Manchester United Women 3, Everton Women 1 (Women’s Super League at Old Trafford)
Manchester United Women completed a comeback win over Everton in their first game at Old Trafford in front of a crowd of 20,241.
After ex-Manchester City winger Claire Emslie had given the Toffees a shock lead, the Reds replied in style with a double strike by Alessia Russo either side of a Katie Zelem goal while Martha Thomas had a goal wrongly ruled out for offside.
With four WSL games to go for the Reds the victory over Everton restored a three point cushion over Manchester City Women who have a game in hand and are also chasing the final Women’s Champions League spot for next season.Embed from Getty Images
United boss Marc Skinner said his side recovered after a slow start at Old Trafford and he was delighted that two of his players – both United fans – got to score at the Stretford End.
“We didn’t get up to the speed of the game quick enough.” He said, adding: “The best thing Everton did was to score because it kickstarted us.
“I tried to speak to Zel [Katie Zelem] afterwards. For her to score a penalty at the Stretford End, and for Alessia to score too afterwards. It was their dream.
With both Manchester clubs fighting for the third and final Champions League spot, Skinner was more concerned with the that that the Reds have control of their own fate with four games to go and a showdown at Chelsea at the end of the season.
“We’re still fighting to finish in the top three. I don’t care what Manchester City do – they are a brilliant team and can look after themselves.
“We don’t go behind often, especially in the first half so to show that resilience and grit – we grew a lot.
“If we went into the Champions League there will be days like this.
And finally, Skinner called for some of the over 20,000 fans who came to Old Trafford today to see the Reds at their usual home of Leigh Sports Village in the remaining two home games of the season against Brighton and West Ham.
“After today I hope some of the fans from today will come and support us at Leigh Sports Village. I hope they went away proud of their team today.
“We even heard our Barmy Army fans in the far corner.”
Everton interim manager Chris Roberts was disappointed with the result after a good start for his team, admitting that his team’s weakness on set pieces was a real issue.
He said: “We wanted to come here and get a result. United have been good especially in the second half of the season.
“It was a dream start and we wanted to be hard to break down.
”Any time you give Claire Emslie space in the box she can punish you, it’s a pity we couldn’t capitalise on her good start.
“Just towards the end of the first half I felt we were soaking up too much pressure.
“Losing a penalty hurt us and we suffered after that. The girls are massively disappointed not to get anything.
“Set pieces are becoming an issue now, we will continue to work on it.
Claire Emslie scores first but Alessia Russo and Katie Zelem make sure of Manchester United victory at Old Trafford
“We have tried to be level headed in setting up for the game here at Old Trafford but the quality of players in the WSL deserve to showcase their talent at platforms like Old Trafford.”
Maria Thorisdottir and Hayley Ladd came in for Diane Caldwell and Vilde Boe Risa as United recalled some defenders after their game against West Ham.
Izzy Christiansen, Kenza Dali, and Toni Duggan came into the side after Wednesday’s defeat at Manchester City – Hanna Bennison, Lucy Graham, and Simone Magill were the players rested.
Everton silenced Old Trafford after just four minutes when Kenza Dali slipped in an unmarked Claire Emslie down the Toffees right flank and she opened the scoring by firing in at the back post.
After the initial shock of going behind United roused themselves but struggled to find a way through Everton’s packed defence.
Ona Batlle’s cross was headed in by Alessia Russo with the ball looping in beyond Sandy MacIver as United finally found joy from their balls into the box after 35 minutes.
It was Russo’s eighth WSL goal of the season making her the league’s top English goalscorer.
But MacIver prevented a quick fire second for the Reds when she tipped away a dangerous cross into the box from the left by Katie Zelem while Izzy Christensen drove a rising shot high and wide of Mary Earps’ goal just before the break.
Lucy Graham replaced Nathalie Bjorn for Everton at half time and United spurned the chance to take the lead when Ella Toone contrived to blast the ball over the bar from 8 yards out after an inviting cross came in from the right by Martha Thomas after she slipped her marker.
But the disappointment was shot lived after Thomas was tripped by Graham after she lost control of the ball in the area and desperately tried to win it back – a clear penalty.
Zelem stepped up and lifted the spot kick top the right and into the roof of the net after MacIver dived the wrong way.
Gabby George blazed over as Everton were now chasing the game and tried to push forwards leaving more gaps at the back for United to exploit.
Thomas thought she had scored United’s third was thwarted by the offside flag after she tapped in following MacIver’s save from Thorisdottir although replays later showed that Graham was playing everyone onside.
Simone Magill replaced the injured Toni Duggan with 22 minutes to go and Dali was replaced by Hanna Bennison two minutes later with the Toffees still chasing an equaliser.
United’s first change of the game saw Martha Thomas replaced by Kirsty Hanson after 72 minutes.
Emslie got past Hannah Blundell and tried to curl the ball inside of the back post soon afterwards but saw it go wide.
But a loose pass by Emslie soon afterwards was intercepted by Hanson who raced upfield and released Toone whose heavy touch trying to round MacIver allowed an Everton defender to steer the ball away from danger.
Everton were forced to continue living dangerously as United lived on the break in the final minutes but they couldn’t make any headway.
Jade Moore was brought on for the final seven minutes, replacing Jackie Groenen and United finished on the front foot with Russo heading home again from Zelem’s corner to make sure of the win a minute later.
With the points safe, United made their final changes – bringing on Vilde Boe Risa and Signe Bruun for a taste of Old Trafford action, and they replaced Toone and Russo in the 89th minute.
There were acrobatic saves from both keepers in added time but no respite for the Toffees.
MATCH STATS (Manchester United Women 3, Everton Women 1 – Women’s Super League at Old Trafford)
Man Utd Women: Earps, Batlle, Ladd, Thorisdottir, Blundell, Zelem (C), Groenen (Moore 83), Thomas (Hanson 72), Toone (Boe Riise 89), Galton, Russo (Bruun 89)
Man Utd Women subs not used: Baggaley, Harris, Jones
Booking: Thorisdottir 14 (foul on Toni Duggan)
Goals: Russo 35, 84; Zelem pen 53
Everton Women: MacIver, Turner, Bjorn (Graham 46), Finnigan, George, Pattinson, Emslie, Galli, Christiansen (C), Dali (Bennison 70), Duggan (Magill 68)
Everton Women subs not used: Brosnan, Gauvin, Maier, Clinton, Weir
Booking: George 48 (foul on Leah Galton)
Goal: Emslie 4
Referee: Helen Conley