MAN UNITED WOMEN 1, ARSENAL WOMEN 0
Alessia Russo propelled Manchester United Women a step closer to the Reds playing Champions League football for the first time in the club’s short history.
The England striker struck United’s matchwinner which effectively ended Arsenal’s slender hopes of becoming champions in this clash of two of the WSL’s big hitters which was played in front of a crowd of 6,658 at Leigh Sports Village.
United moved four points clear of second-placed Chelsea who, admittedly, played two less matches.
That leaves Arsenal, who are third and though to the semi-finals of the Champions League, and Manchester City to scrap for the third European place.Embed from Getty Images
United made two changes from the side that gained the thrilling 3-2 FA Cup semi-final win over Brighton on Sunday as Aoife Mannion and Nikita Parris came in for Millie Turner and Lucia Garcia.
Rachel Williams, who came off the bench to score the goal to take United to Wembley was again among the substitutes.
Arsenal were playing for the first time since the 2-1 home win over Manchester City on April 2.
Boss Jonas Eidevall made three changes, including in goal. Manuela Zinsberger replaced Sabrina D’Angelo while Laura Wienroither and Kathrine Kuhl started with both Katie McCabe and Caitlin Foord not in the squad.
It was very much a depleted Gunners’ side as they were without long-term absentees Beth Mead, Vivianne Miedema and Kim Little.
And their injury woes continued when captain Leah Williamson limped off after only 14 minutes with an ankle injury.
It was scrappy clash which only exploded to life in the dying embers of the opening period.
Arsenal’s Norwegian star Frida Maanum conjured the first clear-cut chance of the night but her angled shot was easily saved by Mary Earps as she never looked likely to add to her 14 goals for the season.
United broke the deadlock in the sixth of five added minutes with almost the last kick of the half.
Nikita Parris cut the ball back from the right for Russo to sweep home a low shot for her 11th goal of the season to become outright leading scorer.
And Russo would have doubled the lead early in the second half but for a fabulous save from Manuela Zinsberger.
United were rarely troubled with Arsenal’s lack of firepower noticeable in the absence of Mead, Miedema and Little.