This afternoon's starting XI to face London City Lionesses! #SAFCLadies I #LONSUN pic.twitter.com/U6w12KWZJt— Sunderland AFC Ladies (@SAFCLadies) January 16, 2022
Perhaps this result should have been expected, given that the Lionesses are a fully professional team and now sit second in the league, 5 points behind league leaders Liverpool who got a late win at home against Watford. But at times the gulf in class and experience was evident to see for those watching live on the FA Player and in person.
The Lionesses got things firing straight away when in the fifth minute of the game, forward Atlanta Primus received the ball in the air and volleyed it home into the bottom left corner. Leaving Cowling grasping at air and the Sunderland defence in disbelief.
Credit has to be given to Sunderland, as after the first goal they started to find their feet and had some attempts on goal. Despite the opportunities though, the lasses were unable to capitalise on the chances, missing the mark by striking the ball wide or heading it past the post.
You could see that the lasses were trying really hard to get back into the game. It was still salvageable if they were just a goal down. But whenever they would get forward, they would either be dispossessed or waste possession by hitting a wayward pass straight to the opposition. This proved to be their downfall, as London would break on a fast counter down the wings and look to play a through ball in and behind the defensive line. It was hard to watch at times, as you could see Sunderland struggling to cope under this constant pressure.
It was in the 31st minute that the Lionesses double their lead. Following on from a corner, the ball is as not cleared and found itself landing fortuitously at Karin Muya’s feet, to just toe-poke it slowly into the bottom right corner.
London City had more opportunities to increase the score. But the lasses put their bodies on the line to block two shots on goal, clearing them off the goal-line and keeping the score to a respectable 2-0 heading into half time.
At Princes Park for London City Lionesses v Sunderland in the @FAWomensChamp. pic.twitter.com/DtiWPd9thf— Abigail Davies (@swanabi) January 16, 2022
Coming out after the break, it seemed that whatever the gaffer said to the lasses in the changing rooms had an effect. As you could argue that for the first 15 minutes after the halftime whistle, they were the better side. The team seemed invigorated and were quickly finding some rhythm in the game, linking up well with each other and mounting an attack down the wings.
But once again, Sunderland rued the chances they had going forward, failing to truly test the Lioness keeper or even have a shot on goal. Throughout the game the Lasses’ biggest downfall was lapses in judgment, whether it was giving the ball away or poor passing. This lead London to constantly counter and with the pace of the wingers, it was difficult for Sunderland to get back in time to defend.
In the 61st minute a defensive misjudgment allowed several London City players to get in behind and beat the offside trap. Cowling had no option but to come off her line and try and close the goal down, but Amy Rodgers had great composure to drag the ball past her and simply tap it into the net to make it 3-0.
One positive was seeing 16-year-old Grace Ede come on in the 65th minute. Despite the result, it’s a great opportunity for Ede to get acclimatised to competitive football and play games against professional teams. These minutes and experiences will be integral to her development and she looks comfortable and confident when on the ball as well as covering at the back.
Sunderland again tried to get back into the game and you have to give the lasses huge credit for not giving up, despite the three-goal deficit. In the dying moments of the game, Sunderland were awarded a small consolation when they were awarded a penalty in the 91st minute, which Kiera Ramshaw calmly dispatched into the bottom right corner. But alas, it wasn’t enough and the Lasses return back to the North East with no points.
Despite the result, Sunderland had opportunities and played some good football for small periods. They were coming up against a very good and in form Lionesses side which are full of talented and professional players. Regardless of the task, Sunderland still continued to go for it and did not let the score deter them.
But ultimately the Lasses need more help. The squad is now down to its bare bones, with many players playing out of position. The likes of Neve Herron, who is a fantastic player and is pivotal in midfield to calm the game and orchestrate an attack, are centrally important for the side but she is currently being used to fill the gap at the back left by Charlotte Potts.
I cannot fault the Lasses or Mel Reay, they are clearly battling hard and making do with the resources they have. But they need support from the club. We need to make some signings and would argue at least three or four need to be brought in. Preferably two forwards and two defenders.
Only when that happens can I see the Lasses perform better. They need help and experience. They’re trying as hard as they can, but more needs to be done to support them on the pitch. Sunderland have a week to recuperate and re-assess before they return to the road again, in an away game at Lewes WFC next Sunday 23rd January, at 2 pm.
One back for @SAFCLadies! @Keys_Safc94 from the spot!#FAWC pic.twitter.com/1baE4Y29R5— FA Women's Championship (@FAWomensChamp) January 16, 2022