The pressure to secure a spot in the Champions League mounts. Manchester United Women lost 2-0 by Arsenal at Meadow Park on Friday. Manchester United are now third in the Super League with Arsenal — who have a game in hand — three points behind in fourth. Let’s take a look in our women’s recap.
Manchester United: Earps, Batlle, A. Turner, M. Turner, Harris Zelem (c), Groenen (Ladd 82) James (Sigsworth 62), Staniforth, Toone Press
Substitutes not used: Bentley, Thorisdottir, Hanson, Ross, Smith, Jones, Bourne
Arsenal: Zinzberger; McCabe, Wubben-Moy, Little (Patten 86), Maritz Roord (Gut 82), Walti, Van de Donk (Nobbs 86) Miedema (Evans 91), Mead, Foord
Substitutes not used: Williams, Stenson, Maier
Casey Stoney made just one change from the team that beat Villa last week, with Ivana Fuso absent from the lineup. Manchester United are still missing Leah Galton and Tobin Heath, both of whom are recovering from injuries.
United started on the back foot almost immediately, as we fell behind after just three minutes. Caitlin Foord charged at the United defence, playing in teammate Jill Roord. Roord looked to cut the ball across the six-yard box, but it took a huge deflection from Millie Turner’s leg as she tried to block the shot; out of reach of keeper Mary Earps, the ball went into the back of the net to give the hosts an early lead.
Unfazed, Lauren James threatened to equalise by cutting inside the penalty area, but aimed the ball at keeper Manuela Zinsberger. Christen Press tried her luck shortly after, but an Arsenal defender closed down the strike to deny her. United’s best chances at goal came from the left, particularly from Ona Batlle.
Twice, the Spanish international won the ball inside Arsenal’s half, leading to excellent chances for her team that weren’t converted. Batlle first played the ball to Jackie Groenen who turned to play it to James. James looked clear to equalise, but fired her shot over the goalpost. Batlle won the ball back following the goal-kick and played Lucy Staniforth forward. Staniforth passed the ball into the box for Ella Toone, who couldn’t make contact to convert it to a goal.
Despite having their opportunities to equalise, the Reds nearly doubled their deficit as Roord slipped past United defenders again. She wasn’t getting past Earps, who collected the ball to eliminate any danger going into the break.
Arsenal came charging right out of the gate. Beth Mead cut in from the right and launched her shot just wide of the post — which Earps would have dealt with comfortably if needed.
Earps had an eventful evening, having to parry a Vivianne Miedema cross shortly after for a corner. The subsequent kick in resulted in Arsenal doubling their lead, though. Carlotte Wubben-Moy rose to meet the ball in, nudging the ball past Earps into the net just six minutes into the half.
With half an hour left to play, Arsenal were reduced to 10 women as Mead got a second yellow card. Her challenge was never going to get the ball, bringing down Staniforth instead and leaving the referee no choice. This gave United a much-needed boost, who were clearly struggling to bounce back from conceding the second goal.
By this point Arsenal looked comfortable to just sit back and protect their lead. United were up to the task of breaking down the hosts’ defence but it proved to be an impossible task. Toone thought she’d beaten them, playing in Jess Sigsworth to brush the ball to the back post but was ruled offside. Katie Zelem found herself with ample room to give United a consolation goal with minutes before the full time whistle, but chipped her shot just over the bar.
An overall disappointing evening in London, as the early own-goal set the tone for United’s match against Arsenal. The hosts held on and doubled their lead to edge closer to the top three of the Super League, despite playing most of the second half with 10 players.
The result sees the gap narrowed in the race for Champions League football. Jo Montemurro’s team move within three points of the Reds in the table, with a game in hand. Stoney’s women play West Ham next on March 27th. The match will be played at Old Trafford, with the Premier League on international break.