Manchester United vs. Chelsea
The Reds’ suffered a first home defeat to Chelsea as the reigning title holders beat an in-form United at Leigh Sports Village.
It was an evenly fought first half where Nikita Parris had a chance at goal go wide, and United’s backline did well to clear several set pieces. Ultimately, the visitors broke through in the second half to maintain their strong start to the season.
Chelsea’s Sam Kerr scored the opening goal before assisting former United striker Lauren James to double their lead within minutes of the first.
United pulled one back courtesy of Alessia Russo to give the Reds hope. Despite mounting pressure, Erin Cuthbert fired a final goal past Mary Earps to claim all three points for the visitors.
Both teams wanted to control the match early on, but United had the first shot on target. Russo charged down the right to force Chelsea’s keeper Ann-Katrin Berger to make the first of several saves. Nikita Parris caught the rebound but put her shot wide of the post.
Chelsea soon grew into the match and applied pressure to United’s defense, forcing Earps to save a succession of set pieces. The referee dismissed the Blues’ claim for a penalty after Guro Reiten lost possession of the ball to young defender Maya Le Tissier. The match got pretty heated after the referee’s dismissal, United defending yet another set piece — this time after James won a free kick right outside the box.
Despite the onslaught, United did well to defend within our back third, with Earps looking very much in charge of the backline. The home attack also threatened to break the deadlock as Russo, Parris, and Ella Toone all making the visiting team work to keep it 0-0 at the break.
The second half started similarly, with both the Reds and Chelsea threatening to break the deadlock. Both showed just why they boast two of the best defensive lineups in the league until just near the hour mark.
The reigning champions got on the scoreboard as Kerr drove the ball into the bottom corner, past Earps. Minutes later Kerr broke through the right yet again, but Hannah Blundell and Maria Thorisdottir recovered and cleared the ball away to give United some breathing room.
That was short-lived, as James raced to connect with Kerr’s assist to put yet another ball into the bottom corner. Chelsea were looking for their third to put the match well beyond United’s reach, but Earps and our defense refused to concede with the home crowd behind them.
Russo pulled one back for United near the 70th minute mark, latching on to a shot Toone sent sailing into Chelsea’s half. United, just one goal down now, pushed for the equalizer. Manager Marc Skinner looked ready to throw the kitchen sink, bringing on strikers Martha Thomas and Rachel Williams. Sadly, Chelsea put the match beyond United’s grasp with seconds left on the clock. Cuthbert got control of the ball just on the edge of the box and played a neat strike into the far corner to seal United’s fate and give us our first defeat of the season.
Despite the defeat, United are still very much strong contenders for the title this season. Skinner’s team face Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium next, in what’s sure to be a thrilling comeback performance.