Man United crumble vs. Arsenal; City in control; Barca tired

It was another action-packed weekend of women’s football across Europe. There was plenty of intrigue in leagues across the continent, with the Women’s Super League title race heating up.

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Man United crumble vs. Arsenal

Manchester United’s head-to-head record against Arsenal promised a good matchup on Saturday — including a last-gasp 3-2 win in November 2022, the Red Devils had been unbeaten in their past five games vs. the Gunners.

Yet, after a bright start, the visitors faded fast after an own goal from Geyse in the 10th minute proved to be a turning point. Arsenal went into an attacking rhythm, punching holes in United’s resolve, and never looked back as they came away with a 3-1 win.

The game may have set a new attendance record for the WSL, and there was a good atmosphere throughout, yet there was a certain flatness and predictability to the way United began to crumble. Indeed, the game was something of a mirror for their season, and they now sit seven points behind third-placed Arsenal and 10 off the top.

Boss Marc Skinner told Sky Sports after the game: “It’s probably where we were coming into the game. We have to be perfect in the big games, especially in a stadium like this with the fans. We weren’t like that in the first half; we were better in the second. There’s a lot to be excited about at Man United. [New minority stakeholder] INEOS coming in will help, but it’s where we are today. It hurts, but it’s where we are.”

Keating stars again as Man City show title credentials

Sometimes all you need is a good half. That was the case for Manchester City on Friday night as they dominated against Chelsea before the break, then looked to hold on to their lead and absorb the pressure from the hosts.

The talk coming into the tie was all about each team’s in-form attackers: Bunny Shaw and Lauren James. And, although the Jamaica international scored the only goal of the game for City, it was (as it has been many times already this season) the Khiara Keating show. As smooth, controlled or silky as City were in the first half at Kingsmeadow, it was the eye-catching saves and resolution of the 19-year-old goalkeeper that ensured they claimed a vital win to take them level on points with the Blues at the top of the table.

As well as eking out wins this year, City have been nearly faultless at the back and while Alex Greenwood deserves high praise for her defensive performances, Keating’s five-successive clean sheets in all competitions have also played a big part.

Fun Foxes bag big win

With the attention in the WSL firmly placed on the two games involving the top four this weekend, Sunday was very much about the rest of the league making a case to be noticed: from Liverpool’s narrow 1-0 win over Brighton and Hove Albion, to Everton’s late double from Italian duo Martina Piemonte and Aurora Galli to beat West Ham United 2-1, or Aston Villa’s important 2-1 win away to Tottenham Hotspur courtesy of a wonderful effort from Jordan Nobbs.

But it was the last game of the weekend, as Leicester beat Bristol City 5-2, when the fun and goals flowed.

It was a game that showcased the growth of both teams, although rock-bottom Bristol rather fell apart when the hosts turned on the style in the second half after coming from behind. Leicester’s budding midfield partnership between Yuka Momiki and Jutta Rantala (the attackers had a hand in three of the Foxes’ five goals) is one that can rival any in the league and they certainly enjoyed themselves here.



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Barcelona win unconvincingly

Barcelona are tired. Between the elongated Liga F season, Supercopa, Copa de la Reina, Champions League, and players leaving to travel for international camps, the team are flagging and it’s showing.

After dropping their first points of the league season to Levante in midweek, the Catalans were back at home on Sunday to face an Atletico Madrid team battling through their own tricky run of fixtures.

The eventual 2-0 win came with goals from Salma Paralluelo and Vicky López either side of the break, but there was a clear stodginess and fatigue to the way both teams went about their business. The worry for the European champions is that, even with no domestic football this week thanks to an international break, most of their players won’t be getting a rest as they will be required to play for their countries in games of differing importance.

PSG ease to victory

Having managed a 1-1 draw against table-toppers Lyon last time out in the league, Paris Saint-Germain’s bumper week of games helped put any lingering frustrations to bed. An easy 4-0 win over second-tier Le Puy granted them safe passage to the semifinals of the Coupe de France, before a dominant 5-0 win at home to Guingamp ensured they kept up the pressure to close the gap to seven points at the top.

Neither game was fully put to bed until the second half, when PSG could really show the depth of their talent against two tiring teams, but they were only as good as they needed to be. It’s a chronic complaint in the French league, which will take some time to address.

Milan reign supreme in derby

Serie A’s mini-league playoffs for Championship and relegation are hard to ignore at this stage of the season, but Sunday afternoon’s Milan derby clash was a long way from the fiery encounters that San Siro has seen over the years and was relatively subdued, except for an overly robust challenge on Christy Grimshaw in the second half.

Sixth-placed Milan, who were eight points worse off than Inter in Serie A coming into the tie, took an early lead and looked comfortable for their 2-1 win, even when Annamaria Serturini pulled one back just before half-time.

The second half spoke to the struggles both teams have had so far this season. The players are talented, the ideas are often there, but the football failed to sizzle which only raises more questions of managers Davide Corti (who was only promoted to head coach in November) and Rita Guarino as they sit a long way behind leaders Roma.

Eintracht show frailties

RB Leipzig’s 2-1 win over Eintracht Frankfurt on Friday night told the tale of two contrasting teams. Ninth-placed Leipzig are a young and exciting side, new to the Frauen-Bundesliga this season, and have shown clear growth since the turn of the year. Then there’s Frankfurt, a more-established side who have shown flashes of good performances but have a habit of falling into predictable patterns and who are 10 points off the title pace behind Bayern Munich.

Leipzig’s Vanessa Fudalla again delighted for the hosts with two goals and was the unlikely Golden Boot leader until Wolfsburg demolished Nürnberg 9-1 the next day and Ewa Pajor leapfrogged her. The Eagles did manage to snatch a late consolation goal through Remina Chiba but, not for the first time in Eintracht’s history, the question of why the attacker was brought on so late (in the 85th minute) needs to be asked.

Showing a plucky spirit and a touch of swagger, Leipzig are on course to comfortably avoid the drop, but the defeat means Eintracht have opened the door for Hoffenheim to challenge them for third place and a spot in Europe next season.