Lionesses tamed by Villa as the visitors fight back to win for the second week running.
Both sides came into the game off the back of opening day wins. On paper, this was shaping up to be an even contest. It was a sweltering and sticky day that saw both sides test their fitness at an early stage of the season. Villa started the brighter of the two sides, testing the Lionesses ‘keeper early on. Both sides were a credit and showed little signs of the heat affecting them.
Villa turned their bright start into a lead inside 12 minutes when Amy West struck a speculative shot from outside the area, which squirmed through the Lionesses ‘keeper’s gloves and spilled into the back of the net. The goals seemed to spark the Lionesses into life and a series of attacks with Elizabeth Ejupi at the heart of the threat towards Villa’s goal. Much of the first-half battle took place in the midfield area, which became quite congested.
On the half- hour mark, the Lionesses found themselves back in the game courtesy of a fortuitous back-pass decision that went against Villa. Ejupi found herself clean through on goal and was about to pull the trigger until Villa centre back, Natalie Haigh slid in and won the ball. The ball rolled towards Sian Rogers in the Villa goal who picked it up. The referee blew her whistle and awarded London City Lionesses a free-kick inside the area for a back-pass that had been picked up by the Villa ‘keeper. Lucy Fitzgerald rolled the ball into Ejupi’s path and she fired it into the top corner of the Villa goal.
The Lionesses seemed to drop off as the first-half wore on and Villa fashioned the better chances before the referee blew her whistle to bring the half to a close with the scores level at 1-1, thanks to an outstanding block from Lionesses centre-back, Ylenia Priest, who blocked a goal-bound effort from Emily Syme.
London City Lionesses made a half-time substitute, bringing on forward, Gabby Ravenscroft for her first competitive minutes of the new season, in place of Kallie Balfour. Ravenscroft made an immediate impact as she gave extra attacking impetus down the left flank. Immediately the Lionesses carried a more attacking threat with Ravenscroft impressing with her strength and pace. Ravenscroft had a couple of opportunities to open her account for the season had it not been for a combination of good defending and resolute goal-keeping from Villa.
On the 50th minute, London City Lionesses took the lead for the first time in the match. Left wing-back, Leanne Cowan got free down the left flank and whipped in a ball that wiped out the Villa defence completely with her wand of a left foot that was headed home by Ejupi for her second goal of the game to cue celebrations amongst the Lionesses.
The goal brought some calm to the Lionesses as they demonstrated their ball retention across the park, however, there was little threat to the Villa goal despite the possession.
On the 65th minute Villa found themselves level when Marisa Ewers won the ball and swung a high cross into the box, which was met with a thumping header by Haigh. Villa seemed to have the bit between their teeth and less than 2 minutes later they took the lead. Substitute Shania Hayles hit a shot that could, and perhaps should, have been dealt with by the Lionesses ‘keeper.
For the last 25 minutes, the Lionesses threw everything against Villa, who defended resolutely.
Ejupi was denied a stone-wall penalty in the dying moments of the game when she was clean through on goal and was brought down by the Villa ‘keeper, however, the referee waived away the Lionesses protests and Villa saw out the rest of the game to win 2-3.