Report: Durham 2 United Women 2
Manchester United Women were held to a 2-2 draw at Durham this evening, but gained an additional point thanks to a penalty shootout victory in the Continental Tyres League Cup.
The Reds had twice led at Maiden Castle, thanks to goals from Ivana Ferreira Fuso and Ella Toone, but were pegged back on both occasions as the game ended all square.
It was then a penalty shootout to decide who would receive an extra point in our opening Continental Tyres League Cup game, as United converted all five spot-kicks with Alessia Russo scoring our final penalty after Becky Salicki had missed one for the hosts.
In front of what was a sell-out crowd, Marc Skinner's side dictated large parts of the opening 45 minutes, as the midfield pairing of Vilde Bøe Risa and Hayley Ladd were vital in setting the tempo of the game early on.
The first real chance of the night came after just six minutes, as Fuso drove at the heart of the home side's defence before laying the ball off to Russo. The 22-year-old’s shot was struck well but Durham goalkeeper Megan Borthwick was equal to the early effort.
Minutes later, the hosts carved their first opening of the game as Ali Johnson did well down the right-hand side, delivering a low driven cross which managed to find the feet of Danielle Brown. The latter attempted to flick her attempt towards goal and the resulting clearance fell to Hepple whose shot was easily claimed by Baggaley in the United goal.
Russo was again proving to be an early nuisance to the Durham backline, as the Reds forward - who has been named in the latest England squad - constantly tried to break the lines and play off the shoulder of the last defender.
The hosts' resilience was eventually broken when Fuso netted her first goal in United colours after a difficult start to her Reds career. It was Russo who drove forward initially and after a superb round-the-corner pass from Staniforth, Carrie Jones squared the ball to Fuso who fired Skinner’s side into a half-time lead.
In a complete contrast to the first 45 minutes, the hosts began the second period as the better of the two sides and began to make life difficult for United almost immediately. Dee Bradley flicked the ball into the path of Sarah Robson who was eventually closed down as the ball rolled out for a corner.
The resulting set piece led to Durham’s equaliser, as Bradley rose the highest at the back post to nod the hosts level just five minutes after the restart.
The hosts' obvious game plan was beginning to show, as the Championship side again began to come forward and rely on set pieces to cause problems in the United backline.
On 72 minutes, it was the Reds who again took the lead thanks to a spectacular strike from substitute Ella Toone. Hayley Ladd did brilliantly to retain possession before laying the ball into the path of Toone who rifled her effort into the top corner.
However the hosts struck back again, as a terrific Beth Hepple free-kick sailed past Sophie Baggaley, sparking jubilant scenes among the home fans.
With the game level, as per Continental Tyres League Cup rules, the tie headed into a penalty shootout in which the winner would gain an extra point in the group standings.
Toone, Aoife Mannion, Ladd and Boe Risa and Durham's first three takers all scored their spot-kicks before Becky Salicki chipped her effort wide, leaving Russo with a chance to finish the shootout which she duly took.
United: Baggaley; Blundell, Mannion, Thorisdottir, Harris; Boe Risa, Ladd; Staniforth (Galton, 68), Jones (Hanson, 59); Russo, Fuso (Toone, 67).
Substitutes not used: Earps, Zelem, Batlle.
Goals: Fuso 35, Toone 75 | Bradley 50, Hepple 85.