The pain of Glasgow City’s dismantling by Rangers last week was further compounded by their underwhelming exit in the UEFA Women’s Champions League on Wednesday night.
City, champions 13 years in a row, were pulled apart with ease last Sunday, as Rangers put five past them with no reply in the first meeting of the teams this season.
The game was expected to be the biggest spectacle of the campaign and, while those supporting the Gers might argue it still was, the neutral will certainly say it fell far short of the encounter expected.
It would be negligent to rule City out at any stage in almost any domestic fixture, but the 3-0 scoreline at half-time did make the chances of recovery highly unlikely. This would end up being the case, as Rangers comfortably added two more to their tally to make an emphatic statement to end the first part of the season.
The win was forceful enough to nudge City off their perch in top spot, as the Gers now take pole position on goal difference, with the two sides level on points.
The result certainly puts some doubt on Glasgow City’s ability to retain their league title this season.
Up to this point, the quality and winning mindset had been evident from the champions, and I have been very complimentary of the resilience of the club. However, this result comes after three of the club’s players moved to their emerging rival in early winter pre-transfer agreements.
The upheaval was expected to cause some disruption, but a 5-0 thrashing was a far heavier defeat than anyone had predicted. To add to the agony, former City striker Kirsty Howat was one of Rangers’ scorers.
The Scottish Women’s Premier League One defeat will ask questions of Scott Booth’s side as, it not only puts pressure on the sides’ next meeting, but will certainly give a huge confidence boost to Rangers along with the rest of the chasing pack.
When a side so used to winning starts to feel like it is coming undone, the doubt may make things worse. The winter break will be the time for recuperation and steadying the ship.
The arrival of Rangers has sparked a new level of competitiveness at the top of the domestic structure which will hopefully increase interest in the women’s game.
That being said, for there to be sustained growth of the top division, I hope the Ibrox side doesn’t simply cherry pick the best talents away from their rivals.
For the Scottish game to continue to progress, clubs need to look to develop their own youngsters and bring in players from elsewhere – moves which don’t weaken their biggest rivals.
While Glasgow were defeated in Europe, sides from down south showed strength
There were no hiccups for either of the English clubs participating in the Women’s Champions League this week.
Chelsea were already an almost-cert to be in the next round, after they held a 5-0 aggregate score-line against Benfica. For the home tie, manager Emma Hayes delved into her impressive squad depth, with only four players starting both ties.
The game was won by the front pair on the night, with big-money signings Bethany England and Sam Kerr showing their value on the biggest stage. A goal in each half for England and a trademark Kerr finish made it a comfortable night for the Blues.
Most interesting for me, was the start given to Canadian international Jessie Fleming.
The midfielder hasn’t seen too much pitch-time so far this season, after she joined from America having finished her undergraduate studies and opting to venture overseas to start her professional club career.
She is a talent who is already highly regarded and hopefully this will be the beginning of fans seeing more of what she can do.
In the other tie, Manchester City didn’t make any mistake against Gothenburg after a closely fought first encounter.
Lauren Hemp put City ahead early in the game to settle some nerves, but it was substitute Georgia Stanway who ensured there would be only one winner. She was on hand twice to tap in two strikes from her England team-mate Ellen White, as the game ended 3-0.
Winter break nearly here in England
There will be a full calendar of fixtures tomorrow, as the FA Women’s Super League rounds off the final games of 2020.
Manchester United will look to keep hold of their top spot for Christmas, as they take on strugglers Bristol City in the earliest KO of the day.
This will closely be followed by the game of the weekend, as Arsenal take on Everton. The toffees are fresh off their midweek cup win against United.
Unlike the men’s game, the FAWSL and SWPL will enjoy a winter break. Fixtures will return on January 9 and 17, respectively, across the two divisions.