Aston Villa Women met Leicester City for the first time in the Women’s Super League on Saturday and came from behind to start the season in impressive fashion.
The hosts started the game well, but were undone by the Foxes just before half-time as Natasha Flint’s effort went through the hands of goalkeeper Hannah Hampton.
However, there was a sensational turn around after the break as two goals in two minutes flipped the game on its head and earned their first win of the campaign.
Sarah Mayling equalised on 63 minutes with a stunning free-kick before Remi Allen got on the end of an Alisha Lehmann low cross to give her side the lead.
“Sarah Mayling is one of the most underrated WSL players out there for me,” manager Carla Ward told reporters after the final whistle.
“She was a joy to work with last year, she’s a joy to work with now. She’s so professional, she’s hungry, never causes you a problem.
“I was delighted for her today because that’s actually her first WSL goal.”
@sarahmayling97— Aston Villa Women (@AVWFCOfficial) September 4, 2021
Defender Anita Asante also heaped praise on her teammate, who’s pin-point free-kick inspired Villa’s second-half comeback.
“Sarah [Mayling], we know she’s got that in her locker, she’s done it in pre-season,” Asante said.
“She stood up in the right moment today and got us back into the game with a fantastic goal.
“I’m delighted for her as well, to start the season with the goal.
“Our full-backs are fantastic; I think you’re going to see a lot more from them this season and it’s important that we can get goals from different players.
“To know we have defenders that have that in their locker, it’s an added tool.”
Mayling was just one of seven debutants to start for Villa on Saturday, as Alisha Lehmann, Remi Allen, Hannah Hampton, Meaghan Sargeant, Chantelle Boye-Hlorkah, and Mayumi Pacheco all made their first competitive start in claret and blue.
Hampton’s mistake that gifted Leicester the opener was quickly rectified as the goalkeeper made several important stops second-half to keep her side on top.
With the clock ticking and the Foxes pushing for a late equaliser, the 20-year-old allowed Villa to weather that storm and walk away with all three points.
Asante continued: “Hannah [Hampton] is a fantastic keeper, I think you could tell just watching a number of the saves she made today.
“Of course, errors happen in football and the important thing was the whole team, we stuck together and dug deep.
“She showed her brilliance in important moments, when we really needed her in the final moments of the game.
“We’re really lucky to have a top quality, young goalkeeper who is only going to get better and better.
“It’s what you need, the spine of your team to be strong and it starts with your goalkeeper.
“The mentality she showed and the ability she showed, that gives all of us, especially the back line, extra confidence.
“She’s going to be an important asset for us throughout the season.”