By Frankie Christou
CHRIS PHILLIPS believes that facing “top-class international players” will give his youthful side the experience they need to improve after Millwall Lionesses lost 4-0 to West Ham United Women in the FA Continental Cup last Sunday.
West Ham opened the scoring in the fifth minute when Esmee De Gaaf fired home after a Jane Ross header had been saved by goalkeeper Chloe Sansom.
Three minutes later, West Ham doubled their lead when Yelena Priest headed only as far as Brianna Visalli, who sent the ball flying into the top corner from the edge of the box.
The hosts finished a fifteen-minute raid on Millwall’s goal when Sansom again parried from Ross into the path of Rosie Kmita, who tapped home from six yards.
Millwall regained their composure after the break and defended well, with Beth Powell making several blocks to deny former Manchester City striker Ross.
However, De Gaaf got her second of the game after she got on the end of a deep free-kick and kept her composure to find the back of the net.
“West Ham are a top-division side, they’re a full-time team and have players who have played in the Champions League, won Super Leagues and won FA Cups so it was a hard game for our girls,” Phillips told the News after the game.
“I felt we worked hard throughout the game. The first half again they had to learn a new tempo similar to the levels that we have already experienced against Charlton and Lewes. I felt we came out in the second half and our shape out of possession was better.
“It is frustrating that we concede from a set-piece with five minutes to go in the second half because the girls deserved to finish the second half without conceding.
“We have got two sixteen-year-olds in our starting XI and other seventeen and eighteen-year-olds, so they are going to learn from playing against top-class international players.
“I feel like [the defence] dealt with a lot that was thrown at them. You had Jane Ross who was leading the line for Man City last season in the Champions League and now she’s come to West Ham.”
The Lionesses have started slowly in all three of their opening matches and have conceded goals from individual defensive errors, but Phillips insisted that the team will continue trying to play out from the back.
“It’s a philosophy of mine and that’s how we want to play football,” he continued. “The girls have got to learn and they have to learn quickly but unless I keep encouraging them to do it they are not going to learn.”
Powell started the game as part of a back three after playing at full-back and in the centre of midfield for the Lions in previous matches, and the versatile player was brutally honest in her post-match evaluation.
She said: “First half, I don’t think that is a performance we can be proud of. In the second half, we dug in and it was a shame to let that fourth goal in at the end.
“But we were a lot better in the second half.
“[Sunday] is forgotten about now and Wednesday is a league game, so that is where our focus has to be straight up until then.”
For a report on that Lionesses game against the London Bees, go to southwarknews.co.uk.
Phillips’ side are back in league action at Princes Park in Dartford this Sunday when they face Crystal Palace. Kick-off is 3pm.