With the mid season break now starting, players are going on holidays to various sunny destination ( Ibiza, Lanzarote, Tenerife, Cyprus to name a few) while coaches are doing their homework to sign new players. This week-end there was a firework of finals for the FA WSL teams with 3 finals : the FA Girls Youth Cup ( U17), the FA WSL Development League Cup and the main event the FA Women’s Cup.
So if we start in chronological order, on Saturday it was the Development Cup final between Arsenal LFC and Liverpool LFC. The game was played at Sutton Coldfield on a 3G or 4G pitch, last time I went there, it was a normal grass pitch, probably back in 205/06 though. The slope and wind had their usual effect on the game helping teams each half to put pressure on the opposition.
The first thing that came to mind when the teams started to play was how tall and strong the Liverpool players were in comparison with the Arsenal one. To be fair the Arsenal development team had about 6 players who started the season as a U17 center of excellence players and were promoted following a long list of girls going to WSL 2 teams.
The game overall was very even. The intensity was really good, it was a physical battle as well. The referee was a bit lenient on that side but did not influence the result or maybe did for the goal ?
Liverpool had quality players in the attacking positions, most of them have been used in the 1st team as they had an horrible injury list with up to 9 players simultaneously missing at one time. Claudia Walker, Beth Donoghue and Ashley Hodson offered some good passing and shooting. Sophia Riccio in central defense was very strong as well, Gemma Jackson in goal who made many great saves and a fumble that was not costly.
The Arsenal goalkeeper ( recently signed ) Chloe Morgan also made important saves to keep the score at 0-0 and overall was excellent. Vyan Sampson in defence contributed with stern defending and counter attacking runs. Taome Oliver in midfield got some good touches and trademark runs while the 2 forwards Carla Humphrey and Evie Clarke created loads of chances.
The winning goal was scored at the 90th minute from a corner kick that pinballed into the Liverpool penalty area before being slammed in from close range by Evie Clarke. Did the ball hit one of the Arsenal players arm ? It might and there were some Liverpool protest but the referee waved them away.
Overall a very good game even if tense and it was nice to see that new look Arsenal Ladies development team make it a double with the League and Cup trophies.
My second game was the U17 National Cup final between Liverpool and Everton prior to the big game on Sunday.
The thing that comes to mind for those U17 games is they are a lot less physical than senior or reserves football and the emphasis is clearly put on playing football. The fouling count was quite low and there was none of the cynical or over physical play you see at senior level.
Liverpool deservedly won 1-0 on the day, they played a better attacking and passing football and were rewarded by a goal from Kess Elmore in the 2nd half. A very bizzare incident happened in the 2nd half and it could have had big consequences had the Everton right back being clever. A Liverpool player had suffered cramp and gone to the touchline on the left side of the pitch opposite the benches near the penalty area, referee stopped play with Everton in possession.
After the players was treated on the sideline, the referee restarted play, the Liverpool left back got the drop ball unchallenged and sent it to the Everton right back who looked around… and saw another 9 Everton outfield players in position…and the Liverpool left back on her own. What did she do ? Instead of attacking the defender, she rushed the attack and passed the ball straight to the 2 offsides forwards.
Cue referee whistle and 8 Liverpool outfield players now rushing to get back from the opposide side of the pitch where they were all having a drink and team talk from their manager. The referee actually got the drop ball replayed but you do wonder what would have happened if Everton had scored with 11 v 2 on the pitch as the ball was definitely in play ? Note that the 10 Liverpool players were all actually on the pitch at the time of the drop ball but 8 of them 50 yards away from the action.
Second final was done and dusted and well entertaining and it was time for the main even the FA Women’s Cup final.
Everton had a young team with the 2 Jones and the 2 Turners in the line-up. Parris as a lone isolated forwards in a 4-5-1 formation.
Arsenal had Byrne in goal rather than Chamberlain who had played all the games leading to the final. A strong statement from Kerr in her final game, nearly a vote of no confidence actually. We had seen the same thing happen with Harvey on the Conti Cup a couple of seasons ago with Spencer playing all the games until the final.
Following the 4 goalless defeat in a row, Kerr went for safety with the experienced team Fahey alongside Stoney and youngsters Williamson and Ayisi on the bench. Hoogendjik did not even make the bench which makes her signing really odd because she is not a first choice at the moment, very similar player to Stoney who seems undroppable. Why sign a foreign player not to play her unless it is on a squad rotation day ?
The game was easily won by Arsenal with Carter on fire for the whole game and she should have had the player of the match award, unfortunately she didn’t score a goal unlike Kelly Smith who also had a great game and scored a brilliant free kick to open the score.
The main problem in that game was Everton didn’t defend well enough like Birmingham or Reading did in previous games or attacked well enough to trouble the Gunners. So it was a bit one sided to be honest.
One of the positives on the day was 2 local girls from Milton Keynes got on in the 2nd half as subs. Leah Williamson for Arsenal and Billie Murphy for Everton. Great moment for those 2 young players.
This is now the Summer break in the FA WSL, Arsenal and Everton and bottom and 2nd bottom in the League and will need to improve next month to avoid relegation. They have a month to sign new players as well.
Overall 3 good cup games this week-end and looking forwards to the League restart at the end of June. Wishing a good holiday to all the girls 😉