In what must be the strangest weekend in WSL history only one fixture was played over the weekend. Five of the six scheduled games were postponed as a result of positive Covid-19 tests and injuries. A rise in positive cases and required self-isolation sparking the debate as to whether football should continue during the pandemic.
The one fixture that did go ahead saw Chelsea move into second place after thumping Reading five goals to nil. Fran Kirby hit four goals in a dominating win for The Blues.
Manchester City were due to host West Ham on Saturday 9th, but after positive tests at the club and other mitigating circumstances they were unable to field the required 14 players.
Aston Villa who were hosting Arsenal also saw there game postponed as Arsenal were also unable to field a side after a number of their players were self isolating. Three Arsenal players one of which being Katie McCabe made trips to Dubai over the winter break and have faced criticism for making the trip. Arsenal have investigated the matter and believe the travel was in line with Government restrictions.
Birmingham City’s trip to Tottenham was called off due to injuries within the City squad. As it was not related to Covid the game will not be rescheduled. The league made the following statement:
” Birmingham contacted the FA to notify the association they would not be able to fulfil the fixture away at Tottenham due to not having enough players fit and available to play, as a result of a number of injuries.
“A request for postponement was made by the club under the competition’s epidemic rule, but was not able to be granted as this is an injury-related issue.
“The outcome of the fixture will be determined by an independent tribunal.
“The FA will provide an update on that decision in due course, and wishes the players concerned a full and speedy recovery.”
After the decision Birmingham released the following:
“As a professional football club we have a duty of care to our players. Their welfare is at the centre of this decision and it is a conclusion we never wanted to reach.
“However, it has been well documented that Carla Ward’s side has been the victim of an unfortunate and extraordinary run of injuries and despite our best efforts to field a team this weekend, it would be irresponsible to do so.
“The club maintain the position that we would be putting our players at risk of further injury and jeopardise their wellbeing in pursuit of fixture fulfilment. This is not a concession we are willing to make.
“An application for a postponement was submitted to the FA but this request was denied.
“We are aware of the ramifications of this decision but contest that we are also bound by an obligation to preserve our players health and safety, above all else.”
Brighton, who were due to travel to play Bristol City, had a second positive case in Friday’s round of testing meaning they had seven players isolating:
“We thank both The FA and Bristol City for their assistance and understanding in dealing with this matter” said a statement from Brighton.
Manchester United manager Casey Stoney has apologised for allowing members of her squad to go Dubai despite their being no outbreak within the United squad. Their match at Everton was called off due to Covid concerns within the Everton camp. Five Everton players contracted coronavirus over the Christmas break.
“I said before Christmas that I will always take my players’ well-being into consideration and I granted [them] permission to go home and see their families to have a break,”
“Everything we allowed them to do was within government guidelines, but I have to be honest and on reflection it was a poor error in judgment from me. I am sincerely sorry for that. I’m human and I make mistakes, I take responsibility for it.”
Reading v Chelsea
There was one game that went ahead as Chelsea blow Reading away at the Majewski Stadium. Fran Kirby hit a first half hat trick and got a fourth in the second half before sub Ji So-Yun made it five.
The win moves Chelsea into second just three points behind leaders Manchester United with a game in hand and a superior goal difference. Chelsea have put the pressure on United as the sides are due to met in the next round of games.
Chelsea took the lead after 16 minutes, a hopeful ball up the middle was flicked on by Sam Kerr. Kirby got behind the Reading defenders and rounded keeper Grace Moloney to slot home. Chelsea almost doubled the lead as Kirby found a pocket of space just outside the box, curling in a right football shot she struck the post.
It was 2-0 after 23 minutes as Reading defender Emma Mitchell gifted Kirby the ball half way into the Reading half. The invitation to charge at goal was all Kirby needed as she put the ball past the advancing keeper’s right, with her left foot. Mitchell attempted to get back in front of Kirby but the Chelsea player was not to be denied.
Kirby competed the perfect hat trick in first half injury time. From a free kick sent out to the by-line, Sam Kerr turned it back towards the area where it was met be the head of Fran Kirby who guided the ball into the top corner.
Half time: Reading 0 v 3 Chelsea
Eight minutes into the second half and Kirby had her and Chelsea’s fourth. From a corner floated towards the near post, Kirby outjumped Angharad James to loop the ball into the far corner.
Ji So-Yun rounded off a superb Chelsea performance with a fifth goal. Hannah Blundell’s cross found Ji in the box, taking the ball down on her right foot and calmly waiting for the ball to bounce and sit up for a volley into the far corner on her left foot.
Chelsea in fine form as they head into the next round and a top of the table clash with Manchester United. This was the Fran Kirby show as the England forward helped herself to four goals.
Full Time; Reading 0 v 5 Chelsea
The WSL is back on January 17th, with the top two meeting as Manchester United travel to Chelsea. Manchester City will host Aston Villa, Everton will play bottom side Bristol City. Reading will host Arsenal, Birmingham City face Brighton and there’s a London Derby as Tottenham travel to West Ham.