Manchester City stunned as Rachel Daly inspires Aston Villa to 4-3 WSL win | Women’s Super League

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Gareth Taylor had urged fans to “be patient” with his new-look Manchester City squad after a hefty turnover of players this summer, but after a disjointed performance in a blistering 4-3 defeat to Aston Villa, spearheaded by Euros winner Rachel Daly, City fans were left with more questions than answers about their club and its manager.

It was Aston Villa’s first win over Manchester City in five attempts, having conceded 17 and failed to score in their previous four meetings and they were made to work hard for the win at Villa Park, with City coming from two goals down to take the lead before Villa upped the press on an unconvincing City back line and secured the win.

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There was only room in the starting XI for one of Taylor’s seven new recruits, with former Atlético Madrid midfielder Laia Aleixandri making her debut in a midfield that sorely missed the bite provided by England duo Keira Walsh and Georgia Stanway, who departed for Barcelona and Bayern Munich respectively in the summer.

Aleixandri would feel the pressure in the build-up to the opener, being dispossessed by Villa’s new striker Daly before Alisha Lehmann latched on to the loose ball and raced away on the right and fired low past Ellie Roebuck.

The goal was worthy of the home performance, with Carla Ward’s Villa side pressing, harrying and brimming with confidence. Ward had also overseen a summer of changes, with seven new recruits and nine outgoing, but the difference between the transfer windows of the two sides was that City were forced to find replacements for a number of key players, while Villa worked on upgrading their squad to move to the next level.

Bunny Shaw (left) heads home to pull Manchester City level at 2-2 but her side went on to lose 4-3.
Bunny Shaw (left) heads home to pull Manchester City level at 2-2 but her side went on to lose 4-3. Photograph: Phil Oldham/Shutterstock

Villa’s second spoke to that upgrade, and City’s weakening, with Lehmann this time the aggressor, beating City midfielder Laura Coombs to a dropping ball and allowing Daly to smash it into the top corner.

A mistake from England’s Hannah Hampton gave City a look in before
the break, with the young keeper leaning back to atone for her poor footing and sending the ball up into the roof of the net.

It was a lifeline for City. If Taylor had a plan, his players didn’t seem to know what it was. In the second half, buoyed by the goal and likely fuelled by a testing half-time team talk, City pounced, scoring twice in two minutes to take the lead for the first time.

First, a corner from the left was headed back across goal by captain Steph Houghton and Bunny Shaw steered her header into the bottom corner. Then, a ball over the top found winger Chloe Kelly who lashed a cross into the middle for Coombs to fire past Hampton.

It was a rapid turnaround powered by City’s electric attacking talents but the team’s midfield and defensive fragility would be brutally exposed twice more to cancel out those efforts.

Just three minutes after taking the lead, Villa were level. New recruit Kenza Dali latched on to the woeful pass into midfield from Houghton before cutting on to her right and lashing past Roebuck, with the strike taking a deflection off Alex Greenwood on the way in.

With less than 15 minutes to play Villa had a deserved winner. Former Manchester United forward Kirsty Hanson’s strike was spilled by Roebuck and Daly was on hand to prod in.

With City already out of the Champions League, having been knocked out by a goal from former player Caroline Weir in qualifying against Real Madrid, and a 12 team league meaning every point matters, can City afford to be patient for long?

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