Manchester United Women resumed their WSL campaign later than intended, as their match against Everton Women last week was postponed due to a COVID-19 scare in Merseyside. They played Chelsea earlier this Sunday, and were handed their first defeat of the season as they fell behind to reigning WSL Champions twice at the Kingsmeadow stadium.
Manchester United: Earps; Battle, A. Turner (c), M. Turner, Smith; Ladd, Groenen, Hanson (Sigsworth 75); Toone, Press (James 55), Galton.
Substitutes not used: Bentley, Harris, McManus, Zelem, Fuso, Heath, Ross.
Chelsea: Berger; Mjelde, Bright, Eriksson, Andersson; Leupolz, Ji (Reiten 77); Kirby, Harder (Ingle 70), Cuthbert; Kerr (England 70).
Substitutes not used: Blundell, Fleming, Spence, Charles, Telford.
Casey Stoney made three changes to the team that beat Bristol City 6-1 in December. Kirsty Hanson, Hayley Ladd and Christen Press started the match for Tobin Heath, Jess Sigsworth, and Katie Zelem, who were all on the bench.
Both teams came out looking to take control early on, with United narrowly coming out on top. It was Chelsea who had the first chance, though. Five minutes in, Sam Kerr came charging down the left and looked to give Chelsea the lead but her attempt was thwarted by Amy Turner.
Christen Press led United’s attack and provided plenty of options for her teammates, and Ella Toone looked most threatening from the right. Chelsea kept mounting the pressure, though, as Fran Kirby charged down the left and found Kerr, who shot the ball to goal. Millie Turner provided the crucial touch to see that ball go wide. Moments later Kerr found herself one-on-one with Mary Earps, but her shot went wide yet again as Earps was quick off her line.
United came back into the match halfway into the first half. Kirsty Hanson crossed the ball neatly in for Press in the 26th minute. Press’s half-volley went just wide of the target, and, moments later, the home team took the lead. United’s defence repeatedly blocked Chelsea’s attempts at goal after Earps saved a shot from Kirby for a corner kick. In the ensuing commotion, Pernille Harder was the first to react, firing the ball into the back of the net and scoring the first goal of the game.
Undeterred, United looked to equalise quickly. December’s WSL Player of the Month Leah Galton ran down the wing towards goal but her cross was blocked. Moments later, Hanson put the ball past Chelsea’s keeper but she was flagged offside. United went into the half-time a goal down.
The second half started relatively quietly compared to the first, and Stoney changed that by subbing out Press for Lauren James in the 55th minute. James made an instantaneous impact, linking up with Toone to curl the ball into the far corner to equalise from the edge of the 18-yard box.
Chelsea seemed undeterred with Man United’s equaliser as they continued to press. Kerr had a chance to reclaim the lead but United’s keeper stood in the way. Minutes later, Kirby put her team ahead yet again after capitalising on a long ball and finishing well past Earps.
Nearing full-time, United looked to get level again as Jess Sigsworth came on for Hanson. The Reds continued to build pressure as James won a corner and whipped it to the back post Millie Turner. Chelsea’s keeper parried the cross away as United mounted the pressure but it was too little, too late.
Despite a valiant attempt, United suffered their first Super League defeat of the season, a result that could potentially prove to be crucial if Stoney’s team hope to challenge for the title.
It was a top-of-the-table clash as Man United Women hoped to extend their unbeaten run and their lead at the top of the table. The defeat sees United dropping to second as Chelsea sit atop the table with a game in hand
United’s unbeaten league run ends at 11 matches. Stoney’s team face Birmingham City next at home, with their match against Everton yet to be announced.