Aston Villa 4-3 Man City: Daly debut brace decides seven-goal WSL thriller

Aston Villa stunned Man City in the WSL's opening weekend
Aston Villa stunned Man City in the WSL's opening weekend / Barrington Coombs/GettyImages

Aston Villa stunned Manchester City on the opening weekend of the 2022/23 WSL season, with Euro 2022 winner Rachel Daly scoring twice on her return to English football.

Daly, versatile enough to be England’s starting left-back over the summer, was signed as a forward for Villa after excelling at the top of the end of the pitch for former club Houston Dash.

The 30-year-old enjoyed a short-term loan at West Ham in 2020 but really made her mark upon her second WSL debut following a permanent summer transfer.

City dominated possession at Villa Park, as was probably to be expected, but the chances were much more evenly spread. It was Villa who raced into a 2-0 lead, setting their stall out when Alisha Lehmann fired them ahead a quarter of the way into the match. Daly then scored her first of the afternoon just after the half hour mark to extend that cushion.

City did pull one back before the interval when Laura Coombs, promoted to a starting role after the summer exits of Caroline Weir, Georgia Stanway and Keira Walsh, halved the deficit.

Whatever City boss Gareth Taylor said at half-time worked because only 10 minutes into the second half and his team were 3-2 in front. Khadija Shaw, now the undisputed ‘number nine’ after Ellen White’s retirement, equalised, before Coombs’ second put City ahead for the first time.

Rather than let the quick double beat them, Carla Ward’s improved Villa rallied and fought back. Summer arrival Kenza Dali made it 3-3, with the 76th minute winner coming from Daly.

City only managed a top three place in the WSL last season after a surge in the second half of the season made up for a dreadful start and they are already playing catch-up this time around after both Arsenal and began the new campaign with commanding wins.

City recruited heavily in the summer in a bid to make up for the loss of five key players and several more. But of seven new signings, only Laia Aleixandri got the nod to start, with Deyna Castellanos and Mary Fowler eventually called on from the bench and Leila Ouahabi and Kerstin Casparij unused.

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