Aston Villa Women Experts: Five undefeated for Villans with latest win v physical Everton
We’re delighted to welcome author Freya Taylor and former academy player Lyndsey Bissell as our exclusive Aston Villa Women experts. Each week they’ll be collaborating to give their views on the biggest talking points at the WSL club…
Aston Villa Women travelled nearly 100 miles up the motorway to face off against Everton Women on Sunday 5 March, with the battle between 5th and 6th place to be decided.
In previous blogs, we have commented that Villa have been quite sluggish and slow to start their games. However, this match was completely different. Villa were quick, calculated and you could tell they were here to win.
Within minutes, Kirsty Hanson tried her luck with a shot that went just wide of the post. Although, she wasn’t to be disheartened as Villa’s next attack opened the scoring in the fifth minute, courtesy of Kenza Dali. This early lead only enhanced the quality of Villa’s gameplay and it was clear that they were hungry for more.
Out of the two sides, Villa seemed the more clinical going forward, however, the Toffees were more physical in their defence. At one point, having seven or eight players in their own half to try and stop the next inevitable Villa attack. Everton seemed to be mainly pushing forward as a central unit which Villa identified quickly and therefore created most of their chances down the wings.
Alisha Lehmann played well down the right-hand side and nearly had her own chance on goal too. Not light on chances for both teams, nearing the end of the first half Villa were still one up and the improvement in the quality of play is clear to see. At the beginning of the year, we picked up on the fact that errors such as players running into the same space and bumping into each other came from not knowing their own team dynamic yet. However, we were very pleased to report this has completely changed and Villa look like they’re a team that’s finally clicked.
Moving forward, it would be great to see Nobbs and Sarah Mayling being able to work together more closely. As a few times throughout the game, Jordan was looping balls to Mayling expecting her to be in a certain position, but unfortunately, she hadn’t continued her run and so wasn’t there to receive the ball and the chance was lost. In this regard, we have moved from letting go of the ball easily to having lost the ball from tackles and this high standard Villa are showing, it’s no surprise why they’ve got their sights set on at least a top-five finish.
As the second half began, it was clear Villa wanted to end this comfortably. Nobbs took her chance on goal in the 46th minute, but it sailed ever so slightly over the bar. Maz Pacheco, who also had a very good game, linked up intelligently with Dali throughout the match and she too almost had her chance on goal. Hannah Hampton found Rachel Corsie from a goal kick who slipped the ball through to Pacheco in the box.
As Pacheco crossed the shot however, Finnigan did her best to defend but the ball took a deflection off her instead and bounced beautifully into her own net. As much as it went down as an own goal for the defender, we are personally counting it as a Pacheco goal in the 67th minute.
On the other hand, players such as Jess Park and Aggie Beever-Jones, the young England internationals, showed their promise as they were a constant threat to Villa. Gabby George also showed some fantastic defending to stop Villa’s onslaught of attacks to deny Mayling down the wing.
Technically, Villa were able to dominate with quick, short passes and able to move at pace up the pitch. Unfortunately, as soon as players had more touches on the ball, Everton were quick to intercept and this is where they created their chances.
We would like to take a moment to mention that Hampton, although she didn’t have much to do on the whole, made some very important saves to allow her to keep a clean sheet. She also showed great distribution and control of the ball at her feet too. It was also very clear she knew where her players were at all times, no move was random and every pass had a purpose.
In the last 30 minutes of the match, it was great to see more rotation in the squad and of course finally having enough players back from injury that we have the option to bring on impact subs.
Having Ruesha Littlejohn back to build up her minutes, provides another solid option in midfield as she came on for Nobbs. Littlejohn made some perfectly times tackles to regain possession down the wings, she’s been a great miss for Villa while she’s been out injured.
Also, Laura Blindkilde Brown coming on for Lehmann. Instantly, the young Lioness was creating chances down the right wing, similar to where Lehmann had left off. As the minutes to the final whistle were counting down, the game became more physical with Everton trying to force fouls to win free kicks in the Villa half.
This change in gameplay demonstrates that our fitness levels are improving to such a standard, that we can still keep up and dominate the game, even when it turns more physical. In the dying moments, Dali clearly wasn’t satisfied with only one goal on the scoresheet as she was denied another as she hit the side netting. Similarly, Rachel Daly wanted her chance too, but another header from the England international went just wide as the angle wasn’t quite right for her.
It is clear to see the number of international players we now have in the squad is not only boosting morale within the team but holding each other accountable to a higher quality of football too.
Finally, even though Aston Villa were the clear winners with a final score of 0-2, we don’t believe that result reflected the number of chances or quality present within the game.
Tactfully, it was a brilliant team effort from Aston Villa displaying a lot of intelligent football and we can’t wait to see how they progress from this 5th spot in the WSL. The Villans are currently only three points behind Arsenal and now four points clear of Everton.
The only way is up for this Villa team. Aston Villa’s next game is Sunday 12 March away at West Ham. Will the Irons be looking to seek revenge after Villa won 7-6 on penalties recently in the Women’s League Cup? Watch this space.
In other Aston Villa news, the future of this loanee hangs in the balance as contract talks await.