Manchester United picked up a very vital point against Brighton and Hove Albion in what was a thoroughly entertaining 2-2 draw away from home, as ex-United goalkeeper Sophie Baggaley starred in a game that involved both sides hitting the goalpost multiple times.
After the 5-0 win over Everton had re-energized a slightly misfiring United attack, Marc Skinner made some changes to the side as Nikita Parris dropped to the bench and so did Lucia Garcia. Geyse and Leah Galton returned to the starting XI, as Hinata Miyazawa and Ella Toone operated deeper in a 4-3-3 shape.
United’s issues in build-up were obvious from the beginning, even though they did create some half-chances early on.
Brighton had a couple of half chances of their own in the 19th minute. Mary Earps had missed an attempt to parry a corner and a Brighton player got a head to it, but it wasn’t on target. Seconds later, Elisabeth Terland had a shot go straight at Earps.
A minute later, Earps was tested again as winger Pauline Bremer’s cross from the left hit the post and while it was only accidental, Brighton pulled a save off Earps a minute later as a corner was played well into the box once again.
In the 28th minute, Terland was put through on goal but Maya le Tissier recovered really well to make a challenge and deny Brighton a huge goalscoring opportunity. The chaos, in fact, had only just begun.
But that missed opportunity didn’t deny Brighton from taking a deserved lead a minute later. The Seagulls nicked the ball off higher up the pitch and a couple of quick exchanges later, Maisie Symonds played a perfect pass for Terland. The Norwegian found space between the two United defenders and finished coolly into the bottom corner.
United did have some openings later in the half, as Geyse caused troubles in behind the Brighton defense and had a shot saved by ex-Red Sophie Bageley.
Soon after, Le Tissier set Riviere through on the right and the cross inside was met well by Galton, whose header went just over the post. A case could’ve been made of the fact that Galton should have scored.
Baggaley denied her former club again in the 44th minute and it was a brilliant double save. Jayde Riviere’s curled effort was first parried onto the bar and Millie Turner’s rebound was also saved brilliantly by the 26-year-old.
That was the last remarkable action of the first half and the beginning of the 2nd half was cagey. Terland did have the ball in the back of the net but the goal was quickly chalked off for offside at the hour mark.
United broke through Brighton's lines quickly with an impressive move in the 68th minute, but Geyse’s effort only proved to be a half chance after it fell to the Brazilian at the edge of the box.
In the hope of finding a late equalizer, Skinner sent on the reliable super sub, Rachel Williams, and Spaniard Lucia Garcia.
And a goal did come a couple of minutes later. Galton did really well to steal the ball high up the pitch amidst audible shrieks from Skinner to press and she played in Toone at the edge of the box. The England international’s strike was perfectly curled into the top corner, giving Baggaley no chance to save it.
It was a brilliant way for Toone to break her duck.
In the 83rd minute, Brighton had a huge chance to take the lead. Lee Geum-min’s cross from the right met Bremer perfectly but it was deflected away and it hit the post. The resulting corner was cleared but the clearance fell right at Julia Zigiotti, whose effort from some distance thundered onto the post. It was a massive scare for the Reds, who somehow managed to survive the onslaught.
The beating of the post didn’t end there. Zelem’s cross from a corner at the other end found Williams perfectly, but the ex-Spurs striker’s header smacked the post and went out of play. It was the sixth time that the post was hit in the game.
But the woodwork was hit the seventh time a minute later. Sarri was set up by Lee, who had found herself in a 4v4 situation in the 88th minute. Sarri’s effort was heading into the top corner but Earps saved brilliantly to make sure that the effort hit the woodwork and went out.
But United’s good fortune didn’t last long. The resulting corner was put perfectly on the head of Guro Bergsvand, who beat Earps and grabbed her first-ever Seagulls goal.
Just when it seemed as if it was over, it was Williams who came up with another late, late goal for the Reds. A corner in the 98th minute was fired into the crowd in the middle and Williams found herself free at the back post, leaving her to tap home from close range to essentially conclude what was a really engaging tie at the Broadfield Stadium.
The draw, despite the fact that Skinner would take some positives from it, left United sixth in the table, four points behind league leaders Chelsea.