FIFA.com reviews a big weekend in women’s club football across the globe highlighted by a spectacular opening to the new league season in USA, both on and off the pitch. We also look at the start of a new campaign in Sweden, plus some big news from Germany and England.
USA: Big interest amid small margins The stage is set for a fascinating NWSL campaign after big crowds and tight contests marked the opening weekend of the new season in USA. The highlight was in Portland as 16,073 spectators watched the competitive debut of the league's new club Orlando Pride. The visitors made a dream start netting their maiden NWSL goal after just 12 minutes through Australian international Steph Catley. However, the home side soon drew level and eventually grabbed the winner via Lindsey Horan eight minutes from fulltime, with Tobin Heath providing both assists. The upset of the round came a little further up the Northwest coast as last season’s runaway leaders Seattle Reign were unexpectedly toppled by Sky Blue FC. The all-star Reign side lost 2-1 with unheralded midfielder Kelly Conheeney scoring a memorable winner on her NWSL debut midway through the second half.
Much local interest focussed on USA superstar Carli Lloyd as Houston Dash hosted Chicago Red Stars. And, as usual, the newly-crowned FIFA Women’s World Player of the Year delivered, putting her side ahead after they had conceded an early goal enroute to a 3-1 victory. Meanwhile, there was a shock in store for FC Kansas City as a lone Samantha Mewis penalty helped Western New York Flash collect an impressive away win over last season’s champions. The final match of the round saw triumph for Washington Spirit over Boston Breakers thanks to a spectacular bicycle kick goal in the opening minutes from Johanna Lohman.
England: Wembley date set for London rivals A fascinating Women’s FA Cup final at Wembley looms between ambitious Chelsea and traditional powerhouse Arsenal, following two highly contrasting semi-finals over the weekend. A Jane Ross goal seemingly had Manchester City on track for a maiden final appearance at the expense of holders Chelsea. However a free-kick from Korea Republic icon Ji Soyun sent the game into extra time, before England star Fran Kirby popped up for the winner just as penalties loomed. Across London, Arsenal secured a truly remarkable 7-0 victory over Sunderland, despite losing a player to a red card midway through the first half. Danielle van de Donk bagged a hat-trick for the Gunners, while Dan Carter also scored twice. “Normally you go down to 10 and you panic but we didn't; we knew we were good enough and we knew we could move the ball,” said Arsenal captain Casey Stoney. “Everything just clicked. We've been looking for a performance like that for a while.”
Germany: Bayern stunned again Bayern Munich suddenly seem like mere mortals again after suffering a second successive defeat on the trot. Having recently seen a 15-month unbeaten run ended by unheralded SC Sand in the cup, Bayern crashed to a first league defeat in nearly two years over the weekend against 1.FFC Frankfurt. The visitors were deserved victors, with Saskia Bartusiak’s lone first-half strike proving enough in the driving Bavarian rain. Despite the defeat, Bayern seem all but assured of their second successive title thanks to a nine-point lead with four rounds remaining. Wolfsburg remain second following a routine 2-0 win over midtable Bayer Leverkusen. *Top three: Bayern Munich (47 points), Wolfsburg (38), 1.FFC Frankfurt (37)
*Sweden: Favourites open brightly The new season in Sweden got underway with a familiar name kick-starting the campaign. Brazil superstar Marta netted after just three minutes for the opening goal of the season, as champions Rosengard were pushed hard by Kristianstad before prevailing with a 2-1 scoreline. Cup holders Linkopings have an early hold at the top on goal difference after they saw off Mallbacken, helped by a double from prolific young striker Stina Blackstenius. Last season’s fairytale club Eskilstuna opened brightly with a 2-1 win over Djurgarden.