MANCHESTER UNITED WOMEN 4, WEST HAM WOMEN 0
Manchester United reclaimed top spot in the Women’s Super League following a comprehensive win against mid-table West Ham in front of a crowd of 27,919 at Old Trafford.
Four second-half goals from Oldham’s Katie Zelem, a penalty, two from substitute Lucia Garcia and Hayley Ladd secured victory for the Reds.
But with only three points separating the top four – and only three Champions League places up for grabs – United can ill afford any slips.
Once United got their noses in front early in the second period, there was never any doubt as to the outcome for Marc Skinner’s side.
Skinner said: “It was a tale of two halves. In the first, we were not quick enough, not progressive enough and our build up was slow.Embed from Getty Images
“At half time, we had a few words and recognised the need to be better and have that Red Devils energy. We were much better in the second half.”
Skinner was delighted with Garcia explaining he had an honest conversation with the Spaniard in midweek.
“It has taken her time to settle, and that is the reason we signed her. She was excellent and this is the Lucia Garcia we need,” he said.
Skinner added it was the third time the women had played at Old Trafford, and this was the first time in felt like home.
Hammers’ manager Paul Konchesky said: “We knew that Manchester United were going to be strong throughout the game, especially in the second half.
“When you take them to 0-0 at half-time, we knew they probably would have a rocket and would come out quick but we held it for 55 minutes and after conceding the first goal it was always going to be tough to bounce back. We caved in a little bit, and we conceded more goals than we wanted to.
“Three out of four goals were probably our fault. We need to stop making mistakes and need to be more ruthless especially in defence and when we go forward.”
Skinner made five changes to the side which won 3-1 at Lewes in the FA Cup quarter-final, with Ella Toone and Nikita Parris among those returning to the side.
Leah Galton was also back in for her 100th Manchester United appearance.
There was one change for West Ham from their 2-1 loss at home to Aston Villa a fortnight ago, but it is significant.
Captain Dagny Brynjarsdottir was recalled replacing Lisa Evans.
For their total domination possession wise, United created few clear-cut chances in the opening period.
The most gilt-edged opening came in the eighth minute when Alessia Russo sliced an effort wide from in front of goal following a cross from the right.
The Reds might have also had a penalty after a strong shout following a push by Hawa Cissiko on Hayley Ladd.
The Hammer have now stopped the opposition from scoring a first-half goal in 10 of their 16 games, only Manchester United (15) and Chelsea (11) have done this more often in the Women’s Super League this season.
But the resistance of the Hammers was broken soon after the restart.
Russo, who headed narrowly over from Zelem’s corner, was brought down by Cissoko who slid in to make a tackle but clearly took the player rather than the ball.
Zelem stepped up in the 52nd minute to smash the spot kick into the top corner, her third goal of the season.
The Reds took another stride towards victory midway through the half with a goal from substitute Garcia.
The Spaniard was picked out by a fine cross-field pass from Ella Toone before firing home a low shot, her fourth goal of the season.
The third goal was the icing on the cake, a brilliant build up involving Garcia and Ona Batlle who delivered the pass for Ladd to sweep home a low shot for her third goal of the season.
United keeper Mary Earps pulled off a great save to claw a free kick by Viviane Asseyi to safety from under the crossbar.
The Reds added a fourth in stoppage time when substitute Martha Thomas’ shot was parried by keeper Mackenzie Arnold only for Garcia to fire home the rebound and her fifth of the campaign.