bring football into the house. I was buzzing about the Ballon d’Or, as it was my first, but Viv did remind me it was her fourth.”
She is still worried about her mum, and adjusting to fame, but Mead sounds secure as she says: “The football pitch has always been my safe space and that’s still true today. It’s the place where I switch off and enjoy myself. You’re supposed to call it a job but I just love it. I don’t think too many people in the world can say that every day.”
The England forward Beth Mead said on Thursday she would not show her support for this year’s men’s World Cup in Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal.
Mead, who is in a relationship with her Arsenal teammate Vivianne Miedema, told BBC Radio 4 the ban on homosexuality in Qatar was “the complete opposite to what I believe and respect”.
“It’s not something I will be backing or promoting,” Mead said. “It’s disappointing in the sense that there’s no respect on a lot of levels, even though it’s a game of football.”
England’s captain, Harry Kane, and captains of seven other European nations who have qualified for the World Cup have said they will wear an anti-discrimination armband during the tournament in Qatar, which starts on 20 November.
“Although I’m cheering for the boys who are going to play football there, from the minute it was announced I thought it wasn’t the best idea,” Mead said. “We’re in the 21st century and you fall in love with who you fall in love with. It doesn’t matter who they are.”
Mead said she never felt she had to hide her relationship with Miedema. “In the men’s game they feel they have to make a statement of the situation. It’s been a culture, and that culture needs to shift. Is it a generation thing? Is it a culture thing in the game? I would love to help try and bridge that gap to just try and make it the norm.”
The 27-year-old won the Golden Boot and was named player of the tournament at this year’s European Championship for her instrumental role in helping England win their first major title.
The Arsenal manager, Jonas Eidevall, had said that the team’s Champions League group stage opener against the reigning champions, Lyon, would be a “reality check to see where we’re at.”
The small contingent of travelling Gunners fans could be forgiven for thinking they had stepped into an alternate reality: where they were “at” was in seventh heaven, as the Ballon d’Or runner-up, Beth Mead, and Australian forward Caitlin Foord both scored twice in a 5-1 demolition of the tournament’s most successful side.
It was the first time Lyon had lost by a four-goal margin since April 2006 and the first time that they had conceded five since 2005.
Sonia Bompastor, the Lyon manager, said her team had not been “killers” or “efficient” against a team “as good as Arsenal,” adding that her side needed to analyse and focus on the lessons they can learn from the bruising defeat.
“Many players remain off and we need to cope with that,” she said of a hefty injury list. “We need to draw the lessons, analyse and from the mental side we need to build trust to beat Juventus next week.”
After navigating qualifying, there were fears for Arsenal when they were placed in Group C with Lyon, a fast-developing Juventus side managed by the former Arsenal manager Joe Montemurro and the Swiss champions, FC Zürich.
“It is a special night”, said Eidevall after the win in France. “We were very effective tonight, but as I told the players after, they worked extremely hard to carry out the gameplan and looked after the details, when you do that sometimes these things happen.
“You’re not entitled to play like this every game you play, it starts with your preparation, with the way you train, with the belief in the gameplan and you have to do that every game, nothing comes for free in football, you’re not entitled to anything.”
Arsenal had not managed a single win against a French team in Europe prior to their trip to Lyon. In eight matches against Ligue 1 teams, the Gunners had lost six times and drawn twice.
In front of a disappointingly small crowd of 8,012 at the Groupama Stadium, Bompastor made several changes, but Lyon were able to field a very strong starting XI regardless.
Eidevall has his own injury worries, with the England captain, Leah Williamson, and her first-choice centre-back partner, Rafaelle Souza, both out. Vivianne Miedema was on the bench and the scorer of Arsenal’s second, Frida Maanum, who Eidevall would describe as “brilliant” after the match, was on in her place.
It took 13 minutes for the Gunners to deliver the first blow, and they deserved their lead. The captain, Kim Little, released Mead into space on the right and the forward delivered a neat cross for Foord to convert at the back post.
Ten minutes later, Arsenal doubled their lead, the forward Stina Blackstenius darting in from the left and forcing a fine save from the outstretched foot of Christiane Endler, but Maanum was there to side-foot in the rebound.
The makeshift central defensive partnership of Lotte Wubben-Moy and Steph Catley would fall short not long after when Lindsey Horan turned a corner off the crossbar with her thigh and Melvine Malard pounced quickest to poke in from close range, but it was a blip in an overall strong showing.
By half-time Eidevall’s side had restored their two-goal cushion. The Lyon captain, Wendie Renard, was penalised for a foul on Blackstenius and Mead swept the resulting free-kick around the wall and past Endler, who got a hand to the ball but could not keep it out.
If there were any fiery words said in the home dressing room at half-time in a bid to up the intensity of the team’s performance, there was little evidence of it on the pitch after the break, with Arsenal gifted space all over.
They were rewarded for their dominance in the 67th minute when Foord intercepted a rogue pass from Renard across the front of the box before blasting past Endler. A minute later it was five, with Maanum releasing Mead and the Euro 2022 golden boot winner sweeping home.
Did they fear Lyon? “We were actually quite chilled about the game,” said Mead. “There was no expectation on us this evening, and sometimes you can relish in those moments.” Now, they will have to manage sky-high expectations.
Arsenal will not get carried away by derby drubbing
Two games into a new season is no time to try to determine the destination of the Women’s Super League title or who is on track for a Champions League spot. Arsenal will be aware of this and the need to take things game by game having begun last season with a 3-2 win over Chelsea before being pipped to the title by the same team by a single point. So while Arsenal’s 4-0 defeat of Tottenham on Saturday was comprehensive and slick, Jonas Eidevall and his team will not get carried away, especially given how poor the visitors were in front of a record WSL crowd of 47,367. “We didn’t play our game as well as we could have,” said Tottenham’s head coach, Rehanne Skinner. “We were too tentative in the press and that created challenges for us on the ball.” Suzanne Wrack
Villa’s signings give them a new lease of life
Aston Villa’s 2-0 victory at Leicester on Sunday was a history-making moment for the club given it secured them back-to-back wins in the WSL for the first time. New signings have revitalised Carla Ward’s team, none more so than Rachel Daly, whose early penalty was her third goal of the season as she continues to build on her excellent performances for England at the European Championship. Emily Gielnik struck four minutes from time to extinguish any chance of a Leicester comeback. Eight points separated these two sides last year and while the Foxes have lingering defensive issues, Villa march onwards and upwards with a squad that looks ready to take on anyone. Renuka Odedra
United finally look ready for Champions League fight
Manchester United have some heavyweight names in their squad, such as Ella Toone, Katie Zelem and Alessia Russo, but it was two lesser-profile players who shone in their 2-0 victory over West Ham on Sunday. Lucia García, who joined United from Athletic Bilbao in the summer, and Hannah Blundell scored their first goals for the club, highlighting the strength in depth United now have, and especially from a goalscoring point-of-view. It’s a trait that might allow Marc Skinner’s side to break the stronghold of Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal and secure a Champions League place this season. RO
Positives for City but Taylor’s troops still look aimless
Gareth Taylor was pointed in his comments after Manchester City’s 2-0 defeat by Chelsea. “Players make mistakes, everyone makes mistakes, and we’ve got to be super-careful that we’re not jumping on it,” he said. “I saw more positive things from the team and I’ve fed that back to them.” He is not wrong, there were positives on Sunday, especially in their first-half performance. However, the visitors struggled for a reaction after conceding the first goal of the game and it quickly became Chelsea’s to lose rather than City’s to win. The big concern for last season’s third-placed side is that they look aimless – either the plan is wrong or it’s not being executed properly. SW
Reading raging again after another controversial call
“If this [officiating] is not addressed, it’s going to start costing managers jobs,” said a furious Kelly Chambers after Reading suffered a 2-1 defeat at Brighton. It was the second week in a row Reading came away from a game feeling hard done by the officials. The controversy in question occurred half an hour into Sunday’s contest, when Deanna Cooper rose to head in a clever free-kick. The assistant’s flag went up, but replays showed the defender was onside. Brighton then took the lead through Lee Geum-min and while Reading dominated the second half they were ultimately left to rue their wastefulness in front of goal, as well as the assistant’s flag. Sophie Downey
Park takes pride of place in Everton’s storming of Anfield
Everton’s summer of change involved a new manager, the exit of nine senior players, five permanent signings and loan deals for several young players including Manchester City’s Jess Park, Chelsea’s Aggie Beever-Jones and Arsenal’s Gio Queiroz. The loan strategy was deliberate, offering valuable playing time to developing players who may need to be patient elsewhere, and paid dividends at Anfield where 20-year-old Park excelled in the 3-0 victory over Liverpool. Brian Sorensen, savouring his first win as Everton manager, said: “When I first talked to the club I had some targets. I wanted young English players like Jess Park and Aggie Beever-Jones and we were lucky to get them. I am so happy for Jess. The way she performed was top.” Andy Hunter
Arsenal and Chelsea will have their work cut out to progress from the group stage of the Women’s Champions League after being handed unenviable assignments on Monday.
Jonas Eidevall’s Arsenal play the holders, Lyon, along with the Italian champions, Juventus and Zürich, and Emma Hayes’s side face Real Madrid, Paris Saint-German and the Albanian club Vllaznia. Lyon, who beat Barcelona 3-1 in last season’s final, have won the Champions League eight times and will offer a tricky Group C challenge for Arsenal, quarter-finalists last season when they bowed out to Wolfsburg.
If the north London side’s reunion with Joe Montemurro, their former manager now in charge of Juventus, could also prove challenging, Chelsea’s task looks similarly awkward.
Group A will involve Hayes’s WSL title holders meeting a Madrid ensemble who, with Scotland’s Caroline Weir impressing, eliminated Manchester City in a qualifying round this summer, and PSG, who despite being riven with internal problems were semi-finalists last season.
Chelsea will be particularly keen to be one of the two teams to progress from their group to the quarter-finals after elimination in last season’s group stage.
Group D – Barcelona, Bayern Munich, Rosengård and Benfica – features intriguing contests between three former Manchester City teammates: England’s Barcelona-domiciled Lucy Bronze and Keira Walsh and their fellow Lioness Georgia Stanway, now with Bayern.
The remaining group – B – comprises Wolfsburg, Slavia Prague, the Austrian club St Pölten and Roma. Matches will take place between 19 October and 22 December and the final is scheduled for Eindhoven’s PSV Stadion on 3 or 4 June.
Should Arsenal or Chelsea get that far they will have done it the hard way in a competition in which British clubs have traditionally failed to flourish. Chelsea reached the 2021 final, losing to Barcelona, but no British side have won the Champions League since Arsenal’s solitary success in 2007.