After I recently penned a piece debating whether Gareth Taylor is still the right manager for Manchester City, his team have subsequently gone on to bank two back-to-back wins.
The first came in the form of a blistering 7-0 against Tottenham in the Women’s Super League. City then beat Aston Villa 2-1, thanks to the heroics of star winger Lauren Hemp.
Manchester City vs Aston Villa: first half
The game started at a quick pace, with Bunny Shaw having a guilt edged chance to open the scoring with a header going just over the bar. A defensive mix-up for City gave Jordan Nobbs a chance to score, but her effort was blocked off the line.
The resulting corner was cleared and the ball came in from Kenza Dali. The French star set up Danielle Turner to hook an audacious no-look shot into the top corner.
Afterwards, it became the Lauren Hemp Show. What more can be said about this freight train? Watching her in full flow made me feel like and finally understand Francis Bourgeois — the infamous trainspotter who made his name on TikTok.
Whenever she ran at Sarah Mayling — her latest victim in a long line of right-backs — I did find myself making the same face as Bourgeois whenever a train would pull into a station. If you haven’t checked his videos out, please do, they make for excellent viewing.Embed from Getty Images
Dangerous Lauren Hemp
The first warning shot from Hemp came when she connected with a volley that narrowly flashed wide of the post. Afterwards, she hounded Villa in and out of possession, becoming a one-woman show who City looked to every time to break down this stubborn Villa defence.
However, the only real chances of note given to City were self-inflicted by Villa as they tried their darndest to give the Sky Blues a chance to draw. Their insistence to pass it out the back led to numerous half scares and one exorcist inspired fright.
Mayling, who inexplicably passed it in her own box to Shaw of all people, had her blushes spared as a goalmouth scramble ensued and ended with Daphne Van Domselaar saving a close-range Chloe Kelly shot.
Manchester City vs Aston Villa: second half
Taylor stated that going into half-time, he emphasised the team had to start on the front foot and keep their aggression up. They heeded his words as City put the pressure on. Villa retreated further back, with their defenders almost stepping on Van Domselaar’s toes.Embed from Getty Images
The pressure told in the 61st minute as a Kelly cross was headed in at the back post by Hemp. Just four minutes later, Hemp completed her double. An excellent header back across goal from a corner was tapped into the empty net for her fifth of the season.
Hemp almost completed her hat-trick after another cross by Kelly, but the Dutch shot-stopper put on her best Reed Richards impersonation and stretched to stop Hemp from collecting the match ball.
City’s ace: Lauren Hemp
It speaks volumes that Hemp was by far the best player on pitch containing multiple internationals and the current WSL Player of the Season in Rachel Daly. Truth be told, the Villa star hardly had a kick, cutting a frustrating figure and often arguing with Dali about not finding her runs.
Nevertheless, this does not take away from England’s star winger Hemp and her quality performance. She carried a relentless drive to get her side back in the game, never stopping in running, coming into the half-space as an option in possession and towards the end of the game, making lung-busting carries with the ball to get teammates up the pitch and wind the clock down.Embed from Getty Images
It was an indomitable display of spirit and quality by the four-time PFA Young Player of the Year. If you haven’t booked a ticket on the Hemp Express, you are sorely missing out. And the next stop could be an upgrade to Player of the Year.
It’s astonishing that a manager with a 71.4 percent win record anywhere could be seen as under pressure. However, that is Taylor’s reality. Back-to-back victories including a 7-0 and a comfortable victory against Villa though should certainly lessen the pressure gauge.
Yet, these victories were expected against sixth and tenth placed Tottenham and Aston Villa. These wins propelled the Cityzens to third. They also gave City their third win in a row to put them three points behind Arsenal and Chelsea.
The pressure is on Taylor to deliver silverware and put up a good fight for the WSL title. Especially after last season’s shock of missing out on the Champions League. But with superstars like Hemp at his service, the goal of being number one may not be that far off.