Aston Villa 1-0 Brighton: Leon seals deserved victory for Carla Ward’s Villa

Still in the search for their maiden home league victory this season after losing all four of their matches in the Midlands, Carla Ward handed Anna Leat her first start of the 2023/24 Barclays Women’s Super League campaign, with Daphne van Domselaar in concussion protocol after suffering a head injury in the defeat at Manchester City.

On the other hand, Brighton & Hove Albion had avoided ending up on the losing side in their previous five head-to-head away day visits to either the Poundland Bescot Stadium or Villa Park – but were forced into naming only four substitutes on the bench due to a plethora of injuries within the Seagulls’ camp.

AVL: Leat; Mayling, Patten, Corsie, Pacheco; Staniforth, Nobbs, Dali; Daly, Hanson, Leon

BHA: Baggaley; Bergsvand, Thorisdóttir, Carabalí; Robinson, Symonds, Losada, Patterson; Sarri, Terland, Bremer

In the concluding Barclays Women’s Super League fixture of 2023, Aston Villa began proceedings on a freezing night at the Poundland Bescot Stadium in assertive fashion, as Rachel Daly’s close-range effort, courtesy of Kirsty Hanson’s enterprising build-up down the left-hand side, was instinctively cleared off the line by Brighton’s Maria Thorisdóttir.

The unrelenting attacking pressure from Carla Ward’s side would continue as the game surpassed the quarter-hour mark, with Kenza Dali unleashing a fearsome strike from the edge of the penalty area that flew millimetres over Sophie Baggaley’s crossbar.

Looking determined to break the deadlock before half time, Villa were frustratedly denied on the stroke of the half-hour mark, as the flag of the third official brought a premature end to Adriana Leon’s celebrations after deeming she had strayed into a marginally offside position prior to firing the rebound into the back of the net following Daly’s initial effort.

However, the hosts would be forced to return to the home dressing room feeling similar emotions as Jordan Nobbs and Daly saw respective efforts saved by Baggaley and then fly thunderously wide of the mark.

Victorious in only two of their nine league matches this season, Villa began the second half as they concluded the first as Hanson fired inches over the woodwork. The Scottish international, in theory, could have had a hat-trick in the game, as shortly after blazing off again, this time from close range, following Leon’s dangerous delivery into the six-yard area.

However, there was no denying the latter from eventually getting her name onto the scoresheet in the 63rd minute, as the Canadian international’s persistent work rate on the wing resulted in her nutmegging Baggaley in the Brighton goal at her near post.

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Determined to join her teammate on the scoresheet, Daly again set her sights on goal as last season’s WSL Golden Boot winner stung the palms of Baggaley. Unable to put the game to bed sooner than they would have ideally wanted too, Terland came close breaking the hearts of the majority in attendance with time running out for Brighton to try and salvage a late point, as the Seagulls’ top-scorer saw her fierce strike from distance well-saved by the acrobatic figure of Leat.

Despite being reduced to a numerical disadvantage in the 90th minute as Maz Pacheco was shown a second yellow card after bringing down Katie Robinson, Villa valiantly held to register a much-needed victory in the scale of the WSL standings by leapfrogging Brighton into ninth position.

There will now be a month-long break in proceedings with league action recommencing on the weekend beginning January 20th.