Manchester United Women extend their unbeaten run and lead at the top of the Super League with a 2-0 victory against Aston Villa
Manchester United Starting XI: Earps, Smith, A. Turner, M. Turner, Batlle, Ladd, Toone, Groenen (Staniforth 11), Heath, James (Ross 61), Galton.
Substitutes not used: Ramsey, McManus, Zelem, Okvist, Fuso
Aston Villa: Weiss, Franklin-Fraiture, N’Dow, Asante, Follis (Silva 57), Petzelberger, Siems, Haigh, Haywood (Arthur 67), Ewers (Syme 80), Hayles (Hutton 80).
Substitutes not used: Rogers, Ale, West, Hanssen.
Man United WFC traveled to the West Midlands, looking to extend their unbeaten run away from home against Aston Villa. There were four changes to the team that beat Man. City on penalties for the Continental Cup: Kirsty Hanson and Jess Sigsworth picking up late knocks and Christen Press out with illness; with Katie Zelem on the bench. Ella Toone, Hayley Ladd, and Mary Earps return to the starting lineup alongside Scottish fullback Kirsty Smith, who is starting her first Women’s League match in two months.
United started the game strong with Lauren James shooting just wide of the net barely into the first minute. Despite a good start, they lost Jackie Groenen early in the match. Groenen shook off a heavy fall, only to go back down pretty quickly. Man United’s medical team determined her unfit to continue playing after an on-field assessment, subbing in Lucy Staniforth.
A scrappy first half with plenty of chances should have given United a comfortable lead, but Villa held on and looked especially threatening on the counter. Villa gained confidence in their possession despite United’s dominance. They were content to break up United’s play throughout the first half.
United kept Villa’s keeper Lisa Weiss busy in the first half, forcing her to tip Ella Toone’s shot over the net. She saw another shot at goal sail just over the net before United finally broke the deadlock. Leah Galton found the back of the net in the 24th minute. Assisted by Hayley Ladd, Galton caught the Villa defence off guard, slotting the ball into the bottom left corner. 25 minutes in, Man United finally had the lead.
Despite United’s strong press, Villa looked dangerous with a chance just before the 30min mark. Shania Hayles sprinted past the United defence to shoot for goal but Earps did well to keep the ball out.
Going into the break, Villa was the better team despite United ending the half with one last attempt at goal.
United were looking to get a second goal almost immediately and it’s a wonder they didn’t quickly double their lead. On the other end, Earps’s failed to clear a lob in from Emma Follis on the other end of the pitch. The clearance ricocheted to Hayles whose shot hit the crossbar. Unlucky for Villa, but United fared similarly just a few minutes later as James’s shot also hit the crossbar to deny her an incredible goal.
As the match progressed, Villa looking more comfortable to break up play and steal a late equaliser. That is, until Toone’s 89th minute lob practically guaranteed United’s victory. Weiss’s poor clearance of Tobin Heath’s shot went straight to Toone, who only needed to lob it over the keeper to seal United’s victory.
We might have controlled the match, but didn’t make it easy for ourselves. Villa was stronger on the counter and easily broke through our high press. Even Casey Stoney was surprised that her team didn’t get a second goal sooner, echoing fans’ opinions. United somehow dominated the match without being threatening, and overall, should be pleased to get all three points.