United Women 3 Leicester City 1

Thursday 14 December 2023 21:10

Manchester United Women maintained our perfect record in the Conti Cup with a 3-1 victory over Leicester City on Thursday evening, which sent us to the top of the group with one match left to play.

The Reds got off to a flying start, with our first advance towards goal ending with Lucia Garcia looping the ball over the head of the Foxes' goalkeeper Janina Leitzig in the second minute. Our lead was doubled shortly after through a close-range finish from Lisa Naalsund following a sublime pass from Rachel Williams. 

We allowed the visitors a route back into the game five minutes after our second, when a mix-up at the back between Phallon Tullis-Joyce and Katie Zelem allowed Aileen Whelan to jump in and chip the ball into our vacated net.

The second half adopted a much calmer rhythm, interrupted only through Geyse winning a penalty and Katie Zelem duly stepping up to convert it and seal another three points in this competition. 

Rachel Williams' perfectly precise pass left Lisa Naalsund with a simple finish to double our lead.

It was a perfect start from the Reds. With just two minutes on the clock, Lucia Garcia picked up the ball on the left wing. A quick pass to Ella Toone in the box produced a shot, blocked by the Foxes' Sophie Howard but sent straight back into the path of Garcia, who looped a finish over Leitzig between the sticks.

That set the tone for United, as with just five minutes gone Rachel Williams fizzed a header just wide of the post. 

Leicester pressed with intensity following the early goal, but Marc Skinner's defensive unit had the response, calmly playing around the visitors and building towards an attack.

Following a brief lull in the game, the Reds found our attacking potency once more half way through the first 45, with goalscorer Garcia and Rachel Williams both coming close. However, it was Naalsund that doubled our lead on the 20th minute, latching onto an inch-perfect through ball threaded between the Foxes' defence by Williams. This allowed our no.16 to beat Leitzig to the it and slot home. 

Against the run of play, a mix-up between Tullis-Joyce and captain Zelem allowed Whelan to seize possession and loft the ball over the head of our goalkeeper, reducing the deficit to one. 

The early energy in the game had dissipated towards the interval, but our no.91 between the sticks had to stay alert and pulled off a crucial athletic save to her left following a powerful one-touch strike from Whelan, which ensured we arrived at the break with our lead still intact.

Captain Katie Zelem remained calm to convert from the spot for our third.

Toone nearly got the second half off to a similar start as the first, taking the ball following a lapse in concentration from the Foxes' defence and hurtling towards goal. Opting to take the shot on herself, it was blocked well at the near post by the visiting goalkeeper. Our no.7 got another opportunity ten minutes later, a smart free-kick found the midfielder in space on the right side of the penalty area but Leicester's no.1 was equal to the effort once again.

Aside from those two attempts, both teams struggled to stamp their authority on the second period, with loose passes and slow build-up play seeing most of the play take place in safe areas of the pitch.

With the Reds looking most threatening down either flank, it came as little surprise that the breakthrough in this well-fought half came through a neat bit of skill from Geyse in the box, knocking the ball beyond Josie Green and forcing the defender into a foul. Zelem stepped up to the spot and placed the ball firmly into the right side of the goal, sending the goalkeeper the wrong way in the process.

It was another confident display between the sticks for Phallon Tullis-Joyce.

Garcia once again found herself in acres of space on the left and lifted a cross to second-half substitute Melvine Malard, who was free six yards out but could only direct it straight at Leitzig.

Moments later, it looked as though the game would finally to put out of reach when the Reds won another penalty for a handball from Courtney Nevin. Our captain took the ball once more, opting to fire the same way but with too much height this time around, rocketing the finish off the crossbar. Multiple rebounds followed as a scramble in the box ensued, but the Foxes had enough bodies behind the ball to prevent a fourth. 

In the end, three goals were enough to earn United another three points in the Conti Cup, taking us to the top of Group B. 


UNITED XI: Tullis-Joyce; Blundell, Le Tissier, Turner, Evans; Naalsund, Zelem, Toone (Malard 73); Geyse (Parris 79), Williams, Garcia (Galton 78).

Unused substitutes: Middleton-Patel, Riviere, Ladd.

Goals: Garcia 2; Naalsund 20; Zelem 65 (pen).

Bookings: Toone 68.

LEICESTER XI: Leitzig; Nevin, Howard, Green (Rantala 75), Thibaud; Whelan (Sherwood 89), Tierney, Baker; Cayman, Siemsen (Petermann 61), Goodwin.

Unused substitutes: Kop, Robinson, Draper.

Goals: Whelan 26.

Bookings: Petermann 90+1.