Two first half goals from Georgia Stanway set Manchester City Women on the path to an opening day victory at Villa Park as the blues won a hard-fought match 2-0.
Stanway’s double came from two defensive errors as the WSL newcomers were taught a harsh lesson in defending, while Gareth Taylor’s side put to rest their Wembley disappointment of seven days ago when the lost the Community Shield to Chelsea.
Midfielder Jill Scott, who was sent off last weekend, started on the bench while USA international Sam Mewis made her debut for the club. But it was another new signing that made an impression in the first half and she could be the difference for City this season.
Chloe Kelly, who signed form Everton over the summer, impressed against Chelsea and she was again heavily involved as City almost scored after just 16 seconds. Kelly was released down the left and her cross was met by Stanway. The youngster’s shot was blocked and American star Mewis was a few inches wide of what could have been the fastest debut goal in the WSL.
Kelly and Stanway combined again just a few minutes later with the latter’s shot blocked and Mewis had the ball in the net on five minutes from Kelley’s cross, but the former was deemed offside by the merest of margins.
The warning signs were there for Villa and just a minute later, City were ahead. Natalie Haigh allowed a pass to roll through her legs but keeper Sian Rogers couldn’t get there in time and Stanway beat the keeper to the ball for the simplest of tap-ins.
Villa’s defence seemed a bit static on their WSL debut and Stanway had two opportunities to double City’s lead but failed to take them. She had no such qualms in the 20th minute though as another defensive error gifted her another tap in. Rogers received an underweighted pass and her attempted clearance was charged down by Stanway and tapped home for number two.
City continued to press, although Villa and Diana Silva in particular still posed a threat to the City back line, yet didn’t manage a shot on target within the first half an hour, although they did have the ball in the City net, but the strike from Stine Larsen was ruled out for offside. It looked a harsh decision as Ramona Petzelberger looked onside as her shot was saved by Ellie Roebuck. Larsen’s rebound found the back of the net but the flag was already up.
Villa had their best spell of the game after that, and barely allowed City to get their passing game together. That spell of pressure ended when Mewis dragged a shot wide in the 40th minute, while Stanway had another chance to complete her hat-trick as the youngster rounded Rogers, but sent her shot high and wide of an open goal.
Villa came close on the stroke of half-time when Larsen’s header across goal beat Roebuck, but found Demi Stokes, who cleared off the line to keep the score at 2-0.
The home side came out fighting in the second half and had a golden opportunity to pull a goal back within two minutes of the restart. The impressive Silva was released down the left and beat Roebuck, but fortunately for City, her shot also beat the post.
City pressed for a third goal that would kill the game off and it almost arrived when Caroline Weir combined with Keira Walsh, but her shot was gratefully snatched form the air by Rogers, as the two teams started the second half in frantic fashion.
Mewis had an opportunity on 58 minutes but skied her effort over the bar and Janine Beckie forced a good save from the keeper just two minutes later as City threatened to run riot.
Roebuck was called into action to make her first meaningful save as Emma Follis was released through the middle, but the young England keeper pulled off a remarkable one handed save after the City defence hesitated near the halfway line.
Stanway really wanted a hat-trick and created a good chance for herself in the 63rd minute, forcing another good save from Rogers, who was now growing in confidence after those two earlier errors.
Ellen White came on for Beckie, with Stanway going wide left and Kelly on the right, and the England striker hit the post on 77 minutes, although she was deemed to be offside, and a minute later, White had the ball in the net but again the flag was raised.
Kelly also had a goal disallowed after White was again adjudged to be offside. It was a tight decision and without VAR being present, it looked like a harsh call from the assistant referee.
Mewis had the game’s last chance after she was picked out by Kelly, and her shot was deflected over the bar for a corner, which came to nothing, but the result gave Gareth Taylor his first win as City boss.
Final Score: Aston Villa Women 0-2 Manchester City