Manchester City’s Laura Coombs finishes off Brighton for easy WSL win | Women’s Super League

Goals were easy to come by for Manchester City as they continued their eye-catching home form against Brighton. Chloe Kelly played a starring role as Gareth Taylor’s side cruised to victory and deepened Brighton’s troubles near the bottom of the table.

An early own goal from Veatriki Sarri sent City on their way before Julie Blakstad and Laura Coombs added to the tally. Brighton pulled one back late on through Lee Guem-min.

“It was a good win,” Taylor, the City manager, said. “I think we looked a bit slow in the first five minutes, but the goal settled us. Our set-play delivery was really good today and then after that we scored two excellent goals.

“I would say the second half was a bit too loose from us in possession … I’m just disappointed that we’ve not added more goals to our performance. But it keeps us right in touch and that’s the really pleasing thing.”

Taylor’s side have been somewhat flying under the radar this season, but their form has been noteworthy. Plenty of turnover in the summer and injury issues led to disruption early on but his side are unbeaten since September and evidently heading in the right direction. With the league’s joint top scorer in Bunny Shaw spearheading their attack they have made the Academy Stadium a fortress, winning the past eight at home.

City were clear favourites with the weight of history and Brighton’s inconsistent form on their side. They have won all but one of their previous league encounters against the Seagulls, scoring 34 goals and conceding just three. Amy Merricks’ side have been scoring more recently but are predictably leaky at the back.

This trend continued in the first half with City dominant throughout. Kelly ran Brighton’s defensive line ragged with her dancing feet and driving offensive play. The England forward is still searching for her first domestic goal of the season and seemed determined to break that run. It appeared she had in the 11th minute as her dipping corner ended up in the back of the net only for it later to be marked as an own goal against Sarri, who had got a touch at the near post.

Kelly continued to be City’s main attacking outlet and was the instigator of their second goal. With another driving run down the right she beat both Poppy Pattinson and Lee before setting up Blakstad for a diving header. It was the 21-year-old’s fifth goal of the season as she continues to make an impact.

Brighton’s Jorja Fox and Manchester City’s Julie Blakstad (right) battle for the ball
Brighton’s Jorja Fox and Manchester City’s Julie Blakstad (right) battle for the ball. Photograph: Peter Powell/PA

With less than half an hour on the clock, City were three up and in cruise control. Coombs, known as a strong box-to-box midfielder, produced a sublime top‑corner finish that flew past the outstretched Megan Walsh.

With a comfortable lead, City could afford to take their foot off the gas in the second half. Taylor was also able to give minutes to his bench, with Kelly brought off, among others.

Brighton proved a sterner opposition in the second, with Danielle Carter coming close to pulling one back for her side. They got their consolation at the death when Lee poked home in the 93rd minute. For her part, Merricks was impressed by the improvements her side made in the game, providing them with a platform to build on.

“I think in the first half there were some key areas that we needed to improve on,” Brighton’s interim manager said. “I think we did that at half-time and came out better in the second. The players really applied themselves and were committed to the idea of what we wanted to do … Obviously, they’re going to have opportunities. I think we limited that, and we created [opportunities]. We can hold our heads up high today in terms of how we showcased ourselves.”

Despite this consolation, it was a comfortable victory for City as they closed the gap on the top of the table. Manchester United at the Etihad Stadium await them next weekend, an occasion that will prove a real test of their title credentials.

Khadija Shaw at the double as Manchester City blow away Tottenham | Women’s Super League

Khadija Shaw’s brace and another goal from Lauren Hemp helped Manchester City make it back-to-back wins in the Women’s Super League with a 3-0 victory at Tottenham. Gareth Taylor’s side had started the new campaign with consecutive defeats but followed up last weekend’s dismantling of Leicester with a clinical display in the capital.

Shaw struck either side of half-time at Brisbane Road to take her tally for the season to seven before Hemp grabbed a late third on a difficult day for Spurs, who saw Ellie Brazil leave the pitch on a stretcher. Tottenham and City had fought close battles during their WSL fixtures last season but the start of this clash was overshadowed when Brazil suffered a potentially serious injury in the third minute.

Brazil, a summer signing for Spurs, impressively closed down the visiting goalkeeper, Ellie Roebuck, but injured herself in the process of blocking the clearance. Brazil’s left leg had to be put in a brace and she eventually went off to warm applause following a lengthy delay.

City were able to settle better after the restart with Esme Morgan and Hemp, one of several Lionesses in the away lineup, sending efforts wide before Deyna Castellanos tested Rebecca Spencer in the home goal in the 25th minute. Spencer saved well from Castellanos and was equal to Yui Hasegawa’s long-rang shot after 40 minutes, too, but from the resulting corner Taylor’s side took the lead.

Alex Greenwood produced a pinpoint delivery into the area which Shaw met on the run, sending a well-timed header into the bottom corner. Tottenham responded to the opener with their first shot of note but Ashleigh Neville sliced over at the back post following Angharad James’s cross to ensure it remained 1-0 at the break.

City had enjoyed more than 70 per cent possession during the opening 45 minutes and were able to make their dominance count at the start of the second period. James was dispossessed inside her own half and Hemp passed to Shaw, who took her shot early and drilled into the bottom corner from 25 yards.

Lauren Hemp points to the sky after making it 3-0
Lauren Hemp points to the sky after making it 3-0. Photograph: Manchester City FC/Getty Images

The City forward wheeled away in celebration and almost had her hat-trick on the hour mark but Molly Bartrip made a timely interception from Kerstin Casparij’s cutback. In between Shaw had taken a ball to the face from close range, but was able to carry on.

Chloe Kelly, wearing a white headband, looked to get in on the act soon after and saw a 20-yard effort deflected over by Asmita Ale. Shaw squandered another opportunity with 21 minutes left when she scuffed wide from Laura Coombs’ pass and it briefly lifted the hosts.

Eveliina Summanen produced a dangerous cross before Drew Spence curled over but City provided the sucker punch in the 76th minute.

Coombs found Hemp, who turned Amy Turner inside out before the England ace arrowed a left-footed shot in off the post to wrap up the scoring with her third goal of the season.

Manchester City’s Deyna Castellanos: ‘I want to change the world a little bit’ | Manchester City Women

Back home in Venezuela, Deyna Castellanos is known as “Queen Deyna”, butminutes into our conversation all nagging fears that Manchester City’s new No 10 might prove precious or high maintenance have evaporated.

In Spanish reina means queen and, as it rhymes with Deyna, it felt a natural fit for a woman who became captain of her country’s La Vinotinto at only 21.

Gareth Taylor’s marquee summer signing from Atlético Madrid is 23 now but Castellanos recognises that without winning a college scholarship to study journalism and football in Florida that national armband might never have been hers. “Going to the US was life-changing,” says the refreshingly down-to-earth forward who grew up in the city of Maracay near the Caribbean coast, idolising Brazil’s Marta and fighting for the right to play football. “It was an amazing, very important, moment for my career.”

It explains why Castellanos has established a foundation that, among other things, helps provide football scholarships for young South American girls and why she talked so passionately about gender equality, education and “changing mindsets” at her introductory unveiling as a City player. “I want to change the world a little bit and fight for equality,” she says.

Castellanos is a versatile forward or attacking midfielder central to the reconstruction plans after a summer of radical changeat City. With Lucy Bronze and Keira Walsh decamping to Barcelona, Georgia Stanway joining Bayern Munich, Caroline Weir leaving for Real Madrid and Ellen White retiring, this season’s first XI is much altered.

“The players that left were very big, very important,” says Castellanos, who scored 23 goals in 59 appearances for Atlético. “But everyone here now is very happy and excited to be at City … even though it rains quite a bit in Manchester.”

Deyna Castellanos (left) battles for possession with Magdalena Eriksson during Manchester City’s WSL game at Chelsea.
Deyna Castellanos (left) battles for possession with Magdalena Eriksson during Manchester City’s WSL game at Chelsea. Photograph: Harriet Lander/Chelsea FC/Getty Images

With England’s Lauren Hemp and Chloe Kelly still around, continuity is not a total stranger as City strive to secure their first WSL win of the season at home to Leicester on Sunday.

City’s manager did not always see eye to eye with Bronze but Castellanos is impressed with the former Wales striker. “He’s a really nice one,” she says. “He’s always trying to teach you and make you better. That’s not something every coach takes the time to do. I think I can grow as a player here.

“English football’s faster, more physical and more aerial than in Spain but its technical too, a nice mix of styles. Manchester City’s always been a passing team and that matters. It’s very important to control games by dominating with the ball.”

The seven-star infrastructure at City’s Etihad Campus must seem light years removed from daily life in Venezuela. Castellanos’s mission statement is to ensure every young girl can be “a queen in their own way”, but the legacy of her country’s economic collapse after its failed socialist revolution dictates sheer survival is the extent of many citizens’ ambitions.

In 2018, her compatriot Salomón Rondón, then with Newcastle and now at Everton, spoke passionately about his distress at the country’s economic meltdown, painting a grim picture of empty supermarket shelves, widespread water shortages, a dearth of essential medicines and mass cancellation of hospital operations; all set against a backdrop of violence, kidnappings and galloping inflation.

Four years on, the emergency has eased slightly but the capital, Caracas, still registers one of the world’s highest murder rates. “I think the situation’s a little bit better than when Salomón told you that,” says Castellanos, whose family remain in Venezuela. “There are more food supplies and better access to medicines, but the country’s still in a bad place. I hope that changes.”

Deyna Castellanos (right) in action for Venezuela against Argentina in a Copa América game in Colombia in July.
Deyna Castellanos (right) in action for Venezuela against Argentina in a Copa América game in Colombia in July. Photograph: Luis Eduardo Noriega A/EPA

She is tempted to become a journalist after retiring from football and enjoyed working as a television pundit, primarily for NBC and Telemundo, in Spain and at the 2019 women’s World Cup in France. “I feel really comfortable in front of the camera,” she says. “I do analysis or commentating or interviews with the same passion I play my football.”

Despite learning her second language only after moving to Florida, Castellanos has trained herself to “think in English as well as Spanish” and is impressively bilingual on camera. With Venezuela having failed to qualify for next year’s World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, she seems certain to be courted by television companies.

“It’s going to be really spectacular,” she says. “Every team’s improved so much, technically and physically. The United States were always the ones to beat but now England have won the Euros and Spain also have a very bright future.”

Showpiece women’s tournaments can help drive social change and Castellanos applauded inwardly when the US team publicly demanded the sacking of all those North American club executives who turned blind eyes to the culture of systemic emotional and sexual abuse in their domestic league revealed by the recent Sally Yates report. “They’re brave to talk loud about important things,” she says. “I feel proud of them.”

Albeit in a very different context, she harbours similar sentiments about her collection of body art. “I’ve certainly got a lot of tattoos,” she says. “I’m not sure exactly how many, about 37. They’re a mix of words and pictures but I haven’t had a Manchester one done yet … it might include some rain.”

Women’s Super League: talking points from the weekend’s action | Women’s Super League

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

“If officials don’t begin to improve, it’s going to stop the growth of our game and Manager’s will begin to get the sack.”

See the full interview with Kelly Chambers 👇

— Reading FC Women (@ReadingFCWomen) September 25, 2022

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