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Winners & Losers

Lauren James was inevitable! Women's Super League winners and losers as Chelsea star returns to haunt Man Utd

9:07 AM GMT 07/11/2022
Lauren James Sam Kerr Chelsea Women 2022-23
The Chelsea attacker helped end her former club's 100 per cent record, while the Blues remain level with Arsenal at the top of the table.

It was always going to happen, wasn't it? Lauren James went back to Manchester United as a Chelsea player this weekend – and, of course, she scored.

That was the Women's Super League's headline fixture on Sunday, but its thunder was stolen by a nine-goal thriller that saw the division's only manager-less team emerge victorious.

Elsewhere, Arsenal extended their record-breaking winning streak and there were also wins on the road for Manchester City and Aston Villa, at Reading and Liverpool respectively, on a day where every away side picked up three points.

As the league action now pauses for the year's final international break, GOAL looks at the winners and losers from this weekend's action...

  • Lauren James Chelsea Women 2022-23

    WINNER: Lauren James

    On her return to the stadium where she made her name as one of England's most promising young talents, it just felt inevitable that Lauren James would score this weekend.

    The 21-year-old spent three seasons with Manchester United but left for Chelsea, her childhood club, last summer. In her debut campaign, though, she didn't see many minutes as the club tried to get her "right" after a number of niggles.

    "Lauren had a tough season last year, coming here off the back of a lot of injuries that she had with Manchester United and maybe having to play in certain games when she wasn't 100 per cent fit," the Blues' technical director, Paul Green, said on Friday.

    "[Now], we're really seeing the real Lauren James, the real quality that she's got. We're certainly all excited for what's to come from her in the present and what's to come from her in the future."

    On Sunday, she showed that with a brilliant goal that put Chelsea 2-0 up: a gorgeous side-footed strike from the edge of the box provoking a big celebration from James that saw her kiss the badge in front of the fans that once cheered her name.

    "It was sweet," she said afterwards. "I love Chelsea and I'm trying to do my best for them." She's not doing badly at all.

  • Nikita Parris Manchester United Women 2022-23

    LOSER: Man Utd's defence

    When Manchester United welcomed Chelsea on Sunday, they did so as league leaders, as the only team in the WSL yet to concede a goal.

    The way they threw away that exceptional defensive record, though, in the first game they haven't won in the division this season, was incredibly disappointing.

    Having limited Chelsea's attack for most of the game, Millie Turner – who has been excellent this season – played a terrible ball straight to Sophie Ingle, despite being under no pressure. From there, the Blues showed how effective they are in transition, the midfielder finding Sam Kerr and Kerr, within seconds, finding the back of the net.

    With the second goal equally frustrating from a United perspective, as James strolled into the final third completely unmarked to sweep home Kerr's pass just four minutes after the opener, the hosts were the architects of their own downfall in their first WSL defeat of the season.

  • Jordan Nobbs Arsenal Women 2022-23

    WINNER: Jordan Nobbs

    It was less than two weeks ago that Jordan Nobbs made her first start of the season for Arsenal but the form she has showcased since has been so good it has earned her a recall to the England squad.

    It started with a breath-taking volley in the Women's Champions League victory over Zurich, then, a few days later, she came off the bench against West Ham and levelled the scores within seconds setting her team on the way to victory.

    On Sunday, she wasn't actually on the scoresheet, but the performance she put in highlighted the other wonderful qualities she possesses. Sporting the captain's armband, Nobbs was the conductor as the league leaders dominated a struggling Leicester in a 4-0 win, with only Beth Mead creating more chances than her on the day.

    It was a classy display that will have impressed England head coach Sarina Wiegman and, now, the midfielder will hope she gets the minutes to continue this wonderful form over the international break.

  • Leicester Women 2022-23

    LOSER: Leicester

    It's been a turbulent week for Leicester. Last Sunday, they lost a huge six-pointer to the only other team in the WSL without a point to their name, Reading, despite leading the match as late as the 89th minute.

    On Thursday, the club announced it had parted ways with Lydia Bedford because of their difficult start to the campaign. Former Everton boss Willie Kirk – appointed director of women's and girls' football earlier this year in what looked like a great move for the Foxes' future – quickly switched his role to take her place.

    His chances of getting off to a winning start were always slim, though, as Leicester welcomed Arsenal, on a league-record win streak, to the King Power.

    As expected, the Gunners cruised to victory. The result compounded a tough few days for a side in real trouble.

    The good news is that the international break is here now. It will give Kirk some much-needed time to work with this group. He'll need to do so quickly, too, before other teams near the bottom start to pull away from Leicester.

  • West Ham Women fans 2021-22

    WINNER: Victoria Road

    If there was one big winner this weekend, it was anyone in attendance at Victoria Road for West Ham's fixture against Brighton. What unfolded in East London on Sunday afternoon was an early contender for the game of the season as the Seagulls ran out 5-4 winners.

    With 20 minutes on the clock, the score was already 3-1 to Brighton – and the second half wasn't any less chaotic, either.

    A Tori Williams own goal got West Ham back into it just before the hour, but first Brighton goals for summer signings Elisabeth Terland and Jorja Fox put the Seagulls seemingly out of reach.

    There was still time for one last bit of drama, though, as Viviane Asseyi scored two goals in two minutes for West Ham to bring it back to 5-4 and make for a nervy finish.

    However, Brighton would hold on for what was a huge win given last week's embarrassing 8-0 defeat to Spurs – and the subsequent departure of Hope Powell, the coach that had helped this club take huge strides after taking over.

    It was a game that will live long in the memory for all there, no doubt.

  • Meg Finnigan Everton Women 2022-23

    LOSER: 'Professionalism'

    Before action in the WSL kicked off on Sunday, one fixture fell victim to the torrential rain as Everton's trip to Tottenham was postponed. It prompted a tweet from Meg Finnigan, the Toffees' defender, which questioned the professionalism of the league.

    Spurs play their home games at Brisbane Road – home of Leyton Orient, who play in the fourth tier of English football.

    It's perhaps no surprise that a team on that level of the pyramid has a pitch that will be affected so heavily by the bad weather, particularly when it's used by two teams, as they're not a rich club by any means.

    Just two weeks ago, we saw Brighton and Chelsea play on an incredibly questionable surface at Crawley Town – another fourth-tier club ground-sharing with a WSL team – with the ball stopping dead in the water-soaked pitch at times.

    This week certainly put the facilities in this elite league under the microscope again as, while women's football in England is taking huge steps forwards, there are still areas that are lagging behind what would be expected in a league that wants to be the best in the world.