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European women’s review: Arsenal hit six in comeback, Madrid shine

Leicester City collapsed against Arsenal, Real Madrid hit seven goals in a dominant performance in Liga F, while the Swedish Damallsvenskan ended in style. These are the key talking points from the Women’s Super League (WSL), along with some highlights from Europe.

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Goals galore for top three in WSL

Chelsea and Manchester United found their goal-scoring form as the WSL leaders beat Everton 3-0 and United showed their fluidity to fire five past West Ham on Sunday. But, needing a win to stay second, things did not go to plan for Arsenal away to Leicester City as they went into half-time 2-0 down after goals from Sam Tierney and Janice Cayman.

Yet the Gunners, who left it late last week to seal a 2-1 win against Manchester City, showed their ruthlessness once again as they completed a memorable comeback to come from behind and seal a frantic 6-2 victory.

An incredible second-half performance saw Kyra Cooney-Cross and Victoria Pelova star in midfield as Arsenal netted four goals in 12 minutes just after the restart. But it was a complete collapse from the Foxes. Every time Arsenal charged forward they either scored or came close as the home defence parted like automatic doors, their failings glaring and constant. It was as much about their absent midfield as the slack and uncommunicative defence that let Arsenal carve them up.

Once Arsenal were finished, the scoresheet was occupied by six different players — which just hammers home the quality that coach Jonas Eidevall has to work with. Their attacking showing managed to paper over the defensive cracks, but those issues still plague the side and need to be fixed soon if they want to challenge for a title run.

As for Leicester, fans will rightly be asking what happened after a bright start to the season. Even when leading at the break, the Foxes didn’t look quite right in defence and the second half was so uncharacteristically poor that Willie Kirk will have a job to get his squad mentally together again.

A lack of end product for the rest

Be it Tottenham’s 1-1 draw against Liverpool, Manchester City’s shock 1-0 loss at home to Brighton, or even Aston Villa’s much-needed 2-0 win against Bristol City, the theme of the weekend for the other half of the WSL was an inability to find a clinical edge.

Last weekend, Spurs’ strong start to the season was blemished by a draw against Everton, despite dominating the Toffees throughout, and this time was a similar story as the hosts failed to capitalise on a convincing first half against Liverpool to find a firmer cushion going into the break.

A superb solo goal by Norway forward Celin Bizet put Spurs ahead on 27 minutes, but it was a game of two halves at Brisbane Road (albeit not as much as it was at Leicester vs. Arsenal) as the Reds grabbed a 66th-minute equaliser through Sophie Román Haug. Liverpool carved out the better chances late in the game, but had to settle for a point as both teams managed just three shots on target from 15 in total.

For early WSL leaders City, it was a case of statistical dominance and no points against Brighton as they suffered a second successive defeat that may prove costly as the season progresses.

Indeed, City managed a staggering 35 shots over the course of the game — with 13 on target, as well as 66% possession — but through a combination of Sophie Baggaley’s goalkeeping and their own sorry finishing, they drew their first blank of the season.

Whilst Brighton’s resilience needs to be praised and their own clinical edge commended — Lee Geum-min’s 81st-minute winner was their third shot on target — the focus of the game was very much on City’s poor finishing. Despite hitting the bar twice and seeing a late effort cleared off the line, far too many of City’s shots were simply straight at Baggaley and none caused her too much trouble.

Third-placed Manchester United are up next in the derby, with City slipping to sixth as a result of their recent form.

Villa land first win

In the battle of the bottom two, Aston Villa picked up their first win of the campaign to rise off the foot of the table. Ruthless in a 5-0 Conti Cup win against Sheffield United in midweek, Villa charged out of the blocks still fired up at Ashton Gate. But for all the possession and chances the visitors saw (17 shots in total; 69% possession), it took a 77th-minute own goal from Megan Connolly to finally break the deadlock.

It was Ebony Salmon’s cross that forced Connolly into the error and the Villa striker’s goal nine minutes later wrapped up the points. The win will come as a sizable relief for Villa boss Carla Ward but, for a team that scored with such ease last season, the nature of it will be a concern.

Liga F leaders Barcelona made it eight wins from eight with a 6-0 win over Villarreal, but second-placed Real Madrid went one better as they won 7-1 against Real Sociedad at the Alfredo Di Stefano stadium.

For Las Blancas, who had begun to oscillate between uncomfortable and convincing wins, there was no concern against Sociedad as the hosts showed their attacking guile throughout with six different goal scorers on the scoresheet. Only 3-1 ahead at the break, it was Hayley Raso’s goal 10 minutes into the second half that set things off as the Australian chased down Misa’s goal kick to add the fourth for the hosts.

The worry for Real Sociedad was not just conceding seven goals, but how soft their concessions were. From Athenea del Castillo’s first of the night to Naomie Feller’s last, the defending was substandard throughout and Natalia Arroyo’s team will have to return to basics next time out against Sevilla.

Leverkusen looking good

After years of looking questionable, Leverkusen are finally showing more consistency in their results this season and are lining up each week with the best squad they’ve ever assembled.

In a 2-2 draw against Eintracht Frankfurt on Friday evening, the visitors showed both strengths and weaknesses, managing to hang on to snatch an 89th-minute equaliser courtesy of 16-year-old Estrella Merino.

With so many teams battling for that gilded third place in the Frauen-Bundesliga behind favourites Bayern and Wolfsburg — which would ensure Champions League qualification next season — Leverkusen find themselves in prime position. Whether or not they can sustain their form remains to be seen. But for Frankfurt, who could have leapfrogged their opponents if they’d held out for the win, there are already plenty of questions that need answering.

Pomigliano back in business

There was good news out from Italy’s Serie A during the week as Pomigliano reversed their decision to withdraw from the league and suited up to face an Inter team already looking bound for the championship round.

Pomigliano have just one point from their first seven games, sitting ninth in a 10-team league, and things got off to a blistering start as their American goalkeeper Anna James-Buhigas was called into action in the third minute to deny Agnes Bonfanti from the penalty spot. But the drama wasn’t over as the visitors went on to take the lead through Dalila Ippólito on 21 minutes.

Henrietta Csiszár restored parity for Inter before Haley Bugeja completed the comeback from point blank range just two minutes later.

Hammarby claim Swedish title on GD

The Swedish Damallsvenskan wrapped up on Saturday afternoon with the title race going all the way to the wire.

Having slipped up in a 3-2 defeat to rivals Hammarby last weekend, Hacken needed a convincing win over Pitea on the final day to reclaim the title on goal difference — assuming both teams finished on 59 points.

As it was, Hacken’s 4-0 win wasn’t enough. Hammarby beat Norrköping 2-0 and made history to seal their first top-flight title in almost four decades, as they finished the season one goal better off than their rivals.

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