Weekend Review: Spotlight on England as international break arrives
It was already set to be a quiet week as leagues moved into the international break. Then some postponements cut into even the limited calendar. But there was plenty of excitement in the games that did happen--especially across the top two leagues in England.
Best Performance: Bianca Baptiste, Crystal Palace
These Weekend Reviews will mostly focus on the top tier leagues across Europe but it was hard to ignore the performance from Baptiste in Palace’s runaway victory against London Bees. After a good spell from the visitors to start the match, Baptiste turned the momentum back in the Eagles’ favor with the opening goal in the 21st minute.
That was all the hosts needed as they moved to a 4-0 lead before the break with Baptiste at the center of every goal. Coral-Jade Haines was on the receiving end of a pair of assists from Baptiste before Baptiste grabbed one more of her own to complete a brace. She added another assist to Kate Natkiel in the second half to wrap up Crystal Palace’s 5-1 victory.
Best Goal: Caroline Weir, Manchester City
There’s a pretty good chance if you’re reading this, you have already seen this goal but I’m not sure we can talk enough about it. Between what was a stake in the league table and what’s always at stake during a Manchester derby, it just makes this goal all the more shocking. Sure, City was already up a pair of goals but the audacity for Weir to even attempt a chip from this angle was something else. If you haven’t seen it yet, prepare for your jaw to drop. If you have seen it, watch it again because it somehow gets better with every viewing. The reactions from her teammates are very telling.
Best Match: Reading 1, Everton 1
This mid-table clash had a lot more excitement than just the two goals and both teams may feel like they could have come away with more than just a point.
Reading was dominant in the opening half hour as Amalie Eikeland quickly became the biggest threat in front of goal, forcing two saves and hitting the post in the first 26 minutes. The hosts finally capitalized on the pressure when Rachel Rowe found the back of the net in the 35th minute.
Everton responded well and finally got its first shot on target just before the break. They stayed on the front foot in the second half and found the equalizer through Nicoline Sorensen’s header in the 77th minute.
Both teams created chances as the excitement went until the final whistle. Each attack forced saves in the final 10 minutes while Reading nearly won it at the death by Rowe’s attempt from distance trickled just wide of the post on the final chance of the match.
Title Race Update
Chelsea bounces back to extend lead
After Chelsea’s loss to Brighton, some of the other teams in England were gearing up to make a move at the top spot and the race looked to be opening up even more when Chelsea’s finishing struggles continued in the first half against Arsenal. However, the Blues scored eight goals over their next 135 minutes to defeat Arsenal and Bristol City, pushing their lead at the top back to five points.
Manchester City is now the closest competition to Chelsea after its 3-0 win over United and the Citizens have a game in hand still. United is sitting comfortably in the third Champions League spot but for now, it appears to be a two-horse race for the league.
Lack of drama in other top leagues
The Primera Division in Spain had a midweek matchday before the international break and had very little surprises. Barcelona won again, this time only by six goals, and now lead the league by seven points while having three games in hand on Levante, its closest competition currently. Barcelona needs just 39 points in the final 18 matches to clinch the league.
The Frauen-Bundesliga was hit hardest by postponements as four matches could not be played due to weather this week. The two matches played involved the top of the table clubs as Bayern won again to stay perfect in the league but Wolfsburg stayed in striking distance, trailing by just five points, after its win over Hoffenheim.
The two-week international break is here but that doesn’t mean everything is completely pausing at the club level. The Champions League Round of 16 draw will be held Tuesday and those ties will start the first week of March so it will be interesting to see how managers tweak their lineups in the first league games back as some of their players who are being used at the international level will also be some of the top names on the team sheet for those cup matches.