Man United Women continue their unbeaten run in the WSL with a 2-1 victory against Reading on Sunday, Dec. 13th.
Manchester United: Earps; Batlle, A.Turner (c), M.Turner, Smith; Ladd, Groenen; Heath, Toone (Staniforth 61,) (Zelem 81), Galton; Hanson (Ross 72)
Substitutes not used: Bentley, McManus, Okvist, Fuso
Reading: Moloney; Leine, Cooper, Bartrip, Woodham; Williams (Bruton, 85’), Fishlock, James; Harding (c), Eikeland (Rowe 80), Harries
Substitutes not used: Nayler, Roberts, Childerhouse, Carter
The win ensures United’s place on top of the Super League, three points clear of second-place Chelsea. While MU Women keep a perfect record away from home, the fight for top spot is anything but guaranteed with Chelsea’s a game in hand.
There was only one change in the lineup from the team that beat Villa 2-0 last week. Kirsty Hanson led the attack in place of Lauren James who was absent from the lineup.
Reading created several chances in the opening minutes with Jess Fishlock threatening United’s defence. Their forward Natasha Harding came close to goal as well, making a run to the near post but shooting off target as she failed to connect with the ball coming in from the right.
United were no less threatening on the attack. Casey Stoney’s team showed both defensive and attacking prowess as they had opportunities at goal as well.
Ella Toone’s strike from the left went straight to Reading keeper Grace Moloney, and United kept up pressure with Tobin Heath looking especially menacing from set-pieces. She set up Hanson moments later, whose shot went just wide of goal.
The Reds’ attack finally paid off on the 32nd minute. Leah Galton sped down the left into the penalty box, and powered in a shot past Reading’s keeper to give United the lead. United then had the chance to double the that shortly after. Hanson found Toone unmarked inside the box, but Toone’s shot from inside the box found the side of the net instead of the back.
Mary Earps had a relatively quiet first half, but Reading tested United’s keeper early in the second. She saved a header from Emma Harries and a shot from Harding on the rebound to deny the Royals an equaliser.
Nearly 15min into the half, Reading’s strong start paid off as they drew level. A shot by Fishlock took a major deflection off Millie Turner and found the back of the net as Earps was caught in a misstep. Just like that, Reading were level.
Led by Fishlock, Reading looked close to turning the game around entirely but she was denied by Amy Turner, whose spectacular last-ditch tackle thwarted any chance by the Reading midfielder.
United nearly took the lead after Deanna Cooper fired a shot into the side of the net. Galton drove down the left again and crossed the ball to substitute Jane Ross. It wasn’t meant to be, though, as Ross saw her effort cleared off the line.
Both teams pushed for their crucial second goal and, with less than 10min left, United broke the deadlock yet again.
A corner from Heath found an unmarked Hayley Ladd, who only needed to head the ball over Reading’s keeper. United looked to extend their lead, but Moloney did well to deny both Ross and Heath as the game entered stoppage time.
Ladd’s header made the difference for Casey Stoney’s team, restoring their early lead. United travel to Merseyside for their next match on Wednesday, where they must defeat Everton to advance to the semi-finals for the Continental League Cup. They’ll finally play at home again over the weekend against Bristol City, in what will be their final match of the calendar year.