It was a disappointing night at the Academy Stadium, as Manchester United were handed their third WSL defeat this year. The hosts took the lead in the 23rd minute, and they doubled their lead with 20 minutes left, before sealing their victory in the 84th minute.
Defeat in the derby means that United drop to third and trail league leaders Chelsea by three points. Both Chelsea and City — who overtook United following the match — have a game in hand.
Manchester United: Earps; Thorisdottir, A. Turner, M. Turner, Batlle; Zelem, Groenen, Ladd (Sigsworth 70); Toone (Fuso 88), Press, Galton (Hanson, 45)
Substitutes not used: Bentley, Bourne, Harris, Jones, Ross
Man. City: Roebuck; Bronze, Dahlkemper, Houghton (C), Greenwood; Walsh, Weir (Coombs 89), Stanway; Kelly, Hemp, White (Lavelle 85)
Substitutes not used: Bardsley, Taieb, Mannion, Park, Beckie, Morgan, Davies
Casey Stoney made just one change to the team that faced Reading last week, with Jackie Groenen starting in place of Kirsty Hanson, who was on the bench. Hanson came on just before halftime as Leah Galton had to come off with an injury.
United are still playing without Tobin Heath, Alessia Russo, Lauren James, Lucy Staniforth, and Kirsty Smith. Martha Harris has returned to training last week, and was on the substitutes’ bench.
As any Manchester derby, the match started intensely as both teams looked to gain control. City held possession early on, but failed to capitalise. Meanwhile, Christen Press threatened the City defence on the other end, nearly beating the offside line, but the through ball was too long.
United got the first real chance of the match with just over 15 minutes played. Groenen found a long ball on the left and she played Galton through with an excellent pass. Galton’s cross into the box was cleared out, though, and nothing came from the resulting corner.
City won a corner shortly after, converting it to the first goal of the match and taking the lead. Maria Thorisdottir headed the initial cross into the air and the ball found Lucy Bronze, whose shot was deflected into the back of the net.
United came close to equalising near the end of the first half as Hayley Ladd fired a shot from 10 yards out; her half-volley went just wide of the post. United continued to mount pressure with set-pieces, but the City defence held on to deny the visitors. Minutes before halftime, Mary Earps pulled off a fantastic reflexive save to deny the hosts another goal. Galton was subbed out with an injury just before halftime, and her replacement, Hanson, instantly made an instant impact by providing a dangerous cross into the box before the halftime whistle.
United started the second half on the back foot as City came out blazing. Another brilliant save by Earps denied Ellen White a goal from her first shot of the match. The Reds quickly took control, as Press beat City’s defence to cut inside from her left. Her run ended with a shot at goal but City’s keeper Ellie Roebuck held on to deny the visitors yet again. Minutes later it looked like Press would finally get her goal and level the playing field. A long through-ball found Press past City’s defence, and Roebuck came off her line to put pressure on our striker. She attempted a brilliant lob from far out, but the shot was lobbed over the crossbar.
The Red Devils edged closer to getting the equaliser as Press saw yet another chance deflect out for a corner. With 20 minutes left to play, though, City found their goal and doubled the lead. Earps made a fantastic save from a corner kick, but Lauren Hemp fired the rebound into the back of the net — which, despite Amy Turner’s best efforts, hit her head and the crossbar before going in for City’s second.
Press nearly rounded past Roebuck on the counter, but she denied Press again, saving for a corner. Thorisdottir’s header from the subsequent set-piece went wide.
City cemented their victory in the last 10 minutes, as Caroline Weir chipped the ball into the far top corner past Earps.
Stoney was clearly upset with her team’s defence that allowed Reading to score the previous week from set-pieces. The second consecutive defeat sees United lose second place to City. Although Chelsea are currently league leaders with 35 points, both Manchester teams are following close behind — United with 32 and City with 33.
United next play Aston Villa on March 7th, as the Women’s Super League goes on break next weekend for international fixtures.
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