It was another action-packed weekend of women’s football across Europe. There was plenty of interest at both ends of leagues across the continent, while the English FA Cup is down to the final eight teams.
Keating stars as Manchester City get revenge over Arsenal
Games given the red-carpet treatment rarely live up to the hype and that was certain the case in the FA Cup on Sunday lunchtime when Arsenal welcomed Manchester City to Borehamwood for the second time this season. Unlike the first meeting in the WSL though, Arsenal weren’t the team to snatch a late, and somewhat unexpected, win.
Young hotshot goalkeeper Khiara Keating was again in fine form for City, as the 19-year-old put any lingering demons to bed after a costly error on her last trip to Hertfordshire, and her eye-catching saves were enough to hold on for a 1-0 win — including a clawed effort that could well have crossed the line (though there is no VAR or goal-line technology) — and repel a late rally from the Gunners.
The game was ultimately decided by Laia Aleixandri‘s 74th-minute effort from a corner as City booked their place in the quarterfinals. Arsenal, who laboured to a loss against West Ham in the WSL last weekend, looked flat and, given they are six points behind in the title fight, an early exit from another cup competition should raise eyebrows in North London as Jonas Eidevall’s side have won just one trophy in the past five years.
Ramírez flick enough for Chelsea
Maybe it’s just match fatigue, the cumulative minutes played which is not conducive for good football, but Chelsea’s 1-0 win against Championship side Crystal Palace in the FA Cup was not a game for the ages.
The game was decided 10 minutes from time by a cheeky flick from the Blues’ world-record signing Mayra Ramírez, but it did little to ease the 80 minutes of nothingness that proceeded it.
One worry for Chelsea will be Lauren James‘ withdrawal from the starting XI during the warm-up with illness, not least with a game against Manchester City to come on Friday, but with or without their top scorer they’ll need to be much better to keep a firm footing in the WSL title race.
Unlikely hero Kullberg papers over the cracks
It had been a rough week-and-a-half for Brighton after the sacking of manager Mel Phillips and three defeats on the bounce, and with the game against third-tier side Wolves tied at 1-1 with 88 minutes on the clock, it looked like insult was about to be added to injury.
That was until 32-year-old defender Emma Kullberg, who in 53 games for had never scored for the club, struck the most unlikely of eight-minute hat tricks. The defender prodded home her first from close range, swept the second in from 12 yards and then headed her hat trick in the final minute to complete a remarkable 4-1 win.
It provided some relief for the struggling Seagulls and gave them something to rally around heading into a clash with Liverpool. But if they’re looking to their defenders for help in front of goal, something is clearly amiss.
Kiedrzynek shines in grudge match
Back in 2020, goalkeeper Katarzyna Kiedrzynek left PSG, after seven years in France, as the Polish No. 1 fell out with the club over the decision to juggle both her and Tiane Endler between the sticks. A forgettable spell at Wolfsburg followed and it looked a lot like Kiedrzynek’s flame had been extinguished, yet a return to Paris this season has seen the 32-year-old come back to form.
Kiedrzynek’s performance in PSG’s 1-1 draw away to Division 1 Feminine leaders Lyon was vintage and she provided the best moments of the night as the side showed a little of their old fight against a team that have dealt them so much misery over the years.
Taking the lead through Tabitha Chawinga, PSG were ultimately robbed of a clean sheet by Élisa De Almeida’s last-minute own goal and still have a 10-point gap (with a game in hand) to bridge to Lyon. But taking a point off the champions at home would have felt good.
Mateo makes an impact for Paris FC
Out of the Champions League and sitting third in France, Paris FC aren’t having the best of seasons and when they went in at half-time 2-1 down against bottom-side Bordeaux, things didn’t look to be on the up. But the half-time introduction of Clara Matéo flipped the game on its head.
Paris’ faithful No. 10 needed just three minutes to help her team equalise as she set up Julie Dufour for the equaliser, then four minutes later she had a brace of her own, before completing her hat trick after another Dufour strike.
The game which could have easily gotten away from Paris ended 6-2 in their favour with Matéo stealing the show. For all her ability for Paris FC, we’re yet to see the 26-year-old really shine for France and, with the Olympics fast approaching and coach Herve Renard facing a smaller squad size, it remains to be seen if she’s done enough to warrant inclusion.
Friday night fun in Germany
There was a subplot on Friday night when Frauen-Bundesliga stalwarts SGS Essen took on German football’s newcomers RB Leipzig, but rather than a tussle about the soul of German football, the match was more of an ode to joy.
Over halfway through the season, Essen have been somewhat unpredictable, dishing out strong wins against Frankfurt and away to Hoffenheim, but slipping to defeat against Leipzig at the start of the season. Laureta Elmazi’s third-minute opener should have given the hosts a platform to set things right, but by half-time the hosts found themselves down 4-2 after a crazy 45 minutes.
The defending was messy and Essen hit back to make it 4-4 on the hour mark as neither team could offer up enough cohesive football to take all three points. Essen’s 20-year-old talent Natasha Kowalski and Leipzig’s diminutive attacker Vanessa Fudalla impressed with a brace each, but what a rollercoaster ride it was.
Wolfsburg keep up the pressure
On paper, a 3-0 win for second-placed Wolfsburg tells a story of a sorry Eintracht team who are a long way off from being able to compete with the top two in Germany. However, for most of the 90 minutes, it was the visitors who offered the greater goal threat.
Stinna Johannes’ own goal just before the hour took the sting out of the tie and gave Wolfsburg room to relax and look for a second. The Eagles played some good football but were ultimately tame in the box and there was no room back when Lena Lattwein rifled in the second from range.
The defeat keeps Eintracht six points back, but Wolfsburg closed to within a point of leaders Bayern, who won 5-0 over Koln.
Atleti bogged down in derbies
The meat in a Real Madrid sandwich, Atletico’s second Madrid derby of the week showed some of the growing fatigue for the Rojiblancas. Having faced Levante (third) last weekend, Real (second) in the midweek and Madrid CFF (fourth) on Sunday, before clashes with Real (again) on Wednesday and then Barcelona (first) next Sunday, the run of fixtures is particularly unforgiving for fifth-placed Atleti as they try to break back into Spain‘s elite after a few seasons out in the cold.
Going ahead against Madrid CFF after an early Eva Navarro strike, the hosts left the door open for the opposition and were soon pegged back to 1-1 by an Aldana Cometti goal, leaving the neighbours to scrap for the remaining 70 minutes. Like the Levante game last week, Atleti spurned their chances and will need to be mindful of Real’s quest for revenge after they knocked Las Blancas out of the Copa de la Reina last week.
Roma bounce Napoli twice in a week
The Italian champions aren’t making easy work of it, but after turning round a two-goal deficit (to win 3-2 on aggregate) in the Copa Italia in the midweek, Roma made it three wins from three in Serie A with a somewhat unconvincing performance against basement-dwellers Napoli.
Manuela Giugliano‘s improvised effort late in the first half was enough for a 1-0 win to take all three points, but the messaging from coach Alessandro Spugna after the game was that Roma need to be better. But with the wind in their sails, eight points clear at the top of the table, things are looking a little inevitable in the Scudetto race.
Swiss cut Euro 2025 funding
Some other things are inevitable: Death, taxes and budget cuts for women’s football. No one who’s been around the women’s game for long should be surprised to see the Swiss slashing their proposed budgets for the 2025 European Championships, because cutting funding for women’s football is just the norm.
Laid out in full by Swiss news outlet SRF, the proposed budget of CHF15 million (Swiss Francs) is to be cut to CHF4m — which was always a long way from the CHF82m invested when the country co-hosted the men’s tournament with Austria in 2008. Among other impacts, it could mean that one of the host cities, Thun, may yet fall by the wayside.
The news has raised the question of the suitability of the Swiss bid. Obviously the tournament was awarded with certain provisions in mind, ones that the Swiss may no longer be able to fulfil, but with the next bid coming from a four-nation bloc of Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway, there’s not a quick fix should UEFA look to reopen the process.