Barca dominate Madrid; Bayern beat Wolfsburg; City win derby

With the men’s game on international break, it was another busy weekend of women’s football across Europe as Barcelona travelled to Real Madrid in Spain, Bayern Munich visited VfL Wolfsburg in Germany and Manchester City beat Manchester United in the Women’s Super League.

Stream on ESPN+: NWSL, LaLiga, Bundesliga, more (U.S.)

The not-so Clásico

They call the fixture El Clásico (The Classic) and anything that pits Spanish giants Barcelona against Real Madrid carries the weight of a bitter history between the two. Yet when it comes to the women’s iteration of one of footballs favourite grudge matches, the games are rarely classic.

Indeed, the rivalry, due to its infancy and the overwhelming dominance of Barcelona in Europe, has rarely produced close games. Even with Real Madrid boss Alberto Toril speaking earlier this season about the two getting closer, on the pitch they still remain worlds apart; as evidenced by a 3-0 scoreline that saw Barca move 12 points clear in Liga F this weekend.

As noted by Caroline Graham Hansen — who helped create the opening goal for Fridolina Rolfö, laid on the second for Aitana Bonmatí, then scored the third herself — after the game, the stats told their own story.

Madrid laboured to play any positive football throughout, despite their home advantage, and it was just another check mark for Barcelona in their one-sided history against Las Blancas. It may be a favoured fixture of the calendar for Barcelona fans, but it’s far from a classic yet. — Sophie Lawson

Harder helps Bayern dominate Wolfsburg

Wolfsburg had few options heading into Saturday’s top-of-the table clash against Bayern Munich at the VW Arena. With a four-point gap between the sides, it was win or wave goodbye to the Frauen-Bundesliga title.

The hosts started better, saw most of the ball and managed to consistently carve out chances through the game. But the 4-0 scoreline told a different tale.

Bayern continue to be a bit of a puzzle. Even if all the pieces are there, there is still something not quite right about them, and they relied on their ability to counterattack, with a few lucky deflections along the way as they scored all four goals in the second half.

The real bright spark for the Bavarians was, unquestionably, Pernille Harder. Once the most expensive female player in the world, the Denmark midfielder was at the heart of all that Bayern did well. Although 31, possibly with her best years behind her, she remains a force and, whatever the future looks like for Bayern with the €450,000 summer arrival of Wolfsburg’s Lena Oberdorf, the team still needs to be shaped around Harder for now. — SL

play

1:42

Will Man United renew Marc Skinner’s contract after derby defeat to Man City?

Emily Keogh is unsure whether or not Manchester United will renew Marc Skinner’s contract at the end of the WSL season following his team’s 3-1 defeat to Manchester City.

Park dazzles as City keep pressure on in title race

You wait for a bus, and two come along at once. That is the story of Jess Park, who has waited seven years to score for Manchester City in the WSL since joining in 2017. But in the 3-1 Manchester derby win against rivals United, she netted her first and second to maintain the pressure on Chelsea in the title race.

Although Park’s first goal should have been disallowed due to Khadija “Bunny” Shaw being significantly offside in the build-up, her second was a display of sheer brilliance. Her quick runs into the box were City’s main attacking threat and exploited the vulnerabilities in United’s sunken defence before Shaw struck yet another goal for herself to make things safe.

Afterwards, United boss Marc Skinner bemoaned the lack of VAR in the WSL for the opening goal debate, saying: “I think today it would have made a big difference in the game if we didn’t concede that goal — it shouldn’t have stood. For today’s case, it would have been cut and dry.”

It’s debatable whether United would have got something from the game against a comfortable City side, but regardless, Park’s invaluable contribution kept the pressure firmly on Chelsea before the Blues beat West Ham 2-0 later on Sunday to ensure they are still top of the WSL on goal difference (+2). — Emily Keogh

Arsenal rebound after Chelsea drubbing

Once again, there were concerns over the start of an Arsenal game as — just a week after sock-gate — traffic disruption saw the visitors arrive late at Villa Park and kickoff was delayed by 45 minutes.

In the end, Arsenal had a WSL record 37 shots against Aston Villa, with 13 on target. With stats like that, you could be forgiven for assuming they strode to a comfortable victory. But, actually, the Gunners left it late to come from behind for their 3-1 win — only going ahead in the 81st minute through Lotte Wubben-Moy’s header before Stina Blackstenius made it safe. Though the final goal was also mired in VAR controversy as Blackstenius looked offside, with a possibility of handball as well (both of which were missed by the officials), before she scored.

Still, Arsenal needed a reset after Chelsea handed them a 3-1 drubbing last week, regardless of the manner. And, while there will be concerns over some spurned chances, the three points and ruthless attack will provide a much-needed boost heading into Sunday’s Conti Cup final against Chelsea. — EL

Tottenham grind again to seal victory

It might not have been the prettiest, but Tottenham have learned how to get the job done. For the second consecutive week, Spurs struck in the opening two minutes, then fiercely defended their 1-0 lead to seal win that keeps them in the hunt for fourth place.

Mirroring last weekend’s victory over Leicester City in both style and scoreline against bottom-side Bristol City, Bethany England netted her first of the campaign and Spurs perhaps could have added more goals as they were guilty of missing a host of chances.

Still, earlier in the season, Tottenham developed a habit of letting leads slip into draws or losses. Now, with a cohesive defence, Robert Vilahamn’s side have learned how to cling on to slim leads and turn out results. — EL

Chawinga makes her case

When Paris Saint-Germain beat Montpellier 3-1 on Sunday night, it was yet another opportunity for fans to bear witness to one of the most underrated strikers in world football doing what she does best.

Tabitha Chawinga isn’t a new sensation by any stretch; the 27-year-old striker cut her teeth in Sweden almost a decade ago to help keep lowly Kvarnsveden in the top flight, before making a lucrative move to the Chinese Women’s Super League in 2018. Since then, the Zambia international has returned to Europe on loan spells with Inter and PSG, and still looks a phenomenal player.

Already 2-0 up on Sunday, PSG’s third goal was classic Chawinga: the striker racing from deep on to a hopeful ball, unfathomably reaching it ahead of the defender before using her strength to come away from the one-on-one before firing home. There is, as there always has been, something so single-minded about Chawinga’s pursuit of goals.

In a time when women’s football is gaining more notoriety and the debates around who the best players in the world are, it remains a surprise — possibly owing to how much of her career has been spent between Jiangsu and Wuhan — that Chawinga has rarely broken into the conversation despite her ability to thrive in any team. Sunday’s display was just another page in her history. — SL

Inter’s attacking trio shines

For some reason Inter Milan’s talented trio of Annamaria Serturini, Agnes Bonfantini and Lina Magull didn’t fit with what their respective coaches at Roma, Juventus and Bayern Munich wanted. But that’s been Inter’s gain as they have managed to bring their best football to the Nerazzurre with ease.

Inter may be the perfect home for players who have struggled elsewhere, as they have done things the hard way themselves: taking over a Serie B licence and working their way up to the top flight.

Signing the trio has proven to be a masterstoke and all three were on the scoresheet as Inter navigated a tough clash in Florence on Sunday — balancing out their attack and taking their chances — to beat Fiorentina 3-0 to stake their claim to a Champions League spot in the convoluted Serie A playoff system. — SL