Women’s Football Weekend: Attendances rise while European battle heats up

Brighton celebrating, Gareth Taylor and Anita Asante
There were wins for Brighton, Chelsea and Aston Villa this weekend

Women’s Football Weekend got off to a blistering start with Saturday’s north London derby and the show continued as Chelsea thumped Manchester City, while Aston Villa won at local rivals Birmingham.

Growing attendances, competitive derbies and a developing race for both the Women’s Super League title and the third Champions League qualification spot meant it was an exciting weekend all round.

Was Women’s Football Weekend a success?

Fans at The Amex
Several clubs recorded their highest attendances so far this season

There were no clashes with men’s club matches because of the international break so attendances were up at several grounds around the WSL.

Chelsea’s 4-0 win over Manchester City was watched by 3,174 – the biggest attendance at the Academy Stadium so far this season – while Birmingham City also recorded their largest crowd this campaign with 1,386 at St Andrew’s for the defeat by Villa.

There was a new record crowd registered for Spurs at The Hive as 2,896 saw them draw with league leaders Arsenal – live on BBC One – and Brighton had 3,566 fans at the Amex.

“We’re all on the same page – players, managers etc,” said Spurs boss Rehanne Skinner. “We want to make the game better and make it a spectacle that people really want to watch and I think we provided that.”

‘There’s nothing for me to consider’

Gareth Taylor
Manchester City have lost three home games in a row

But success on the pitch continues to evade Gareth Taylor’s Manchester City, who suffered a second defeat by Chelsea on their home ground this season.

It means they slip to ninth in the table after a fourth defeat in seven WSL games.

“As long as I can see the positives, even when we are really short of a number of key players in the playing squad, I think nothing changes in my mind,” said Taylor, when asked whether he felt pressure.

“There’s nothing for me to consider. Until I’m told anything different, I carry on and I work as hard as I’ve ever done.

“The attitude is still to be in Europe. We still believe that we can get there.”

Former Chelsea and England forward Karen Carney told Sky Sports the confidence in the City side had collapsed in a way that was “worrying”.

“They are in transition now so it will be interesting how they pick themselves up,” she added. “I’ve never seen a City side lose three [at home] on the bounce. It’s difficult for every City fan to watch that.”

Spurs or Brighton heading for Europe?

Tottenham and Brighton celebrate
Tottenham drew with Arsenal, while Brighton beat Leicester City this weekend

Taylor’s side face stiff competition for the third Champions League qualification spot as Brighton and Tottenham maintained their challenge and must now be considered serious contenders.

The last time a team other than Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester City finished in those spots was 2014.

“We all knew that perhaps we weren’t at our best but the fact we weren’t and we got three points is pleasing,” said Brighton manager Hope Powell after they scored a dramatic late winner over Leicester City.

“If we are to continue to progress we have to perform a lot better than that.”

WSL table graphic
Brighton currently head Tottenham in the race for a Champions League place

Tottenham, meanwhile, became the first side to take points off Arsenal this season.

“I have been in this league for a long time and I’m getting sick of it always being the same teams at the top. I want to be up there,” said Spurs forward Rachel Williams.

Manager Skinner added: “We know that we’re aiming for the Champions League, but when that arrives? We don’t know the answer to that right now.

“We’ve just got to make sure that we improve on last year, take each game as it comes and provide consistent performances to even consider being in the Champions League.”

Everton and Manchester United played out a 1-1 draw and Marc Skinner’s side remain just two points behind Spurs and one win away from Brighton.

A first derby win for Villa

Birmingham players
Birmingham are second bottom with just one point

Birmingham City’s winless run continued as they were beaten 1-0 at St Andrew’s by local rivals Aston Villa.

It was the first time Villa had beaten the Blues in the WSL and it came on manager Carla Ward’s first return to her former club.

Despite spoiling the hosts’ party, Ward joked afterwards the home fans were “too nice” and she even had photos with some of the Birmingham supporters at full-time.

The win moved Villa up to sixth in the table – a point above West Ham, who had to settle for a 2-2 draw with Reading following a 92nd-minute equaliser.

But Scott Booth’s Birmingham still have only one point – and face Chelsea and Manchester City next.

“We can’t afford – in the position that we’re in – to start games on the back foot. We have to bring those qualities that we have shown we have got,” he said.

“To only bring that when we go behind will not be enough for us.”