Arsenal 0 Manchester United Women 1

Wednesday 19 January 2022 21:15

Manchester United Women are through to the Continental Tyres League Cup semi-finals, thanks to Alessia Russo's sixth goal of the season and a solid defensive display to keep out WSL leaders Arsenal.

Russo's header, from a Katie Zelem free-kick in the 85th minute, means Marc Skinner's side can look forward to Thursday's cup draw and go into Sunday's huge league game against fourth-placed Tottenham Hotspur at Leigh Sports Village with even greater confidence.

The Reds have now won the last five fixtures in all competitions, and have kept a clean sheet in every game of that run.
The victorious United players celebrate Russo's decisive goal.
Clear chances were few and far between in a tense first 45 minutes, with neither Arsenal goalkeeper Manuela Zinsberger or her United counterpart Sophie Baggaley being called upon to make a notable save.

The approach play from both sides was better, with Gunners winger Katie McCabe delivering some dangerous low crosses into the Reds' area.

Meanwhile United's front three of Leah Galton, Martha Thomas and Kirsty Hanson were linking up well before the latter was injured and had to be replaced by Ivana Ferreira Fuso. Hanson was hurt in the early part of the contest and her efforts to play on eventually proved in vain.

The closest Skinner's side came to a first-half breakthrough came on the counter attack thanks to Leah Galton winning possession and Martha Thomas feeding Ella Toone in the right-hand channel. United's no.7 outpaced the nearest Arsenal defender but then rolled a shot agonisingly across the face of the goal. Although the effort actually went out for a corner, the resulting kick came to nothing.

At the other end, Beth Mead dragged a low shot wide after receiving the ball inadvertently from Baggaley, much to the Reds keeper's relief.

United came flying out of the traps at the start of the second half, seemingly under the influence of a stirring Skinner pep talk during the interval. Set pieces taken by captain Katie Zelem, playing on the eve of her 26th birthday, enabled Millie Turner to direct two headers towards goal, the best of which landed on the top of the crossbar.

If the two camps were frustrated by the prolonged stalemate, it certainly appeared that way in a flash point when both managers were shown a yellow card by referee Tom Reeves. Arsenal's head coach Jonas Eidevall angrily took exception to Thomas's challenge on Beth Mead, for which the United striker was booked, and Skinner was also cautioned as a row erupted on the touchline.

Both sides made triple substitutions in a bid to break the deadlock and it was the visitors who almost did that through Vilde Boe Risa. The Norwegian, who scored her first United goal in December's away win at Brighton, found herself on the end of a flowing move instigated by Toone and continued by Fuso. As Ona Batlle cut the ball back, her fellow sub Boe Risa swept a shot fractionally wide of the left-hand post.

Fuso was the first of four subs to come on for United.

Another of Skinner's replacements, Alessia Russo, managed to get an attempt on target after being teed up by Toone but pressure from Arsenal centre-back Leah Williamson, also on as a sub, narrowed the angles open to our attacker.

Russo had the bit between her teeth and in her next surge forward, she won the free-kick that led to her scoring the decisive goal in the 85th minute. The Gunners' no.5 Jen Beattie was booked for a foul and further punishment followed as Zelem whipped in the dead ball and Russo rose to meet it and beat Zinsberger with a brilliant header.

Heath almost broke the hearts of her former club when Arsenal debutant Wienrother hooked the ball across the box but the US international nodded wide when the equaliser was seemingly there for the taking.

In the fifth of seven added-on minutes, Jordan Nobbs tried her luck when a corner found her lurking just outside the box but Baggaley was able to watch the shot sail wide.

It'll be a happy birthday now for Katie Zelem after captaining her side to victory.

United: Baggaley; Blundell, Turner, Mannion, Thorisdottir; Toone, Zelem (c), Ladd (Boe Risa 75); Galton (Batlle 75), Thomas (Russo 75), Hanson (Ferreira Fuso 34). 

Substitutes: Earps, Smith, Jones.

Scorer: Russo 85.

Booked: Thomas, Toone, Ladd.
Watch Alessia Russo's post-match interview.

Fancy being a part of history? The first-ever United Women's game to be played in front of fans at Old Trafford, against Everton in the WSL, is scheduled for Sunday 27 March 2022* at 12:00 BST. Tickets are on sale via

*Date subject to change.