Aston Villa 2-2 Bristol City: Robins earn a valuable share of the spoils in WSL thriller

Unbeaten in their last two head-to-head encounters, Aston Villa manager Carla Ward made the decision to recall Maz Pacheco and Kirsty Hanson to her starting eleven as her side went in search of only their second league victory at home this season. Meanwhile, Bristol City were winless in seven Barclays Women’s Super League matches heading into Saturday’s clash – dating back to the beginning of November.

AVL: van Domselaar; Mayling, Pacheco, Corsie, Patten; Nobbs, Dali, Maritz; Hanson, Daly, Leon

BCI: Yáñez; Powell, Layzell, Evans, Connolly, Napier; Morgan, Rodgers, Jones, Syme; Thestrup

On the back of a 2-1 defeat at Manchester United, Aston Villa were seeking to bounce back at the first time of the asking Poundland Bescot Stadium, and expectantly began on the offensive as the in-form figure of Adriana Leon forced a point-blank save from Shae Yáñez after five minutes. An ambitious effort from Kenza Dali called the Robins’ American goalkeeper into action once again only a few minutes later.

Carla Ward’s side’s unrelenting attacking dominance would eventually pay-dividends in the 13th minute, as Kirsty Hanson’s expert lay-off on the edge of the penalty area allowed Jordan Nobbs to open her goalscoring account for the 2023/24 Barclays Women’s Super League campaign, with a fierce strike, via a slight deflection, that flew past Yáñez.

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However, the hosts’ side lead would last less than 120 seconds, as a mistimed pass out of defence by Anna Patten gifted Amalie Thestrup with an opportunity to get in one-on-one with Daphne van Domselaar. With already seven goals to her name in 13 league appearances this season, the Danish international unsurprisingly made no mistake in netting her eighth, as she confidently slotted the ball past the advancing Villa keeper.

Following a period without any goalmouth action, the game burst back into life close to half-time as Leon fired straight at Yáñez before Hanson’s effort ended up landing only inches over the crossbar.

In a carbon copy of the first half, Villa dominated immediately after the restart, with Yáñez initially doing brilliantly to redirect Dali’s long-range strike out of play for a corner as the ball made its way through a plethora of defenders, before getting down to make a smart save from the same player not long after.

The ghost of first-half’s past would make an unexpected appearance in the West Midlands on the stroke of the hour-mark, as a delicious delivery back into the danger area was expertly slotted home at the back post by Leon to deservingly restore her side’s lead.

However, unlike in the opening 45 minutes, Bristol City could not respond with an immediate strike in front of goal as van Domselaar remained a spectator amongst the home crowd. Nonetheless, the visitors would manufacture another equaliser in spectacular fashion a quarter-of-an-hour later, as Wales international Carrie Jones unleashed a sublime strike from distance that rocketed into the top corner beyond the outstretched dive of van Domselaar.

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Ultimately, despite having a staggering 30 attempts on goal, seeing a last-gasp effort cleared off the line, and Yáñez putting in the equivalent of a match-winning performance in goal with two late saves, Villa frustratingly had to settle for a point against bottom-of-the-table Bristol City in an entertaining midday encounter at the Poundland Bescot Stadium.