Aston Villa’s long-awaited second season in the WSL kicked off against newly-promoted Leicester City. With an influx of exciting players, a new manager, and increased coverage of the women’s game, the 21/22 season promises to be the best yet.
Carla Ward set up her side with an abundance of new faces. Hannah Hampton went straight into the number one spot between the sticks, along with six others making their Villa debuts. Anita Asante, Chloe Arthur, Olivia McLoughlin and Jodie Hutton kept their places in the starting XI, with Hutton pushed up to play striker.
The game opened with both teams looking hungry, but the better chances fell to Leicester City. Around 8 minutes in, a long ball from Levell made its way to striker Natasha Flint whose shot was tipped over the bar by Hampton.
This became a running theme for the first half, with Flint and Sixworth looking dangerous and Hampton keeping us level. On 39 minutes, when Villa was looking to survive to halftime, another strike from Flint found its way through Hampton’s gloves to put the visitors in front.
Despite some half chances from Villa, Leicester was deservedly ahead. Carla Ward made one half time change, swapping Jodie Hutton for Shania Hayles.
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Ward’s team talk at the break made an instant impact, with Villa looking for the equaliser from the off. Boye-Hlorkah hit a curling effort but was unable to bring it below the bar.
Meaghan Sargeant injury forced Ward into another change early in half, Elisha N’Dow being called upon in replacement.
Just past the hour mark, Chloe Arthur drew a foul in a dangerous position, new recruit Sarah Mayling stepped up from 25 yards out to score a wonder free-kick to open her Villa account for this season!
With barely a minute to recover, Leicester was met with Alisha Lehmann breaking down the left-wing and setting up today’s captain Remi Allen to put Villa in front. Two goals in two minutes for Aston Villa, suddenly the game was turned on its head!
Energy and confidence was high after the rapid comeback, Villa kept Leicester relatively quiet despite desperate efforts. Hampton continued with her excellent performance, with a strong punch to clear a tempting cross. The clearance resulted in a three-player clash, Hampton coming out of it with the biggest knock. Despite the blow, the young keeper pushed on.
Things became tricky for Villa in the final five minutes of injury time as Leicester fought for to salvage a point, they came within inches of a equaliser as players crowded the Villa box but the ball slipped just wide.
The final whistle came just in time for Carla Ward’s Villa, and the women came away with all 3 points on opening day.
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