Manchester United keep WSL title bid on track with late win at Aston Villa


In the best traditions of Fergie-time, substitute Millie Turner headed home the latest possible winning goal to help Manchester United stretch their lead at the top of the Women’s Super League to six points.

The centre-back converted Katie Zelem’s much-disputed free-kick three minutes into added time to keep United’s dreams of a league and FA Cup double alive.

Marc Skinner had reckoned it was good to play ahead of title rivals – on the proviso United won. With Manchester City playing Leicester on Sunday and the Champions League semi-finalists, Chelsea and Arsenal, not in WSL action this weekend, this was United’s opportunity to put down their marker.

They may have played one more game than City – and three more than Chelsea, whom they lead by seven points – but the nature of this United comeback could yet power them to their first top-flight title.

Rachel Daly twice gave Villa the lead with superb finishes in the first half, against the meanest defence in the division, yet it was the shot she crashed against the crossbar at 2-1 early in the second half that will stick in the England player’s craw.

Skinner, the United manager, admitted Villa were the better side, especially in the first half, but invoked the club’s traditions under Sir Alex Ferguson in being able to win right at the death.

“It reinforces that we can do that,” he said. “It reinforces that the great Manchester United men’s teams never gave up until way into … well, it’s called ‘Fergie time’ for a reason, right? For me it shows much more about our mentality and it’s a massive sign of what we can achieve.”

Villa dominated United, especially with crosses into the box in the first half, with Lucy Staniforth particularly productive. Up against her former club, the midfielder’s corner invited Daly to time her run superbly and flash her header into the far corner. It was an outstanding, old-fashioned type of centre-forward’s goal.

Leah Galton equalised after Ona Batlle accelerated down the right flank to deliver such a fine low cross that the winger did not have to break stride to sidefoot in her ninth goal of the season.

United’s kept trying to play out from the back but Villa never gave them time, and Skinner admitted they should have played over the press more. “They were all over us, first half,” he said.

Rachel Daly scores Aston Villa’s second goal.
Rachel Daly scores Aston Villa’s second goal. Photograph: Clive Mason/Getty Images

This was a cracking game, the tempo unrelenting. Anna Patten, the Villa centre-back, headed another Staniforth corner against the crossbar and United looked set to lose for only a second time in 19 games.

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Yet at the other end, Hannah Hampton made a great reaction save from Galton and, just before half-time, Hayley Ladd was unfortunate to have a goal chalked off after Hampton, running into Galton, was adjudged to have been fouled.

By that stage Daly had moved level top of the WSL scorers with Bunny Shaw on 18. Maz Pacheco crossed low from the left and Daly was allowed enough time to sidefoot an expert low shot into the far corner with her left foot.

She so nearly completed her hat-trick on the hour. After a period of sustained United pressure, Villa counterattacked in devastating fashion. Nobbs played a reverse pass for Kenza Dali to cross for Daly to shoot against the bar.

How United made them pay. Within two minutes, Hannah Blundell crossed from the left wing and Nikita Parris, left unmarked, headed home the equaliser. With Russo heading over and United using all five substitutes, it seemed like their pressure was not going to pay. But then up stepped Turner.

It was a debatable decision for Maz Pacheco’s foul on Vilde Boe Risa. “It’s a tough one to take,” Villa manager, Carla Ward, said. “The lineswoman’s a yard away and there’s 20 seconds left and she says it’s no foul. The ref’s 30 yards away and says it’s a foul. We’ve had some big calls go against us. Something’s got to change. But my players have been absolutely outstanding.”

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( With inputs from : )


TheNewsCaravan News Desk

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