Just when the WSL title race was looking like it might crystalize itself and become all the clearer this past weekend, Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester City had other ideas…
Over the weekend, leaders Chelsea saw their 33-game unbeaten run snapped in a mind-boggling defeat to Brighton & Hove Albion; second-place Manchester United were unexpectedly beaten by Reading; and Manchester City pulled within two points of their WSL title rivals with a late, dramatic victory over fourth-place Arsenal. In short, the least likely of the top-three sides to win, was the only side to win.
Despite out-shooting Brighton by a margin of 30-3 (7-2 on target), Chelsea suffered a 2-1 defeat after Megan Connolly bagged a 78th-minute winner, making the Seagulls a perfect 2-for-2 in converting shots on target into goals — efficiency just as impressive as the Blues’ incredible wastefulness.
Manchester United’s defeat came as a result of similar failures in front of goal (seven shots on target, zero goals) and a two-minute period in which Reading hit the Red Devils twice, first in the 63rd and again in the 65th. Given they entered the weekend level on points (32) with Chelsea, Manchester United would have returned to the top of the WSL table with just a draw.
And then there was the weekend’s “big one,” which saw Manchester City gain three points on the top-two and leave Arsenal, who they beat 2-1 on a 79th-minute goal from Lauren Hemp, seven points in their rearview mirror. At this point, Chelsea and Manchester City each have a game in hand over Manchester United.
All of which sets the stage for a massive round of midweek fixtures, featuring 1st-versus-4th (in a London derby) and 3rd-versus-2nd (a Manchester derby) matchups on Wednesday and Friday, respectively.
On Wednesday, Chelsea will host Arsenal (Watch live, 2 pm ET on the NBC Sports App) as they look to bounce back from the uncharacteristic defeat. Then on Friday, Manchester City are set to host Manchester United (Watch live, 2 pm ET on NBCSN).
In USWNT news, forward Christen Press starts for Manchester United, while Abby Dahlkemper is in the starting lineup and Rose Lavelle is on the bench for Manchester City.
Here's how we line-up tonight! 💙
XI | Roebuck, Bronze, Dahlkemper, Houghton (C), Greenwood, Walsh, Weir, Stanway, Kelly, Hemp, White
SUBS | Bardsley, Taieb, Coombs, Mannion, Park, Lavelle, Beckie, Morgan, Davies
— Man City Women (@ManCityWomen) February 12, 2021
— Manchester United Women (@ManUtdWomen) February 12, 2021
The WSL title race has long been underway, and this week’s fixtures will go a long way toward sorting the favorites from contenders, and contenders from pretenders.
Chelsea v Arsenal — 2 pm ET (NBC Sports App)
Brighton & Hove Albion v West Ham United — 2 pm ET
Tottenham Hotspur v Bristol City — 2:30 pm ET
Birmingham City v Aston Villa — 2:30 pm ET
Manchester City v Manchester United — 2 pm ET (NBCSN)