FROM LEIGH SPORTS VILLAGE – Manchester United secured their first ever WSL win over Manchester City to take the title race with Chelsea to the final day of the season thanks to a dramatic stoppage time winner from substitute Lucia Garcia.
Hayley Ladd gave United an early lead, but City managed to equalise through Filippa Angeldahl in the second half despite being down to 10 players after a red card for goalkeeper Ellie Roebuck, before the last gasp goal decided it.
United had started like a bullet train at Wembley a week earlier and saw an early goal ruled out for offside. Here, they brought that same intensity that had been seen in the first half in the cup final and were rewarded when Ladd’s screamer hit the back of the net inside two minutes. Nikita Parris and Ona Batlle had both been involved in the move, while City missed the chance to clear.
In the furious early stages, City skipper Steph Houghton had to throw her body in the way of a goal-bound shot, while Parris also threatened with a close-range header.
Although there was an element of City settling down, the hosts still maintained their threat as the first half progressed and seemed to be winning the majority of duels and second balls. Leah Galton landed a header on the roof of the net, but there were warnings signs at the other when Chloe Kelly smacked the post from a narrow angle and Angeldahl’s shot was blocked almost on the line.
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Parris drilled a low shot that was well held by Roebuck towards the end of the first half, with United moving the ball from left to right sharply after picking off a loose Alex Greenwood pass. Parris continued to cause City no end of trouble and it was her sprint after the ball that led to Roebuck’s dismissal, rounding the goalkeeper 25 yards from goal but being taken down.
Kelly hit the woodwork for a second time soon after the restart, cannoning a header off the underside of the crossbar. United missed their own glorious chance as the clock reached an hour, but Galton couldn’t quite connect in the six-yard box with Alessia’s Russo wicked low cross.
United’s pressure continued to build as the player advantage started to become apparent, with Russo afforded a lot more space to run into that she didn’t have in the first half. But then came the equaliser, briefly stunning the Leigh crowd into silence, with Angeldahl’s speculative cross from the right evading everyone and finding its way into the far corner. Despite being a player down, that sparked fresh life into City as the game reached the final 20 minutes.
United substitutes went close to restoring the lead when Vilde Boe Risa’s long-range effort was unconvincingly parried by replacement City goalkeeper Khiara Keating – Garcia couldn’t sort her feet to turn in the rebound. At the other end, City sub Hayley Raso missed at the far post.
Both goalkeepers made saves in the closing stages, Keating collecting a Millie Turner header and Earps doing well to keep hold of a power drive from Angeldahl. Maya Le Tissier, who had done well against Khadija Shaw all game, then made an incredible goal-saving tackle to deny the Jamaican.
That tackle proved even more important when Garcia reacted quickest in the box to turn Boe Risa’s knockdown into the net from close range. City’s fatigue, playing for so long with 10 players was a factor, with Esme Morgan for the first time giving too much space on that side for Hannah Blundell to cross under no pressure. When it hit the net, the roof blew off LSV.
GK: Mary Earps – 6/10 – Breathed confidence into the defenders in front of her with some early claims, but will expect she have done to stop City’s equaliser. Made other comfortable saves.
RB: Ona Batlle – 9/10 – An excellent attacking outlet from the earliest stages and equally ensured that Hemp was not a problem in the slightest. Out of contract in the summer.
CB: Maya Le Tissier – 9/10 – Covered well whenever City attacked in the inside left channel and wasn’t afraid to put her body on the line against the much more physical Shaw. Her incredible last ditch tackle late on denied City a probable winner.
CB: Millie Turner – 6/10 – Made a few important headers and clearances
LB: Hannah Blundell – 6/10 – Made a crucial block during City’s period of first half pressure. Never stopped running, but Kelly perhaps won their individual battle.
CM: Katie Zelem (c) – 7/10 – Often picked clever passes to release either full-back. Recycled possession well and stopped City from building through the middle.
CM: Hayley Ladd – 8/10 – Combative and fierce out of possession, which actually contributed to her stunning early goal by winning it back.
RM: Nikita Parris – 8/10 – A constant thorn in City’s side. Involved in most good things United did and arguably her best game since joining the club.
AM: Ella Toone – 6/10 – Occupied good pockets of space, but arguably didn”t make the most of it.
LM: Leah Galton – 6/10 – Narrowly missed with a first half header and a chance to kill the game at 2-0, but was generally well marked by Morgan.
ST: Alessia Russo – 6/10 – Had very little in the way of service to begn with and therefore hardly touched the ball for large periods. There was more opportunity to stretch her legs in the second half. Didn’t appear to gesture to the fans like it was her last game at LSV when she went off.
SUB: Rachel Williams (66′ for Russo) – 7/10
SUB: Lucia Garcia (75′ for Parris) – 7/10
SUB: Vilde Boe Risa (75′ for Toone) – 6/10
Martha Thomas (for Galton) – N/A
Marc Skinner – 9/10 – Given the way his team started, he and the staff did an incredible job of picking the players off the floor after last weekend at Wembley.
GK: Ellie Roebuck – 3/10 – Sent off in the first half. Got completely caught in a bad position as Parris was racing through and took the United forward out. Potentially avoidable.
RB: Esme Morgan – 7/10 – Stuck to Galton like glue for the most part, although it became harder as the game progressed and the player disadvantage started to impact.
CB: Steph Houghton (c) – 6/10 – Did admirably in difficult circumstances in the second half.
CB: Alex Greenwood – 6/10 – Not as accurate with her passing as she normally is.
LB: Leila Ouahabi – 4/10 – Given no end of trouble by Parris and ended up being sacrificed once Roebuck had been sent off.
CM: Yui Hasegawa – 5/10 – Made two mistakes – caught on the ball and a botched clearance – that led to the early United goal. Didn’t impact the game as she usually might.
CM: Filippa Angeldahl – 7/10 – Had a goalbound shot well blocked in the first half. Her eventual goal in the second half had more than a stroke of luck about it, but she did well to keep the ball alive in the first place so that it was even possible.
RM: Chloe Kelly – 7/10 – Hit the post from a tight angle in the first half and the bar with a header early in the second. City’s most consistent threat.
AM: Laura Coombs – 5/10 – Chased hard out of possession, but poor when it came to the tackle and didn’t really influence the game with the ball either.
LM: Lauren Hemp – 4/10 – Not her game. Kept too quiet by Batlle.
ST: Khadija Shaw – 6/10 – Appeared increasingly frustrated with her lack of service and was left feeding off scraps. Became more threatening on the occasions City went long and high into the box.
SUB: Khiara Keating (44′ for Ouahabi) – 5/10
SUB: Hayley Raso (76′ for Hemp) – 6/10
SUB: Deyna Castellanos (82′ for Coombs) – N/A
Gareth Taylor – 6/10 – Forced to change things up once the red card happened and it was always an uphill battle from there.
Player of the match – Maya Le Tissier (Man Utd)
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