Manchester United put an end to their losing streak with a convincing win as they hosted Aston Villa over the weekend. United suffered two back-to-back defeats against cross-town rivals City and Reading, having lost just one of their 14 matches prior.
Manchester United: Earps; Batlle, A. Turner, M. Turner (Thorisdottir 79), Harris; Zelem (c), Groenen (Ross 79); Hanson, Staniforth (Ladd 63), Toone (Fuso 62); Sigswoth (Jones 88)
Substitutes not used: Bentley, Bourne
Aston Villa: Weiss; Hutton, Asante, Haigh (Hanssen 45), N’Dow (Siems 72), Ale; Arthur (Syme 84), Ewers (c), Hayles (Follis 45); Iwabuchi, Larsen
Substitutes not used: Rogers, McLoughlin, Gregory, Silva
Casey Stoney made just two changes to her team, with Christen Press and Leah Galton out of the lineup. Galton will be missing for the next few months as she suffered ankle ligament damage in the Manchester derby a few weeks ago. Carey Jones also made her Manchester United debut, coming on as a sub for Jess Sigsworth.
Manchester United easily secured all three points with goals from Kirsty Hanson, Sigsworth and Katie Zelem, as the team vies for a spot in Champions League football.
The Reds took control of the match from kick-off, with Villa struggling to get out of their own third. Sitting deep actually helped Villa fend off United’s early attacks, but the hosts broke through in just 27min.
Lucy Staniforth forced an error fromVilla midfielder Chloe Arthur, and Hanson took possession of the ball just outside the penalty area. Her shot on-goal was deflected off of Villa defender Natalie Haigh for goal.
The goal was just the reward United needed to keep the pressure mounting, as they created several chances shortly after. Stoney’s side doubled their lead just before halftime, with Staniforth getting into the fray again.
Stepping up to take a set-piece from the right after a tackle on Jackie Groenen, Staniforth’s shot curled in to find Sigsworth, whose powerful header was going only in one place: the back of the net.
Villa made a double substitution in the break, hoping to turn their fortunes, but United kept their foot on the gas and made it difficult for Villa to get into the match.
United saw several attempts thwarted by Villa’s defence, with shots by Ella Toone’s and Staniforth’s falling just short of goal. But with less than 20min left to play, the Reds made sure that the pressure paid off. Hayley Ladd played the ball to Katie Zelem, who was in the six-yard box and easily guided it into the back of the net.
United were able to finish off the match rather comfortably, as Ivana Fuso’s shot in stoppage time went just wide. Villa struggled to fend off the hosts’ onslaught as the Reds clearly looked the more dominating team.
The Reds’ showed some signs of rustiness as they were playing for the first time in a few weeks, following the international break. Mary Earps also had a quiet match, as Villa failed single shot on target and are just four points clear of the relegation zone.
United are now six points behind league leaders Chelsea, who beat West Ham later on Sunday. Stoney’s team next face Arsenal on March 19th, who thrashed Birmingham City in a 4-0 victory.
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