After the heartbreak at Manchester United, Aston Villa Women Experts are frustrated.

Author Freya Taylor and former academy player Lyndsey Bissell are joining us as our exclusive Aston Villa Women specialists, and each week they’ll be working together to share their thoughts on the hot topics at the WSL club.

Rain, red cards, and goals. Twelve thousand five hundred and thirty three supporters filled Villa Park, and what a season opener it was! We eagerly anticipated how the quality on paper would translate onto the field with so many exciting summer signings and international breaks galore helping to improve players further. And our new Villans didn’t let us down at all.

Following discussions with members of the Villa Women Fan Club, we have reached the following findings regarding both the game and the remainder of the season.

Among the standout performers were Rachel Daly, who won the Golden Boot last season, Adriana Leon, a new Canadian international, Kirsty Hanson of Scotland, Sarah Mayling of our team, and of course Daphne van Domselaar, a world-class goalkeeper. The teenage England international Lucy Parker, who joined from West Ham this summer, also demonstrated her extraordinary work ethic and left an impression with the number of times she was pushed down but quickly got back up. We had no idea she would exceed them, and we’re excited to watch her grow for the rest of the season.

The roster, however, was obviously lacking players like Maz Pacheco and Kenza Dali, who were absent due to illness and injury, respectively. Although Laura Blinkilde Brown was excellent and it was fantastic to see her in the starting lineup, she was frequently easily pushed off the ball. Moving forward, we think it would be excellent to see Alisha Lehmann serve as a super sub and Adriana Leon start; that way, we think they would both have more of an influence. Lehmann did, however, have some excellent scoring opportunities, and in fact, in the 38th minute, he had the finest opportunity of the game. She had a beautiful run and excellent technique, but she was just unable to keep the ball in play, and it skidded over the crossbar.

Alisha’s right foot can be quite strong, and we’d love to see that more frequently on the field. Lehmann had another opportunity with the ball in the box, but she just couldn’t get her feet in the perfect position to fire the shot. After that, the ball was only cleared as far as Lucy Staniforth, who sent a hard shot right at Mary Earps. Fortunately for United, she saw the shot coming and deflected it with a punch. Daly also had a few early chances. It seems as though Villa had no luck in their league debut.

The midfield occasionally appeared to be missing, either pushing too high or dropping too deep, which meant that no one was available to serve as the game’s crucial through ball player. It will be intriguing to watch how the forward line develops during the upcoming campaign. Will Daly and Ebony Salmon collaborate on the front line? What effect will that have on the remainder of the starting lineup, if at all?

As Manchester United really got into the game, Lucia Garca and Geyse were continuous threats for the visitors down the wings, but Villa’s defense held strong. In the end, this resulted in Rachel Corsie and Dan Turner receiving yellow cards for their robust defense against the Spanish and Brazilian players; Geyse also received a yellow card in the second half. The number of yellow cards reflects how intense, physical, and high-pressure this game was; it was thrilling for both the spectators and the neutrals. However, we also witnessed the increasingly prevalent practice of yellow cards being handed for dissent in the men’s game, as was the case with the one given to Leon (even though there didn’t seem to be much in that one).

Who would score first? With the score at 0-0 at the interval, everyone in attendance could sense that a goal was imminent. Villa appeared to be the team that was closest to scoring, with Daly having a chance at 66 minutes and even captain Corsie trying her luck in the 70th.

The game’s turning point occurred in the following few seconds. In the 74th minute, Hanson rushed forward to collect the ball, but regrettably, she went in with a high knee on Hayley Ladd right in front of the referee. She received a straight red card because this was thought to be reckless play. For us, it was clear that there was no malicious intent, but she did go in with her leg elevated, and according to the game’s regulations, it was always a red.

The camera switched to Carla Ward on the sidelines as they were having a heated exchange with the fourth official. Carla Ward was understandably furious. Since Hanson wasn’t being careless and was sincerely trying to win the ball, we felt bad for her as she left the field in tears. She later expressed her regret to Ladd, the team, and the supporters on social media, and they reassured her that she had nothing to apologize for.

In addition to this, the refereeing has been of very variable quality throughout the entire game. For instance, not stopping play when it ought to have been stopped and especially not pausing to look at clear shoulder barges (Le Tissier on Salmon). Even if witnessing the incident unfold in real time was unpleasant, replaying it after the fact makes it quite evident that Le Tissier had no intention of playing the ball and shoulder-barged Salmon, perhaps inflicting catastrophic injuries. Le Tissier’s laughter while Salmon was receiving medical attention for a potential concussion didn’t help matters either, leaving the spectators with a negative impression. She was quite fortunate not to see

Overall, Villa Park’s and the league’s poor officiating serves as further evidence of the WSL’s necessity for full-time, highly qualified referees. Rebecca Welch was ranked by us in the World Cup, but this time she was just bad. The number of rulings against Villa made it seem like it was 12 to 10 at times.

On the plus side, Hanson is a fantastic player, and we really feel that if she had continued playing, the outcome of the game may have been different and might have included the 2-2 equalizer we predicted. The fact that we were able to maintain a close final score in a high-stress, high-caliber match demonstrates how far Villa have come since the start of even last season. It also raises the issue of how we will prepare for Liverpool, Arsenal, and Tottenham while she is away.

It would have been quite simple for United to dominate and absolutely destroy Villa in the aftermath. But if anything, the home team appeared even more threatening. When Lucy Parker gained control of the ball, she accelerated quickly and precisely. The Canadian made a beautiful pass to Leon, whose placement was excellent throughout the game, and the latter produced an excellent pass for Daly into the box. Even as she was losing her footing, her first touch allowed her to control the ball, pivot, and shoot. The Golden Boot winner from the previous season scored, setting up a flurry of celebration in Villa Park.

Naturally, United wouldn’t accept this, and three minutes later Garca herself reached the back of the net for Villa. Quite a sloppy goal because Villa couldn’t clear the ball, not the best of finishes. Despite playing superbly throughout the entire game, Van Domselaar was unable to salvage this one. With 10 minutes of stoppage time left, we had anticipated a 2-2 outcome, thus anyone may have won (or lost) the game.

Both teams looked to pick up the pace as they sought the game-winning goal beginning in the 85th minute. The home team was kept in the game as the regular 90 minutes came to an end thanks to an outstanding stop by Villa’s new Dutch goalkeeper in the 89th minute.

The home crowd experienced shock, perplexity, and concern as the board showed a red eight. Why are there still eight minutes to go? Could Villa manage to keep the point? or perhaps achieve victory? The goal was scored just a few seconds later, in the 92nd minute, by late substitute Rachel Williams, who headed in a perfectly placed cross from Nikita Parris.

Again, van Domselaar was powerless to prevent it, and every Villa player’s heart fell as they slumped to their knees in shock, unable to believe that after holding the draw for so long, they had been defeated in extra time. Six more minutes remained, though. You have six minutes to work some magic. A direct result of the Nations League, both teams were beginning to look completely worn out, and Villa temporarily lost their spark after conceding the goal.

Jordan Nobbs entered the game in the 95th minute and gave the team new life in classic Villa fashion. Nobbs made the most of her time on the field despite the fact that she should have entered the game earlier. She immediately filled the holes in Villa’s midfield that had existed throughout the entire game, utilising her position to help link up play and force the ball forward in the closing seconds. Leon once more displayed exceptional skill as she recovered the ball and persevered until the bitter end.

In the 98th minute, with the game on the verge of ending, Villa got two corners and came so close to tying the score. However, the ball was cleared too far outside of United’s box, and the game ended. Villa gave their all, but it was simply insufficient. Manchester United suffered yet another loss.

Turner, however, was undoubtedly our player of the game. A superb, seasoned, but underappreciated defender who is now back in her finest position at left-back. She deserves greater acclaim because her interceptions in the game prevented numerous threatening United attacks.

Carla Ward discussed how they consistently changed their formation during the rest of the game from 4-4-2 to 5-4-1 and more in an effort to exert pressure on United in her post-match interview. Even commentators Fara Williams and Ellen White believed that Le Tissier was quite fortunate to escape that challenge without receiving a card. The gaffer also mentioned how some significant calls ultimately went against them.

Most importantly, though, Ward stressed how extremely proud she was of her team, stating that even when they were struggling, they displayed great character and passion, which was precisely what she wanted to see. She further stated that she is unconcerned about the remainder of the season because United is a good club and they were pushed all the way by Villa.

Finally, the issue with the kits that had been so widely discussed was now plain to observe. We sincerely hope Castore can find a solution quickly since when the game is being played, neither team should be thinking about anything else.

The following two games for Aston Villa ladies will be away from home. On Sunday, October 8, Liverpool will travel to Merseyside to play Arsenal, who they defeated in their season opener. On Sunday, October 15, Arsenal will travel to the Emirates to play Liverpool. If this season’s first game is any indication, we are thrilled to be a part of the pride and cannot wait to see how it develops.

One player has spoken up in the club’s Castore kit dispute, according to previous Aston Villa Women news.


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