Manchester United Women made their UEFA Women’s Champions League debut on Tuesday, coming from behind to earn a 1-1 draw against Paris Saint-Germain in the 1st leg of their qualifying knockout fixture. The winner advances to the group stage, and despite a rocky start United kept their hopes alive with a strong finish and everything to play for next week.
The right side of United’s defense was terrorized by Tabitha Chawinga for nearly the whole first half, with the eventual goalscorer getting the best of Hannah Blundell on a couple of occasions to create from the wing. Most of PSG’s chances came from her and Baltimore, and came early in the match as well. For the first half hour the Parisiens had nearly all of the possession, and it wasn’t until United were gifted the ball at the back that they actuall found a sight of Constance Picaud’s goal.
One such chance fell for Garcia in the 24th minute, leaping at a wayward back pass by Le Guilly to find herself 1v1 with Picaud. The keeper was quick to it however, already coming out of goal to collect the pass and deflecting Garcia’s touch away to safety.
Leah Galton, the player who forced the issue on Garcia’s chance, was the primary recipient of forward balls for Untied with the midfield essentially locked down by PSG. That changed after the break, and it was a night and day difference for the Reds with the introduction of Geyse.
With the Brazilian forward on the Reds had someone up front who could hold up play and allow teammates time to get forward. They also weren’t funneling the ball down the tight wings anymore, with a little bit more control in midfield than they had in the first half.
The visitors did strike first however, with Chawinga charging onto a ball over the top by Baltimore and arriving unmarked in front of Earps’ goal. The calm finish brought silence to LVS, but it didn’t last for long.
United were right back into the match afterward, and eventually found an equalizer on a set piece through Melvine Malard. Millie Turner got to the ball first, heading it back across for the new signing to convert her second goal in as many games for the Reds.
Malard’s arrival along with Hinata Miyazawa was a big boost for the Reds. The Parisiens still found some chances to threaten Earps, but for the most part the final half hour was controlled by the Reds. They had adjusted defensively, and Chawinga’s departure meant the counter threats were fewer and lacking the same speed and aggression.
As United pushed for a winner late on the ball fell for Geyse, who continually embarrassed defenders, but she struggled to get a clear look at goal for herself. United found opportunities on set pieces with Katie Zelem’s expert delivery, with two late corners and a free kick nearly setting up a winner for the Reds, but they couldn’t find the right connection and Marc Skinner’s side will have to settle for 1-1 heading to France next week for the 2nd leg.
Overall it was a decent debut in the UEFA Women’s Champions League for Manchester United, with a really nice second half performance sparked by the arrival of very talented substitutes. They still look a side developing chemistry, understandable given the new arrivals and summer departures, but they very much look capable of making it to the group stage if they can play their game.