Sport Writer Robbie Sweeten reports from Bescot Stadium as Aston Villa Women fall to their first defeat of the season against West Ham Women in the WSL

Written by RobbieSweeten
Images by Twitter/@AVWFC

Aston Villa Women suffered a shock 1-2 defeat to West Ham Women in a dramatic match at the Bescot Stadium this Saturday 15th October.

West Ham were much quicker out the gates, scoring with their first two shots within 15 minutes of the affair. Visibly shaken from the slow start, Aston Villa Women took some time to warm into the match, though they did dominate the second half of the first 45. 

A lot of their successful sequences of play came from their right flank, spearheaded by Alisha Lehmann, doing well throughout the half to beat her opposite number and feed balls into the penalty box. However, the best player for Villa was undoubtedly Kenza Dali. She floated around the pitch, picking up spaces between West Ham’s midfield, as well dropping into her own defence, to piece together and provide some fluidity to the Villa attack in the last 20 of the first half.

West Ham began the second half with a surge of energy, dominating their opponents and pinning them in their own half

Despite this, West Ham’s midfield remained compact, forcing Villa’s main conduits of creativity Dali and Rachel Daly to drop deeper and deeper, away from goal. A notable performer in the West Ham defence was Hawa Cissoko. Throughout the game, she excellently read the play, knowing when to step in and intercept, helping to kick-start a number of West Ham’s counterattacks. Cissoko was equally great in the one-on-one, and played a pivotal role in preventing a lot of crosses from Villa’s right-hand side.

Despite Villa’s strong end to the half, West Ham began the second half with a surge of energy, dominating their opponents and pinning them in their own half. This dominance however, was short-lived, with Villa and Dali taking control back of the game.

Even as Aston Villa came to lead the possession again in the last third of the match, West Ham shut them out consistently. Villa’s attack had to contend first with the tenacious West Ham defenders, who toiled all game long to track runners and get blocks in, but then also had Mackenzie Arnold to beat. The West Ham goalkeeper performed superbly; she claimed every high ball, dominated the air, remained consistent in her saves and parried throughout the game.

Aston Villa’s most potent form of attack – their right flank – would be instrumental in mustering a penalty for the side, after the opposing side handled the ball inside the penalty box in the 72nd minute. Alisha Lehmann however, was not able to capitalise and Villa remained 0-2 down with only 18 minutes to go.

Twitter / @AVWFC

Only five minutes later, her teammate, and Villa’s best player on the day, Kenza Dali, capitalised on a scramble inside the West Ham penalty box to nestle the ball into the top-right corner of the net. However, despite an increasing encroachment into their penalty box and a barrage of balls, West Ham were able to maintain their one-goal lead. But not without some late drama.

In the 90+2nd minute, one of West Ham’s best performers – Hawa Cissoko – was sent off after a scuffle with Villa midfielder Laura Blindkilde Brown. Cissoko then remained on the bench – as opposed to walking straight down the tunnel – to the distaste of the Aston Villa technical staff, triggering heated moments between both managers and squads. The result was another red card: this time to West Ham manager Paul Konchesky.

The result means Aston Villa Women’s unbeaten start has ended

Thankfully, the match finished amicably, though Aston Villa could not find the crucial equaliser in the last five minutes of regular play.

The result means Aston Villa Women’s unbeaten start has ended; their two wins in the FA WSL and win against Manchester United in the FA WSL Cup are now followed by a defeat.

As for West Ham, they executed their game plan to perfection. Other than the extraordinarily dramatic finish to the game, they remained disciplined, but played attractive football in their own right. To suggest they sat back and soaked up pressure all game would be a disservice to their potency on the counterattack.

Both sides, respectfully, must reflect on their performances and actions, but West Ham and Paul Konchesky will naturally be the more pleased of the two sides.

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