I want to introduce you to “The Other Eight” – the first of a new regular weekly column. If you’re the type of person to read Women’s Super League media on a Monday, you’ll probably have noticed that whilst there are twelve teams in the WSL, most of them only tend to appear when playing Arsenal, Chelsea, or a Manchester team, and never seem to face each other.
With most of the attention and column inches being on Arsenal’s last-ditch win, beating Aston Villa with two injury-time goals for their first win of the season, you’ll have likely missed much of the great other action on display, like Bristol City still searching for their first points of the season, Grace Clinton’s stunner against Tottenham Hotspur, or Everton spoiling Liverpool’s Anfield party with a 1-0 away win.
You might have even missed that Arsenal actually faced Aston Villa, who were hardly mentioned despite leading going into the ninety-second minute.
Here at Since 71, the main goal is to share the stories that interest us within women’s football.
The Other Eight starts with a mission every week to make a regular space where all WSL clubs and players, not just the “big” ones or the ones who get the most clicks, receive the attention they deserve. As the title says, this column is all about the “other eight” teams and their players, giving all equal billing so their stories are also told.
Paul Wheeler is your guide this week!
Conveniently, alphabetically we start with Aston Villa, who you may have missed were Arsenal’s opponents in all the focus on certain Lionesses pre-match, and actually led for over an hour at the Emirates. Maz Pacheco (who gets FAR less credit than she should as one of the most exciting fullbacks in the WSL) put them ahead, and once again Jonas Eidevall’s side looked confused and nervous forced to play wide rather than their preferred game, just as they did v Liverpool.
Villa themselves were holding up well and moments away from a famous win in injury time before Vicky Pelova somehow got away with turning herself into an ankle-seeking cruise missile aimed, diving in to “win the ball” in midfield from the next postcode over and only taking the ankles of the player in possession in what was a foul on weekdays, twice on Saturdays and three times on Sundays. No whistle went, though, and Katie McCabe finished a move moments later that should have stopped thirty seconds earlier, and with VAR, would have been.
Villa were still reeling from this injustice (which we’d DEFINITELY have heard more of if Pelova had been the tackled, not the tackler) when Russo directed a desperate last-ditch shot towards goal that squirmed through to give Arsenal three arguably undeserved points and Carla Ward a quietly seething trip home.
The real tragedy of the day according to at least one national newspaper, though, is that horny men on the Internet only got to stare at Alisha Lehmann for two minutes after she was left on the bench. Apparently.
Really? We’re still doing this in women’s football coverage?
Next, we have Bristol City, who were perhaps unfortunate to run into a Manchester City SEETHING with rage at the after-effects of their turn on the “referee controversy roulette” wheel last week. It started badly for Bristol City fans when the Joie Stadium (this is what we call the Etihad Academy now) staff took exception to a drum they were bringing in, because as we know, atmosphere at WSL games can legally only be created by families and, ideally, kids asking for shirts and autographs and waving signs. This meant a ten-minute walk back to the car park for some travelling fans.
By the way, Bristol City’s next game is Arsenal at home, because apparently the football gods love chaos.
They probably wish they’d not come back because the Robins were 5-0 down by half time, thanks to a double each from Jill Roord and Bunny Shaw and a fifth from Laia Alexandri. All five from Man City were headed goals as Bristol well and truly lost theirs.
The second half might as well have been played at walking pace…Man City had 82% of the possession and twelve times the shots of Bristol (24-2). In this game alone the home side had more shots on target than Bristol have all season, perhaps a ratio explaining why the Robins have now conceded twelve goals in three games and scored three.
Brighton and Spurs are next – two teams who struggled at times last season but so far this season have been encouraging their fans with some fine displays. It was also a battle of the red-hot strikers – Brighton’s Lis Terland and Spurs’ Martha Thomas both ended this game with four goals in four games as top scorers for their respective side, but it was Spurs who came out on top after being rocked back early by a Terland header. Thomas equalised by doing what Martha Thomas does, seizing onto a strike from Drew Spence that hit the crossbar so hard ground staff at the Amex Stadium will be trying to locate that mysterious rattle for weeks to slot the rebound home.
Then came this. Cate Blanchett is a famous inhabitant of Brighton, and one of her most famous roles was, of course, Galadriel the elf queen in Lord of the Rings.
Grace Clinton decided that since she was in the area she would take inspiration from this and play a part in her own epic feature, the Princess of The Pings.
Spurs were humming and in their duo of Eveliina Summanen and new arrival Olga Ahtinen they have a midfield with resilience Gandalf would be proud of. Telling Brighton “you shall not pass”, the two Finns did more than a bit of passing themselves to stop the Seagulls and by the time Ria Percival (a New Zealander who probably knows a thing or two about epic Tolkien settings herself) finished things off in injury time the game was well won. They travel to Villa next, of which more later in this article.
The Merseyside Derby saw Everton come out on top over Liverpool, which given the hype around Liverpool’s unbeaten start to the WSL lavished by Sky Sports to sell the game and the gushing tributes to Matt Beard’s side beforehand will have pleased Brian Sorensen and the blue half on Merseyside no end.
Captain Megan Finnegan did the necessary and also spoiled Natasha Dowie’s retirement party at Anfield (Dowie received a guard of honour pre-game after retiring in the summer) with a CLASSIC centre-back’s header. She loves scoring at Anfield, which makes Liverpool’s decision not to mark her at corners even more baffling still.
I’m pretty sure, mind you, that it’s now WSL rules at least one manager has to have a go at the officiating each week to provide copy to keep the podcast discussion mill churning, and it was Liverpool’s Matt Beard who stepped into the breach for his fellow gaffers this week, saying this in response to an offside decision that ruled out a goal by everyone’s favourite proud Scouse lass (sorry Cilla), Missy Bo Kearns.
I don’t think we deserved to lose the game, the officiating has had an impact on the result. I’ve watched the goal back, the player that is pressing Taylor [Hinds] has kept Missy Bo Kearns onside. I’m just sick to death of it to be honest & it’s not just me is it?Matt Beard, Liverpool Manager
Careful, Matt. No, it isn’t just you but also, yes, you’re probably getting a polite call from the FA in the week about those comments, justified or not.
And so to Leicester, who you may have missed remained unbeaten in the rush to bury Manchester United for not ending that run as expected. The Foxes now have the same amount of points after three games as they did in fourteen last season – two wins and a draw. They gained this point at LSV a lot more comfortably than their illustrious predecessors Arsenal did, but with far less fanfare.
Shannon O’Brien would fast be making a name for herself and probably hearing calls for England call ups if she were playing for one of the big four teams – and Willie Kirk’s team as a whole look like a happy, cohesive unit who could be this season’s Aston Villa in terms of impressive performances – and they’re doing it without the media magnet of a Lioness. A textbook smash-and-grab raid where City were outshot 20 to 4 and only had 35% possession meant joy in the East Midlands, but Aileen Whelan’s goal meant they come back with a moral victory and a much-deserved point, while leaving a few sleepless nights for Marc Skinner, who as is often the case seemed utterly “foxed” when confronted by the idea of a team that didn’t obligingly play in the perfect way for his game-plan to take advantage of. Well, they say Foxes are tricky, don’t they?
And finally, West Ham, who battled bravely and more than matched Chelsea for long periods…but unfortunately for the Hammers Sam Kerr did Sam Kerr things in the 36th minute and from then on, they were always up against it.
Perhaps if the away side, given the luxury of fourteen, yes FOURTEEN shots at Kingsmeadow, had put more than two of them on target we’d be talking about a very different game and one akin to Leicester’s classic heist in Leigh or Liverpool’s audacious bit of thievery at the Emirates – despite having only a quarter of the possession they made Chelsea work very, very hard, and regrettably despite all the claims of parity in the WSL “making Chelsea work hard” is still often considered the equivalent of a victory.
They take on Liverpool this week, as Matt Beard returns to one of the brief stops on his circular managerial tour of the country from Liverpool to Liverpool via London and Bristol throughout the 2010s. Expect grittiness, narrow play and, the Hammers will hope, more images of Riko Ueki getting a goal or two.
OTHER EIGHT MOMENT OF THE WEEKEND
Grace Clinton’s goal for Spurs is the obvious one, but Drew Spence’s absolute peach of a strike that rattled the bar in the run-up to Martha Thomas’s goal deserved far more than it actually got and for sheer badassery alone deserves a look in this list. Lis Terland and Martha Thomas continuing their scoring runs and Meg Finnegan turning the Anfield air blue both metaphorically and probably literally in Matt Beard’s case also make the cut. We like to shine a spotlight wide here, so, just like the pumpkin farms everywhere this time of year, you’re welcome to pick your own!
OTHER EIGHT PLAYER OF THE WEEKEND
Players get awards all the time, but this week, the Other Eight would like to pay heartfelt tribute to the travelling Bristol City fans, who somehow managed to keep singing despite losing on penalties in a monsoon on Wednesday night in the Conti Cup and then still remaining cheerful and optimistic after the Robins were turned into bird stew by Man City. That takes real resilience and if their team take their cue from their followers, then the turnaround will not be long in coming.
Remember that Villa/Spurs game we hinted at earlier? That’s the standout Other Eight tie of the weekend. Don’t be silly – although both Villa and Spurs have ambitions of being top 4 clubs neither are yet so of course it’s not on TV although it is on the FA Player.
(There is another rare moment in the sun for Leicester City this week as they follow one Manchester club with the other live on telly, by the way).
But with Villa still winless after three games and Spurs starting strongly these are two teams in the reverse of the positions they were in last year. Villa will be looking to break their duck to avoid accusations of flattering to deceive all summer and Spurs will fancy themselves to take another victory and continue riding the wave of optimism Robert Vilahamn has brought with him. It’s a cracking start to the weekend’s action and could be the match of the weekend.
The Other Eight will of course be keeping a close eye on that game and all the others over the weekend – check back here next Tuesday for another edition – and always remember, there are twelve teams in the WSL, not four, all equally deserving of your attention as a fan.See you next week!