Aston Villa Women returned to WSL action on Sunday when they came up against newcomers Bristol City at Ashton Gate. Villa were hoping to build on their Conti Cup success in mid-week with a much-needed win to lift them off the foot of the table.
Once again, Carla Ward made changes to her starting line-up as Daphne Van Domselaar returned between the sticks. Kenza Dali was handed her first start of the season while Kirsty Hanson and Anna Patten returned to the starting line-up. Anna Leat, Jordan Nobbs, Olivia McLoughlin and Ebony Salmon all dropped to the bench despite featuring in the 0-5 win over Sheffield United.
Match Report: Bristol City Women 0-2 Aston Villa Women
The game started as you would expect from a bottom-of-the-league clash, nervy with both sides having half-chances without troubling either goalkeeper.
The visitor’s first real chance came in the 10th minute when a Rachel Daly effort rebounded to Rachel Corsie but she could only watch on as her effort went slightly over the cross-bar.
The hosts had their first shot on target in the 21st minute but Van Domselaar was equal to the effort. The Dutch goalkeeper was forced into action minutes later when a finger-tip save denied City as the ball went out for a corner.
Chances fell to Corsie and Daly in the remainder of the first half but Kaylan Marckese in the Bristol goal was able to cope with everything thrown at her.
Marckese was forced off the pitch just before the half-time whistle after she denied Daly in what appeared to be a knee injury. Olivia Clark replaced her in goal.
The first half ended 0-0 with Villa looking the more likely to score but Bristol having the best chance of the half. Ward’s ladies dominated the ball without looking a real threat in front of the goal.
Villa continued the second half as they finished the first, dominating possession but struggling to break through a resilient Bristol back-line.
Five minutes before the hour mark we saw the special Daly-Dali link-up from last season as Dali played a delightful ball through the Bristol back-line into the path of the England forward but she could only drag her shot wide of the goal. It was the first time that Daly was able to find space after being tightly marked to this point.
Moments later Dali forced a save from the Bristol goalkeeper Clark after Laura Blindkilde-Brown laid the ball back to her on the edge of the box. After all these chances surely it was only a matter of time before one of these chances hit the back of the net.
Just after the hour mark Carla Ward looked to the bench to make changes with Blindkilde-Brown being replaced by Nobbs and the positive Leon being replaced by Salmon. With Hanson was switched back onto the left so Salmon could play on her preferred right-hand side.
It didn’t take long for Nobbs to get in on the attacking play, quickly getting on the end of Hanson’s lay but once again the shot was blocked.
The home side appeared to be tiring as they sat deeper and deeper and Villa continued to push on and create more chances.
Villa were awarded a free-kick on the 73rd minute when Dali was brought down. Despite it looking to far out, Mayling stepped up and forced a save from Clark winning her side a corner.
Three minutes later, the visitors finally found the breakthrough after a brilliant cross-field cross from Dan Turner, finding Mayling who played the ball through the City back-line into the path of Salmon. Salmon, seemingly trying to lay the ball off to Daly, had her pass deflected by Bristol defender Megan Connelly past the goalkeeper and into the back of the net making it 0-1 to Villa.
Nine minutes later Villa extended their lead when Mayling picked out Salmon who tried to square the ball across goal to Hanson. The ball was blocked by a Bristol defender with the ball falling back to Salmon who this time took her shot making it 0-2 to Villa with only 5 minutes of normal time remaining. With Villa looking to win their first game of the season, this seemed to be like a Villa performance that we had grown to expect after last season’s performances.
Once again Leon impressed on the right-hand side linking up well with Mayling, causing constant threats to the opposing defence.
Daly may not have got on the scoresheet but her hold-up play enabled her side to get further up the field. A special mention to Hanson and Pacheco who also linked up well on the left-hand side.
There were a lot of positives to take from this game with very few negatives to mention it was a complete performance from Villa with a win and a clean sheet to take home.
Hopefully, these performances continue into the coming games and Villa start to win more points to be able to climb the league back to where they should be.