Brighton defeat West Ham to record first-ever back-to-back WSL victories

Brighton's Aileen Whelan is congratulated by her teammates.
Brighton's Aileen Whelan is congratulated by her teammates after her match-winning goal against West Ham United at The Peoples Pension Stadium in Crawley. (Photo by IMAGO)

Following their win against Chelsea at the weekend, Brighton & Hove Albion are flying high. They carried this confidence with them as they defeated West Ham United 1-0 in an icy midweek match.

The Seagulls are in uncharted territory. Since entering the Barclays FA Women’s Super League in 2018, never before have they recorded two league wins back-to-back.

After only obtaining a single point from their six December and January fixtures, it’s certainly a nice change of pace for the Albion.

How the teams lined up

Brighton (4-2-3-1): Megan Walsh, Danique Kerkdijk, Maya Le Tissier, Aileen Whelan, Megan Connolly, Lee Geum-min (Rianna Jarrett 90′), Inessa Kaagman, Nora Heroum (Libby Bance 74′), Emma Koivisto, Ellie Brazil, Victoria Williams

West Ham (4-2-3-1): Mackenzie Arnold, Cecilie Redisch (Adriana Leon 38′), Maz Pacheco, Gilly Flaherty, Kateřina Svitková (Nor Mustafa 90′), Kate Longhurst, Lois Joel, Martha Thomas, Grace Fisk, Emily van Egmond, Laura Vetterlein

How the match unfolded

Brighton began the match with force. Their attacking chances prevented West Ham from mustering any legitimate opportunities. That is, until the 26th minute when Emily van Egmond headed a corner towards goal.

After taking care of that goal-line effort, Brighton got back on the front foot. Their pressure paid off after they were awarded a corner on the other end. Megan Connolly stepped up and, in a repeat of last week’s opening goal, Aileen Whelan was there to send it into the back of the net.

The Hammers weren’t totally out of the battle. Before half-time, Laura Vetterlein took a dangerous free-kick. The ball fizzed past goalkeeper Megan Walsh before hitting the crossbar.

As the second half came around, West Ham never looked to threaten Brighton’s lead. Maz Pacheco had an early chance, but the Seagull defense quickly suffocated the effort.

From there, Brighton continued to push forward. Ellie Brazil had the chance to score another for the home side, but Vetterlein made a sensational tackle in the final third to deny the opportunity.

In the end, West Ham lacked the creativity to really threaten Brighton. The East London club now edge closer to relegation with several difficult fixtures ahead.

What the result means

Brighton are now on track to beat their points-per-game tally from their two previous seasons. It’s exactly the kind of “competitive edge” that head coach Hope Powell alluded to going into the season.

*Results as of 10 February 2021.

While there is still much to improve on, the Seagulls’ wins against Chelsea and West Ham are vital for their progression. It shows that they can contend with the best in a league where the London and Manchester clubs typically steal the spotlight.

For the Hammers themselves, a transition to the FA Women’s Championship is looking more and more likely. Bristol City currently sit at the bottom of the league table, but the Robins have shown promise in recent weeks.

Be it as it may, West Ham will have to capture points sooner than later. Though, their matches against Midlands clubs Birmingham City and Aston Villa might be their best chances at avoiding relegation.