Mistakes will be the talk from today’s game against Manchester City, but Aston Villa Women looked assured against one of the strongest sides in the league.
Words: Regan Foy | @findfoy
Aston Villa Women faced a rejuvenated Manchester City Women this afternoon, with both sides buoyed by new signings and the opportunity to open this season of the Women’s Super League.
At an overcast Villa Park, chosen as the venue today due to Walsall’s Carabao Cup exploits and perhaps a want to celebrate the club’s debut in the top flight, Marisa Ewers walked out as Aston Villa captain for the first time in a competitive fixture.
Sian Rogers, as expected, started between the sticks, whilst Ella Franklin-Fraiture marked her return from last season’s harsh injury with a return to the starting eleven. Caroline Siems, Chloë Arthur, Ramona Petzelberger, Stine Larsen and Diana Silva all started – making their professional competitive debuts for Aston Villa.
Before the game, Gemma Davies, the youngest coach in the Super League at 28, expressed how ‘ready’ her side was for the upcoming challenge this season, expressing her happiness with the strong balance in her squad.
All players and staff for both sides took the knee before kick-off – before Manchester City went on the attack within 30 seconds, with Stanway heading just wide.
It was a mistake that opened up the game for Manchester City, as Natalie Haigh let the ball run through her legs in the hope that Sian Rogers would be close enough to clear it – but Stanway was there beforehand to open the scoring after just six minutes. It must be said that Haigh had denied an opportunity earlier in the game with a strong block – but there was an evident lack of communication that let City grab an easy goal.
The opening ten minutes showcased a little discomfort on the ball for Aston Villa – poor passing and touches reflecting the likely nerves hitting hard for the league newbies – but the side looked to react to going a goal down.
As Aston Villa were looking to grow into the game, it was another mistake between Rogers and her defence that saw City grab another goal. A pass without enough fizz found Stanway poaching again, and she was able to poke it past the approaching Rogers.
Stanway had the opportunity for a hat-trick after finding herself at the end of an attempt to play out of the back from Villa, but she fired over the bar.
Ramona Petzelberger was a bright spark for the home side, looking tidy on the ball and comfortable in possession. It looked like she offered the first major test for Ellie Roebuck in the City net – but the midfielder was flagged offside. Stine Larsen buried the loose ball – but the flag had already been raised – and wrongly.
Stine Larsen had a headed effort cleared off the line on the brink of half-time; but unfortunately, with Aston Villa seemingly getting into a rhythm, the half-time whistle was blown.
Aston Villa started brightly in the second half and were the first side to launch an attack, but Stine Larsen struggled to get her shot off under pressure.
Emma Follis found herself through on goal just minutes later, before laying off Diana Silva who took the shot with her left foot at an awkward angle, with the result sliding wide.
Stanway could have had her hat-trick before the 50 minute mark, but Ella Franklin-Fraiture provided a brave and strong block to deny the City forward.
Roebuck was tested again as the hour mark passed, with Emma Follis stealing the ball and racing into the Manchester City box, before firing on goal where the England international was ready with an outstretched hand.
Sian Rogers was called into action on a number of occasions, looking to have overcome the earlier jitters that saw Aston Villa’s mistakes at the back be as costly as they were. She produced a trio of saves from Beckie and from Stanway – who was already on a brace.
Both City and Villa decided on changes ahead of the 70 minute mark, with Ellen White joining the fray for the Manchester side, and Asmita Ale and Emily Syme replacing Elisha N’Dow and captain Marisa Ewers. A few minutes later and Emma Follis – who had been a bright spark in the second half for Gemma Davies’ side – was replaced by Shania Hayles.
Ellen White hit the post and scored with ten minutes remaining with two different shots – but was flagged offside both times as Aston Villa’s defensive line held strong.
It wasn’t a bloodbath by any means from one of the stronger sides in the country, and on another day Aston Villa could have been walking away with a point. A little bit of naivety, paired with the nerves of a new league see Aston Villa Women lose their first game of the season – but they have shown that they can, and will, compete in this league.