Bristol City Women 0 United Women 1
Manchester United Women’s hopes of qualifying for next season’s Champions League are effectively over, despite a 1-0 win over Bristol City at Twerton Park.
Following a closely contested encounter, Yana Daniëls’s late own goal proved to be the difference, ensuring United would take all three points from the penultimate game of our Women’s Super League campaign.
But due to Arsenal’s victory at Everton earlier in the day, the Gunners remain in third place, occupying the final Champions League spot with a three-point advantage and a largely superior goal difference over United ahead of the final round of fixtures, making qualification for Europe's elite club competition highly unlikely next weekend.
It was an unchanged starting XI from the one that had overcome Tottenham Hotspur seven days ago, for the Reds’ penultimate outing of the WSL season.
Kirsty Hanson played her part in that win over Spurs last weekend, including setting up the first of United’s four goals, and the winger was looking to do the same again on the left flank in the early stages, crossing for Jess Sigsworth who saw her looping header fall wide of the target.
At the other end, the hosts had their first opportunity, with Kiera Steels crashing a shot off the bar after the ball fell to her feet following a corner from the left.
It was end-to-end action in the opening minutes at Twerton Park, as Christen Press followed up that chance with a double opportunity of her own. After her first attempt was headed clear, the American international fired the rebound narrowly wide of the goal.
The activity in the respective penalty areas wasn’t for slowing down, with the home side next to go close to breaking the deadlock. Ebony Salmon met a lofted through ball over the top, where she met the on-rushing Mary Earps who did well to narrow the angle and stop the shot.
The hosts were continuing to push forward and with the next attempt from Molly Pike, a header to meet a cross from the right, they had an opportunity that whistled narrowly wide of the post.
Casey Stoney’s side were continuing to look for a spark in search of the game’s opener and Lucy Staniforth nearly provided that. The midfielder smartly reversed a pass into the path of Ella Toone who found space inside the box but fired straight at Sophie Baggaley in the hosts’ goal.
Staniforth tried her own luck moments later, aiming a low strike for the bottom corner but Baggaley was again well placed to get down and palm the shot away.
On the stroke of half-time, Baggaley was called into action once more. United captain Katie Zelem linked up well with Toone, with the latter again finding space inside the penalty area but the Vixens’ ‘keeper was on hand to gather the effort.
After the interval, Sigsworth was quick out of the blocks for the visitors, in the continued search for the game’s first goal. The forward drove into the penalty area from the right before seeing her miscued effort go wide of the near post.
The Reds did finally have the ball in the net shortly before the hour mark, only for the assistant referee’s raised flag. Toone was judged to have gone too soon to meet Amy Turner’s through ball, and despite the midfielder going on to put it in the net, the deadlock remained intact due to the offside call.
That turned out to be Toone’s last touch of the afternoon, with Jackie Groenen introduced from the bench in her place shortly after. The latter then had a part to play when United got the game’s elusive first goal with just over 10 minutes left to play.
Groenen drove forward and found Press on the left. When the American's low ball was diverted goalwards by Jane Ross, it took a touch off City’s Daniëls before finding the net for the breakthrough.
United, sporting the black-and-white patterned third kit in Bath, nearly got a quickfire second. Having helped to provide the first, Press worked some space from that left side before firing a strike just over the hosts’ crossbar on the half-volley.
Stoney’s side weren’t settling for one goal and went close to doubling the lead shortly before four minutes of added on time was indicated. Hanson brought the ball under control before firing over a left-footed curling effort from just inside the penalty area.
The hosts then attempted to mount a late foray on the United goal in search of an equaliser, but the Reds held firm in those final moments to ensure all three points would be brought back to Manchester, from our final away trip of the league season.
Stoney’s side will now be hoping to finish the WSL campaign strongly next Sunday when Everton are the visitors to Leigh Sports Village for a 14:30 BST kick-off in the final round of fixtures.
Bristol City: Baggaley; Bryson, Sargeant (Mastrantonio 89), Evans, Purfield; Humphrey (Bissell 89), Skeels; Salmon (Woolley 90), Pike, Daniëls; Wellings (Harrison 61).
Subs not used: Håland, Rafferty, Allen, Palmer, Layzell.
United: Earps; Batlle, A.Turner, M.Turner, Smith; Zelem (c), Staniforth; Sigsworth (Ross 65), Toone (Groenen 58), Hanson; Press.
Subs not used: Ramsey, Bentley, Harris, Thorisdottir, Galton, Jones.
Goal: Daniëls (og) 78.
Referee: Lisa Benn.