The Blues have set a new Barclays Women’s Super League record for the longest unbeaten run, as a dominant display against Aston Villa was rewarded with a handsome victory that sends us back to the top of the table.
History was in our hands on a rainy night in the Midlands, as we prepared for our first-ever league meeting with the Villans knowing that avoiding defeat would allow us to extend our unbeaten run in the WSL to 32 matches, surpassing the record we shared with Manchester City. Indeed, it was exactly two years to the day since we last lost a game in the competition.
The record never looked in doubt from the moment Sam Kerr got us off to a flier, as our Australian forward smashed home a half-volley after only three minutes. It was her eighth league goal of the campaign, drawing level with Fran Kirby as our leading scorer in the WSL.
We were in complete control throughout, as Villa struggled to get out of their own half, and a second goal duly arrived 10 minutes before half-time. This time Kerr was the creator, floating over a cross that Bethany England met with a firm header to leave goalkeeper Lisa Weiss with no chance.
It was much the same story after the break, as we continued to dominate, and the game was over as a meaningful contest when we netted two goals in as many minutes midway through the second half.
The first came from Pernille Harder, who drilled home a precise shot from the edge of the box after a short-corner routine was worked to her. Another set-piece was Villa’s undoing a few moments later, as Guro Reiten whipped in a free-kick that was begging for a touch at the back stick. Captain Magdalena Eriksson duly obliged.
Four goals was the least our performance deserved, but ultimately it was more than enough on what was a historic night for Emma Hayes and her squad, who will look to continue their unbeaten record when we host Spurs on Sunday.
Far more pleasing to the manager, however, was the return to the top of the WSL standings, ahead of Manchester United on goal difference and with a game in hand, as we look to retain our title.
A week had passed since our last outing, which was a thrilling Continental League Cup quarter-final win over Manchester City, as our match with Bristol City at the weekend was postponed due to the snow in the South-West. Even so, with a busy schedule over the next fortnight, Hayes opted to rotate, making five changes to the starting line-up.
Carly Telford, Niamh Charles, Sophie Ingle, Jessie Fleming and Reiten were all brought in, the latter quartet having impressed against City as substitutes, replacing Ann-Katrin Berger, Jonna Andersson, Ji So-Yun, Melanie Leupolz and Erin Cuthbert.
That meant Telford kept goal behind a back four of Maren Mjelde, Millie Bright, Eriksson and Charles, who showed her versatility by filling in at left-back. Fleming and Ingle were nominally the deepest of our midfielders, as Kerr, Harder, Reiten and England lined up as a fluid front four. There was also a couple of new names on the subs bench, as Academy duo Jorja Fox and Aggie Beever-Jones were included in a matchday squad for the first time.
The Blues made the perfect start, as we took the lead after only three minutes with virtually our first attack. Charles was heavily involved, getting forward from left-back and floating in a cross that was only half cleared by the Aston Villa defence, allowing Kerr to rifle home a thunderous left-footed strike on the half-volley.