Man Utd hit Liverpool for SIX! Women's Super League winners and losers as the Red Devils leapfrog Arsenal
After its winter break, the Women's Super League returned with a bang this weekend as title rivals Arsenal and Chelsea played out for a dramatic draw, bottom side Leicester finally got some points on the board and Manchester United thrashed Liverpool 6-0.
Elsewhere, a trio of Lionesses made debuts for their new clubs as Aston Villa beat Tottenham 2-1 on Saturday, Everton emerged victorious against Reading on Sunday in a five-goal thriller and Manchester City edged out a tight contest with West Ham, winning 1-0.
Everywhere you looked, there were talking points in the first WSL action of 2023. But who kicked off the new year in style and who looked a little rusty after the break?
GOAL picks out this weekend's winners and losers below...
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WINNER: Zecira Musovic
When the teams came out on Sunday for the big clash at the Emirates between Arsenal and Chelsea, it was a surprise to see Zecira Musovic in between the sticks for the visitors.
That's not because the Swede lacks quality – not at all – but because Ann-Katrin Berger has been the first-choice goalkeeper for the Blues for some time now. While Musovic is rotated in semi-regularly, she wasn't expected to start this huge fixture – yet she proved one of the game's stand-out performers.
As well as contributing with her hands, tipping a dangerous Steph Catley cross-cum-shot onto the bar and clawing a loose ball off her goalline, the goalkeeper added "value" to the team's build-up, manager Emma Hayes noted.
"The work she's doing in the background, on the training pitch, her diligence, her attention to detail, her application has been absolutely brilliant and she's deserving of the accolades she gets from today's game," she said.
It feels like the battle for that starting spot in Chelsea's goal is really going to heat up after this weekend because Musovic could've hardly taken this opportunity in a more impressive way.
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For a while on Sunday, it looked like Arsenal were going to go level on points with Chelsea at the top of the Women's Super League – behind on goal difference, but with a game in hand over the champions.
Kim Little's penalty had the Gunners 1-0 up – and deservedly so, as they'd played well. However, Jonas Eidevall's team hadn't taken their chances either side of their captain scoring from the spot, despite creating plenty, and Chelsea would punish them.
Sam Kerr's 89th-minute header, from a gorgeous Jelena Cankovic cross, saw the spoils shared in a dramatic finale. To come so close to such a big win and then have it taken away at the death will've been extremely tough for Arsenal to take.
"I’m happy with the performance, subjectively in how we play football but also objectively in the goalscoring opportunities that we created," Eidevall said afterwards. "That means I’m obviously disappointed with the result because it’s a draw."
A point against the champions isn't a bad result by any means. But how costly could conceding that late goal prove to be? Only time will tell but Arsenal certainly can't afford to be as wasteful in other games this season if they want to win the title.
It didn't have the glitz and glamour of Arsenal vs Chelsea, but Leicester against Brighton was an equally big game on Sunday – and the result could have seismic implications on the bottom half of this league.
Leicester went into the game without a point to their name after nine games. However, in what was Jens Scheuer's first game in charge of the opposition, the Foxes ran out 3-0 winners.
It moved them within four points of second-from-bottom Brighton and third-from-bottom Reading, who lost 3-2 to Everton on Sunday. They're also only five points behind Liverpool and six behind Tottenham.
Suddenly, the relegation battle has new life in it. This result, and the good January transfer business completed so far, could do wonders for Leicester's survival bid.
As for those starting to appear in the sights of the Foxes, they suddenly have a little more reason to keep a watchful eye over their shoulders as we enter the second half of the campaign.
LOSER: Matt Beard
"We should be embarrassed by it – because I am."
That was Matt Beard's honest assessment after his Liverpool team were thrashed 6-0 by Manchester United on Sunday, with the Red Devils not even playing particularly well on the day, either.
It's difficult to overstate how much Liverpool missed Katie Stengel, their goal-scoring No.9, after she was ruled out with a problem late in the week. Without a focal point in the front three, their attacking play was poor and felt disjointed, while the scoreline explains how bad the defending was at the other end.
But most disappointing of all for Beard was that his team couldn't even fulfil the most rudimentary of tasks.
"The basics of ball retention, turning the ball over time after time, not getting two or three passes together, but my biggest disappointment is the work rate," he explained.
"The best example I can give you is right at the end of the half, Mel Lawley is driving out, three on one, and seven Manchester United players have run past four or five of mine and Mel is on her own.
"I think that summed the day up for me perfectly in that one moment. I don't know why they had more desire than us."
With Leicester winning shortly afterwards, Beard admitted his team are in "a relegation scrap". They can't afford more performances like this if they want to survive it.
WINNER: Kenza Dali
Aston Villa have done some excellent transfer business this season.
England international Rachel Daly joined in the summer and is currently the league's top goalscorer, while Scotland forward Kirsty Hanson was picked up on loan from Manchester United and has been a livewire, credited with two assists in Sunday's win over Tottenham.
It's continued into January, too, with Villa signing two more Lionesses: Jordan Nobbs from Arsenal and Lucy Staniforth from United. Nobbs was named Player of the Match on her debut this past weekend.
But right up there as one of the signings of the season – not just for the Midlands outfit but across the entire league – is Kenza Dali. The Frenchwoman is a creative force in midfield and has been arguably her team's best player this campaign.
She highlighted her qualities again in the win over Spurs, scoring a superb goal to break the deadlock, and should get even better with the quality that is being recruited to play in midfield with her.
That's quite a prospect, too, as only Manchester City’s Chloe Kelly has created more chances this season than Dali, who has three goals and three assists to her name.
Tottenham grabbed everyone's attention in the January window with the signing of Beth England, the Lioness joining from Chelsea for a league-record fee.
It's a good transfer for many reasons. At 28 years old, the striker is entering her prime years and will be hungrier than ever to do well in order to secure a place in England's squad for the World Cup this summer.
That's a good fit for a Spurs team that is in desperate need of more goals. Prior to this weekend, they had scored 11 in nine games – eight of them coming against Brighton in a singular fixture, meaning they'd scored three in their other eight outings.
However, Saturday's 2-1 defeat to Aston Villa showed that Beth England cannot fix all of their problems.
The forward marked her debut with a goal that gave Spurs the lead but then they were carved open far too easily as they conceded twice before half-time.
England did have a big chance towards the end of the game to level it up but, generally speaking, the service she received wasn't great and this team needs more creativity to allow her to be as dangerous as she can be.
Signing a striker is a good start, there's no doubt. But Spurs need to improve more than just their goalscoring to get where they want to go. Saturday showed that.