Toone turns Man United around; Bayern edge cup semi; Atléti stake case

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Arsenal beat Chelsea in the Conti Cup final, while Manchester City took advantage to go top in the Women’s Super League. Elsewhere in Europe, Bayern Munich set up a DfB Pokal final against Wolfsburg and Atlético Madrid pushed for a Champions League spot in Spain, despite a poor performance.

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Toone turns things around for Man United

Everton took a surprise early lead against Manchester United through Katja Snoeijs, but were unable to hold on to it in the second half as they came away with a 4-1 loss thanks to a brace from Ella Toone.

Three goals in eight minutes turned the tide — one from Millie Turner, then a double from Toone — before Leah Galton put some gloss on the scoreline late on to put United back on track after their 3-1 drubbing to local rivals Manchester City last week.

Toone, 24, is already United Women’s all-time top goal scorer and her brace brought up No. 50 and No. 51 in her tally.

United have now scored 16 goals against Everton this season (a 5-0 away win in WSL and a 7-0 thrashing in the League Cup), and took advantage of Liverpool’s defeat to return to fourth place in the table. But they’ll have to tighten things up if they want to stay there come the end of the season. — Emily Keogh

Blackstenius is a big-game player

On a weekend when in-form Manchester City beat Liverpool 4-1 to take over at the top of the WSL from Chelsea with a game in hand, Arsenal defeated the Blues 1-0 in the Conti Cup final to compound their misery on Sunday.

The London sides seemed to be heading for penalties during an emotion-filled afternoon, after Arsenal midfielder Frida Maanum collapsed off the ball and was stretchered off the pitch, but Stina Blackstenius showed how much she has become a player for the big moments as she struck a winner in the 115th minute.

Blackstenius scored Arsenal’s first goal in last year’s final as the Gunners went on to seal a 3-1 win over Chelsea, and she netted a hat-trick in the semifinal against Aston Villa to book their place in the final this time around. Having spent much of this campaign on the bench, the Sweden international has developed a knack for scoring late winners and her 16th goal in all competitions this season helped add silverware to the club’s cabinet for the second year in a row. — EK

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How Arsenal took the Conti Cup title after ‘stalemate’ vs. Chelsea

Sophie Lawson reacts to Arsenal’s 1-0 victory over Chelsea to take the Conti Cup crown for the second year running.

Aston Villa fail to produce the magic at home

Aston Villa have one of the worst home records in the WSL this campaign. In nine league games, Carla Ward’s side have managed only one win and two draws — the most recent coming in a 2-2 draw against Leicester City this weekend as Rachel Daly salvaged a point in the 75th minute.

Indeed, Villa have not won at home since they beat Brighton 1-0 in December, and their last point there came against Bristol City following a 2-2 draw in February.

Last season, Villa managed four wins and two draws at home, using the home crowd and momentum to propel them into a fifth-placed finish. But with only two home games left, against West Ham and Manchester City, Villa are running out of opportunities to overturn their dismal record. — EK

Paris FC confirm Montpellier‘s fall from grace

It wasn’t so long ago that Montpellier were the default third-best team in France, behind Lyon and PSG. But, after a protracted period of disappointing football and questionable coaching, La Paillade find themselves confined to mid-table ignominy now.

Montpellier’s ability to sign talented players has been a constant over the years, but the pieces have refused to come together for some time as they sit sixth. And Friday night’s 3-0 defeat to Paris FC confirmed Montpellier’s fall (as well as their opponents’ place as third-best side now) as Kessya Bussy‘s brace either side of a Clara Matéo strike proved more than enough for the hosts, who found little resistance.

The introduction of a playoff system to decide the title winner in the French Division 1 Féminine this season will give teams like Paris FC a little more hope going through the season — with the current 15-point deficit to leaders Lyon counting for little at the end of the day. But for Montpellier, who’ve been eclipsed by teams like Paris FC and Stade de Reims in recent years, you have to wonder if they will ever get back among France’s elite. — Sophie Lawson

Bayern’s DfB Pokal semifinal win carries an air of inevitability

With a penalty shootout win over Eintracht Frankfurt, Bayern Munich set up yet another meeting with rivals Wolfsburg as the top two clubs in Germany continued to dominate. Although their cup showdowns have routinely been in the semi and quarterfinals, the last time Bayern were knocked out by any team other than Wolfsburg was during the 2015-16 season (Sand).

Bayern’s annual Pokal meeting with Wolfsburg is something you can set your watch by, and not even a gritty performance from Eintracht could stop that.

Having only just faced Bayern in the league — a 2-1 loss at home — Eintracht went a goal down early on after Georgia Stanway fired home from the spot. But they equalised in stunning fashion when Géraldine Reuteler ripped a belter across the box and into Mala Grohs’ goal.

All square after 120 minutes, it was a close run thing as Eintracht only fell at the last hurdle, with Grohs denying both Lara Freigang and Lara Prašnikar during the shootout. — SL

Atlético stake a claim but fail to impress

At home to mid-table Valencia, fourth-placed Atlético Madrid should have been able to flex their muscles and make a real case for why they’re one of the teams fighting for Spain’s third and final Champions League berth.

Yet the hosts were largely insipid in a 1-0 win that saw them kept on the backfoot during most of the first half. Rasheedat Ajibade‘s goal just before the break settled the tie, but the performance was a long way off Champions League quality.

Atletico did managed to capitalise on defeats for third-placed Levante [5-0 to Barcelona] and fifth-placed Madrid CFF [2-0 to Granada] to keep things tight in Liga F behind Real Madrid. And, given it was Arturo Ruíz’s first game in charge — having just taken over from Manolo Cano — the result may have been more important than the performance.

But Ruíz is Atleti’s sixth coach since 2019 and just feels like the next part-time solution before the Colchoneras move on to the next. Although the recent instillation of a new sporting director — Patricia González, who joined directly from FIFA — speaks to a new era for the former champions, the changes will need to run far deeper than just a new coach. — SL

Does every game actually matter in Italy?

There is a solid idea behind the second half of the Serie A season: when it splits into two mini-leagues to decide both European spots and relegation. It isn’t unique to Italy, or even women’s football, but is intended to give each remaining game more weight. In theory, the idea is a strong one; in practice — at least right now — the status quo refuses to be upset.

On the face of it, Napoli (who are currently heading for a relegation playoff) clinching a 2-0 victory over Sampdoria was an upset and a cause for celebration, but the Tartarughine are still 12 points adrift of the next team above them: Como.

Likewise, Inter’s 2-1 defeat at home to leaders Roma was a strong performance that the hosts probably didn’t deserve to lose. But with fourth-placed Inter sitting 17 points off top spot, (with Roma 10 points clear of Juventus in second), Roma’s march to the title seems inevitable.

With a little more parity across the two mini leagues, there could yet be more room for drama and jeopardy. But, as it is, it’s been clear all season who is at the top and bottom. — SL

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