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Manchester City v Reading
The first stop of the weekend was a trip up to Manchester as City hosted Reading. It was start of a big week for the FAWSL champions with their UEFA Champions League game coming up but the FA Cup was the current priority. The visitors set up defensively and the game looked to be heading to extra time, mainly due to some goalkeeping heroics by Mary Earps. However, Lucy Bronze‘s 82nd minute strike proved to be the winner and sent City into the quarter-finals.
Kelly Chambers put out a Reading side that was built to defend against the attacking prowess of the home side. Whilst under severe pressure for much of the game, for the most part the strategy succeeded. Setting up with three at the back supported by two wing-backs allowed them to make a defensive wall of five at points that City struggled to break down. Their attacking potential grew with the introduction of Lauren Bruton in the second half and they produced a couple of opportunities. The best fell to new signing Rachel Furness who scuffed a volley from a good position.
Manchester City were frustrated for much of the game. Melissa Lawley and Georgia Stanway were constant focal points for their attack but they were continuously thwarted by blocks and some top class goalkeeping. They deserved the win but will have to become more clinical in the weeks ahead. Nick Cushing will certainly have been relieved that the game did not go into extra time with only four days to recover and prepare for Fortuna Hjorring on Thursday.
Players of the Match:
On her first competitive start in a Manchester City shirt, England U23 player Melissa Lawley shone down the left. Her pace and crosses into the box created attack after attack, especially in the first half.
For Reading, Mary Earps has to take the accolade. Without her between the sticks, Reading would have been 4-0 or 5-0 down, making several brilliant saves. She should probably have done more to keep out the goal but that does not take away from her performance as a whole.
Stop of the Match:
With numerous saves to chose from, we are going to go with the penalty stop for Save of the Game. Earps’ read the situation perfectly and adjusted to the left to keep out the effort from Georgia Stanway.
Arsenal v Tottenham Hotspur
Our second FA Cup game of the weekend took us to Boreham Wood to watch the North London derby between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur. Unfortunately (but perhaps not surprisingly) the FAWPL Southern side found life tough going with Arsenal fielding their strongest attacking setup. The Gunners ran out 10-0 winner to make their way into the draw.
Arsenal’s lack of defensive options due to injury led to Pedro Martinez Losa starting with a three at the back that included an out-of-position Fara Williams. Whether this setup can stand up to a sterner test is something to keep an eye on but they were rarely troubled over the 90 minutes. The Gunners have always had exciting attacking players but, over the last few seasons, the team has paid the price for not taking their chances. This was not apparent on Sunday as Danielle Carter and Danielle Van de Donk shone in attack while there was a debut goal for Beth Mead. In addition, Kim Little, Dominique Janssen, Chloe Kelly and Katie McCabe all got their names on the scoresheet. With goals coming from all over the pitch, this should prove important as preparations continue towards the start of the season.
Tottenham will need to put this defeat behind them quickly and focus on the bigger picture. While losing in this way is never good, there are more important things at stake with the FAWPL and a potential play-off for promotion into the FAWSL. They were outplayed on the pitch but have made massive progress over the last couple of the years and without doubt will continue to improve.
Player of the Match:
Our player of the match goes to hat-trick hero Danielle Van de Donk. Bright from the off, she forced Tottenham keeper, Tori-Anne Wayne, into a couple of good early saves. She got her first just before the break and continued her form into the second half.
Goal of the Match:
This decision has been slightly hard due to the number to choose from. However, Danielle Van de Donk‘s second of the game wins it due to a sublime piece of attacking play. With Arsenal breaking quickly through the middle, Carter back heeled the ball into the path of the advancing Dutch player. Van de Donk broke into the box unmarked and dispatched with a quality finish. It was a great team goal!
Stop of the Match:
It was a painful afternoon for the Tottenham keeper in general not due to her mistakes but the way Arsenal continually cut their way through the Tottenham back-line. Tori-Anne Wayne had a particularly good first twenty minutes and was required to make several key stops to deny the home side from extending their lead later on in the game. Her best came in the closing stages of the game. Chloe Kelly cut inside and sent a strong curling effort goalwards. It looked destined for the back of the net but Wayne got across to tip it onto the bar and behind.
Sunderland v Aston Villa
Sunderland overcame a resilient Aston Villa side to proceed into the next round. Melanie Reay‘s side took the lead through Victoria Williams before Natasha Baptiste‘s header levelled the score. The home side took the lead again just before the break when Hayley Sharp sent the ball home. The visitors recovered however and equalised again just after half-time through Lucy Shepherd. The Black Cats found the winner however when they won a penalty with just over 20 minutes to play. Lucy Staniforth stepped up and converted from the spot.
Bristol City v Millwall Lioneses
Braces from debutant Millie Turner and England U17 international Lauren Hemp and a goal from Jodie Brett sealed an emphatic victory for the Vixens in their first competitive fixture of 2017. They dominated the fixture and kept Millwall quiet throughout to see themselves into the quarter-finals.
Birmingham City v West Brom
West Brom were the only other FAWPL side to feature in this round of the Cup and started well against the Blues. The home side settled down as the game wore on and took the lead through Jess Carter just before the break. They doubled the score with half an hour to go when Ellen White scored with Paige Williams providing her second assist of the match.
Chelsea v Doncaster Belles
It was an afternoon to forget for the Belles as they fell to a 7-0 defeat at the hands of Chelsea. The Blues took the lead with 12 minutes on the clock when Crystal Dunn scored her first goal for the club. It got worse for the visitors before half-time when they let in four goals in just over 10 minutes. Ji So Yun got a brace and Ramona Bachmann got another while Doncaster’ captain Leandra Little turned a loose ball into her own net. The home side added two more in the second half through a Katie Chapman header and a strike from substitute Drew Spence.
Liverpool v Everton
It took extra time for Liverpool to overcome an in-form Everton side. The Reds took the lead after 8 minutes when Natasha Harding turned home Caroline Weir‘s perfectly weighted pass. The Toffees hit back, however, and Simone Magill equalised with 20 minutes to play. With the game forced into extra-time, it was Liverpool who eventually sealed the win when Shanice Van de Sanden headed home in the 108th minute.
Notts County v Yeovil Town
Goals from Jade Moore and Kirsty Linnett in each half gave Notts County a 2-0 lead. As the second period wore on, Yeovil were able to half the deficit when Lucy Quinn converted from the penalty spot. The home side stretched their lead again when a headed clearance came back off a defender and flew into the back of the net. The Glovers did not give up and narrowed the gap through Kelly Snook but they could not find another to level the score.