Chelsea shows why they are champions
For 45 minutes, Chelsea looked every inch the strong side who clinched a third straight WSL title last season. But the 45 before that was another worrying performance after a humiliating opening-day defeat at Liverpool.
Manchester City scored 10 shots on goal before Fran Kirby gave Chelsea the lead with his first shot on goal. Even then, City immediately hit a post looking for an equaliser.
Chelsea were lucky to be in the game, let alone lead at half-time, but it felt like a hallmark of champions that they were kind of ahead.
“Sometimes you have to do that,” said Chelsea manager Emma Hayes. “In the first half I thought we were overplaying, we overdid it and went from underplaying a week ago to overplaying this week. We have to find the balance but it’s the second game, I thought it looks like the second game of the season.
“Our performance in the second half was what I expected from us, it was much more controlled, we dominated all areas.”
The Blues rediscovered their old form with skillful, precise passing to dominate the ball and open up the city. They ended up clinching an important win against one of the division’s top teams and it could be just what they need to kick-start their season.
Shaw has to pull the rabbit out of the hat
Before his Manchester City side took on Chelsea on Sunday, manager Gareth Taylor admitted his side were willing to play longer balls forward rather than constantly underplaying. With Khadija ‘Bunny’ Shaw, it’s clear why.
The Jamaican forward has been a constant handful for an experienced Chelsea backline, with Shaw poking fun at Blues defenders Millie Bright and Kadeisha Buchanan – who together have racked up countless Super League and women’s Champions League titles.
But what makes a good striker a great one? seize opportunities. Shaw was at the heart of the 11 chances City were able to inflict on Chelsea – none of which went in. Much of that was thanks to the 25-year-old’s graduation.
Chelsea showed the challenge that lies ahead for the City striker. You don’t have to play well like Shaw did in his overall game in the first half at Kingsmeadow to be a winner.
The forward has all the makings of becoming one of WSL’s top players – and she has the goal record to back it. 34 goals in 39 games for Bordeaux plus 16 in their first WSL season last season.
How Shaw translates that history into its form this season will determine if City can truly make any progress from last term.
Liverpool suffer reality check
The stage was set for Liverpool. In front of 27,000 fans at Anfield, Matt Beard’s side were ready for a home game after their shock win against Chelsea on the opening day of the season last weekend.
But they were brought back to earth with a bump. The newly promoted Reds have consistently been second best against their Merseyside rivals and now reality will set in.
Everton certainly weren’t overwhelmed by the occasion, but Liverpool might be. The intensity they showed against Chelsea was lacking while too often sacrificing possession in their own half. When their chances presented themselves, they didn’t take them.
Liverpool missed striker Leanne Kiernan, who has been on the sidelines for several months and may need surgery for an ankle injury sustained in the Chelsea win, although Everton would still have been too strong.
Everton showed their WSL experience in big games to inflict a humiliating defeat that will see Liverpool recalibrate their sights.
Park for England?
Everton’s Jess Park scored the goal of the game in their 3-0 win over Liverpool at Anfield. A cool, composed finish after goalkeeper Rachel Laws was cleverly rounded in the penalty area.
Scoring a goal like that in front of nearly 30,000 spectators at Anfield was a moment most young strikers dream of – especially after missing a goal similar to this one in training the day before.
“I tried that in training yesterday and messed everything up,” she told Sky Sports after the game. “I’m just glad it went in tonight!”
In front of the Sky cameras, Park – on loan from Manchester City – revealed the advice Everton manager Brian Sorensen is giving her after missing out on opportunities like this. “Easy, easy – pass in the goal.” It’s good to see that she’s taking that advice.
But how many more managers will Park work under, especially when it comes to an international perspective? The 20-year-old has shown she can handle the pressure on the big stage, and an England call-up may soon follow.
Perhaps the problem with Park is that there’s too much competition for the lionesses’ attacking roles, especially among players her age. The likes of Lauren James, Ebony Salmon, Alessia Russo, Ella Toone and Lauren Hamp are all under 23 and will make up the next generation of English talent.
But more performances like this, and Park will be too hard to ignore. As Kelly Smith said, “If she keeps working hard and has all the vision, technique, speed and power, the world will be at her feet.”
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