Hemp and Stanway went close from long range as the home fans’ mood lifted, while Villa became more ambitious going forward themselves but with that came gaps at the other end and substitute Raso curled in from wide on the right for 3-0 before setting up Hemp for the fourth. Raso poked in the fifth on the rebound after Hemp had hit the crossbar.
“When we went 2-0 down we changed formation, and it hasn’t worked,” Villa manager Carla Ward reflected. “It’s something I’ll have to look at, but that’s on me. You have to try and test yourselves against these teams and it’s not worked out today. Right now, I’m hurting. It’s probably the worst feeling since I’ve been the manager.”
Analysis: City ‘not out of the woods yet’ but victory provides hope for salvaging season
This result won’t entirely eradicate questions about Taylor’s future forever, but it will certainly lift the mood and ease the tension around the club, after a week where the former Wales forward had faced a lot of difficult questions from the media.
With a three-week gap now until their next game, with a women’s international break imminent, Taylor will have known that all football managers around the world can be vulnerable at such moments in the fixture list – with recent examples such as the departures of Dean Smith from Aston Villa and Daniel Farke from Norwich at the start of the men’s international break serving as examples.
For that reason, Saturday lunchtime’s victory over Villa could prove to be a huge one for Taylor and the team. That said, sources behind the scenes had always given off the impression the club intended to give Taylor time to turn things around, even after last week’s 4-0 thrashing by rivals Chelsea had left them ninth in the table, and there was certainly no sign of an imminent managerial change.
Nonetheless, the empathic nature of this win could prove to be a turning point in the club’s season.
They have climbed from ninth to sixth with their third win of the WSL campaign and they are now just two points behind neighbours Manchester United, who have the tough task of hosting league leaders Arsenal on Sunday.
Manchester City’s next two games, and their only two remaining fixtures before Christmas, are against struggling, manageress Birmingham City and ninth-placed Reading, both of whom they will expect to beat, which could stabilise their league position somewhat ahead of the winter break if they can repeat Saturday’s level of performance.
And by the turn of the year, it is hoped that injured international stars such as Lucy Bronze, Steph Houghton and crucially goalkeeper Ellie Roebuck could all be back fit and available, or at least much closer to returns, potentially setting up last season’s runners-up for a belated push towards the Champions League places in the second half of the season.
That’s a European push which, at 0-0 at half-time against Aston Villa, will have felt much, much further away. And as Taylor reiterated to the media after the game, they are “not out of the woods yet”. But with their flurry of late goals, the City players brought smiles back onto their fans’ faces at last and gave them renewed hope that they can salvage something positive from this most testing of seasons.
Manchester City (4-3-3): Taieb; Stanway, Scott, Greenwood, Stokes (Mace, 80); Angeldahl (Losada, 73), Walsh, Weir (Coombs, 80); Park (Raso, 64), White (Shaw, 64), Hemp
Subs not used: Beckie
Yellow cards: None
Goals: Weir 48, Stanway 51, Raso 77, 81, Hemp 78
Aston Villa (5-4-1): Hampton; Mayling, Sargeant, N’Dow, Asante, Pacheco; Arthur (Boye-Hlorkah, 45), Allen, Ewers (McLoughlin, 69), Petzelberger; Lehmann (Gielnik, 69)
Subs not used: Rogers (gk), Hutton, Haigh, Gregory, Brown, Littlejohn
Yellow cards: None
Referee: Abigail Byrne (Suffolk)