Manchester United were held to a 1-1 draw by Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium, despite rather impressive performance by the Reds’ attack.
United have never beaten City in the WSL since their inception and Sunday’s outing presented a golden chance, as the Reds came into the game on the back of wins over Arsenal, Aston Villa and Everton in the Conti Cup. City had also won their last three games, but United were higher up in the table.
Marc Skinner made sure that United were unchanged from the previous WSL game which had seen his side beat Aston Villa 5-0 at Old Trafford. As Mary Earps started in goal, Ona Batlle, Maya Le Tissier, Millie Turner and Hannah Blundell started at the back. The reliable midfield duo of Katie Zelem and Hayley Ladd started together as well, just behind the just as reliable front four of Ella Toone, Leah Galton, Nikita Parris and striker Alessia Russo.
United did start the game well but it was City who got the first genuine chance of the game and it nearly led to an unlikely goal. Ex-Red Alex Greenwood’s corner nearly sneaked into the front post. Earps used one arm to make a last ditch save and managed to keep it out. Khadija Shaw, who has always impressed against United, looked promising and constantly looked to conduct play and go past players.
Despite City’s dominance, it was United who took the lead in the 26th minute. Galton and Toone had combined down the left flank, with the latter setting up the former for a finish that deflected off Greenwood, leaving City keeper Roebuck rooted to her spot. Galton’s goal meant that has four goals in her last eight appearances for United.
United began to look brighter in the wide areas and a good cross from Batlle’s weaker foot nearly met Russo, who couldn’t reach the ball in time. A minute later, Russo nearly managed to set up Parris when United broke on a counter and found themselves in a 3v3 situation. But Parris was just inches away from the through ball and United were inches away from taking the lead once again.
City’s goal in the 2nd half came against the run of play, which is generally unlike them. Chloe Kelly’s cross from the right was missed slightly by Shaw, but this led to Coombs getting a free header at the back post and converting with considerable ease past Earps.
After having conceded the equaliser, United began to dominate possession and began operating higher up the pitch. Ladd’s volley was saved easily after Batlle had set her up following her good run down the right. The Spanish right-back was once again flying forward regularly on the right and had an impressive game.
That period of possession didn’t last too long for United, as City recovered some momentum. A cross from the left nearly ended up at Shaw’s feet but it was cleared away by Turner. A minute later, Kelly sent a volley soaring over the post after finding herself free at the backpost.
United did have a chance of their own on the break, as Toone set up her England teammate Russo, but Greenwood defended well to marshal her and United forward’s shot went just wide. Batlle was involved in another chance in the 76th minute, as her excellent cross from the right reached Russo, who couldn’t control her header and shot over the post.
In the 80th minute, United had a huge chance to take the lead. Galton’s cross from the left was met by Martha Thomas’ head and it was saved by Roebuck from point blank range. She nearly dropped the ball after the save, but gobbled it up later.
United did have another chance in stoppage time, as Galton’s cross nearly fell to Garcia after Roebuck had given the ball away. Garcia was convinced that the ball had struck the defender’s hand and Greenwood, at the centre of things again, had touched the ball with her hand but only when she had gone down and it wasn’t deliberate. The referee waived away the protests and another chance went begging for United only seconds before full-time.
With Arsenal having a game in hand, United are at risk of dropping to third as the gap between the Reds and the Gunners is only one point. Chelsea remain at the top, two clear of Skinner’s side.