Match report as Leicester win their second Women's Super League game of the season; both victories have come in back-to-back home games; Brighton rally late on, but are unable to find an equaliser; Hope Powell's side have now lost their last four league matches
Tuesday 18 January 2022 07:14, UK
Shannon O'Brien's second-half winner lifted Leicester Women off the bottom of the Women's Super League table after beating Brighton Women 1-0 at the King Power Stadium.
The Foxes had won just one WSL game this season heading into the match but responded well against their out-of-form visitors.
The opening 23 minutes was a stop-start, stilted affair littered with injuries and set -lays. However, once the first shot on target occurred, the game started to open up.
The first big chance came for Leicester as they dominated the middle part of the first half. Jemma Purfield sent a free-kick in from the middle of Brighton's half, which Victoria Williams initially nodded away. The ball pinged around the area, before landing kindly for Ashleigh Plumptre. Her strike, although rather speculative, forced a leaping save from Seagulls goalkeeper Megan Walsh.
Soon after, the Foxes went close again as Abbie McManus had a free header towards the back post, but Williams was there again to nod away. Inessa Kaagman also made a fine clearance as Jess Sigsworth looked to shoot from the right of the area.
The pendulum soon swung for Brighton, although they failed to create many clear-cut chances. Emily Simpkins did try her luck on a few occasions - her first effort from range was an easy collection for Demi Lambourne, before seeing a hard shot deflected behind.
Leicester deservedly took the lead 10 minutes into the second half. Sam Tierney's superb pass picked out the run of Jessica Sigsworth down the right. She easily breezed past Emma Kullberg - making her first Brighton start - before squaring for the waiting O'Brien, who neatly finished past Walsh.
Leicester could have added more to their tally too with a string of misses. Plumptre nodded just over from a floated O'Brien cross before Williams made another vital blog to deny Natasha Flint. Sigsworth also fired a weak effort straight at Walsh.
But as the clock ticked down, Brighton found their urgency, aided by substitute Kayleigh Green. She replaced Danielle Carter in the 70th minute and proved to be a handful. The forward just nodded over from Symonds' lovely delivery, before getting in behind the Foxes defence soon after. Green drove into the area with no offside flag-up, but lifted her effort wide.
The final few minutes were frantic in the Leicester half, but they held on for a vital three points that lifts them above Birmingham Women into 11th place. They have won both of their WSL games this season in back-to-back home matches.
However, the result continues a worrying slide for Brighton, who have now lost their last four WSL games, and last six in all competitions. They remain seventh on 15 points.
Brighton manager Hope Powell:
"I'm bitterly disappointed and I have told the players that. By our standards, we weren't good enough.
"Credit to Leicester who were full of fight and desire but we didn't match that particularly in the first half. We were better after they scored but we didn't keep the ball well enough and we came away with nothing.
"Kayleigh [Green] gave us pace and something different up front and arguably should have scored but she did make an impact. Julia [Zigiotti] looked lively and Emma [Kullberg] played very well but overall we need a lot more as a squad.
"The players need to take responsibility. They are going to have to pick themselves up. We prepare them the best we can, so they will have to show some character and do a lot better in the next game against Chelsea next Sunday."
Sky Sports' Charlotte Marsh:
"Not too long ago, Leicester's men's side pulled off one of the greatest ever relegation escapes. We all know how that story turned out, but the 'Foxes Never Quit' mantra is certainly starting to rub off on the women's team.
"Lydia Bedford has now guided her side to back-to-back home wins - their only WSL victories of the season - and have gone above Birmingham into the realms of safety. At least for now.
"The former England girls coach has already put her stamp on the side in such a short space of time. Leicester pressed Brighton throughout an impressive first half, with the Seagulls often unable to deal with their opponents.
"The Foxes should arguably have been a few ahead at half-time and given their season so far, it would have been easy to feel deflated. But they remained composed throughout the second period, scored a well-worked goal and most importantly, defended their lead - even if some of the defending was scrappy in the final 10 minutes.
"But they could - and should - have scored more, which will be an area of focus going forward. However, Freya Gregory looked an impressive addition on her home debut and will give Leicester some real impetuous on the left-hand side.
"While wins are the aim of the game, Leicester have not drawn any WSL games this season. Brendan Rodgers often says 'if you can't win, don't lose' and the women's side can certainly adopt this mindset going into their remaining league games.
"As for Brighton, there might be a few starting to look over their shoulder at the teams behind them. Much like their male counterparts, they often go through spells of great or terrible results.
"Green caught the eye with her substitute appearance. Carter was unable to influence the game, but her replacement topped the charts for shots (2 - joint with three other Brighton players), shots inside the box (2) and touches in the opposition box (3).
"Powell's wealth of experience means Brighton are likely to survive any relegation scares, but they will need to start turning around results sooner rather than later."
Leicester are back in WSL action next Sunday when they host Aston Villa in a Midlands derby; kick-off 2pm. Brighton will host Chelsea on the same day; kick-off 12.30pm.
You can watch free match highlights of both games from midnight on Monday.