Manchester United Women 2 Liverpool 0

Saturday 28 September 2019 14:30

Manchester United Women are celebrating a first-ever win in the Women’s Super League, 2-0 over Liverpool at Leigh Sports Village, thanks to Lauren James’s clinical finish on the eve of her 18th birthday and an injury-time penalty by captain Katie Zelem.

James, who had rattled the crossbar in the first half, fired past the visitors’ overworked goalkeeper Anke Preuss from a Jess Sigsworth pass in the 71st minute. Zelem’s spot-kick sealed the victory over her former club after the lively Leah Galton was felled by a tired challenge from Niamh Fahey.

Galton’s direct running down the left flank caused problems for Fahey and her fellow Liverpool defenders throughout the game. Our no.11 forced Preuss to make her first notable save after a tight first half-hour, stinging her palms with a powerful left-footed shot after being played in by Millie Turner’s measured through-ball. 
Watch the match highlights from Leigh Sports Village.
James was in a similar position when she blasted the ball against the woodwork after a couple of step-overs bamboozled her backpedalling opponents; her next effort, also set up by Sigsworth, was a comparatively tame one, curled into Preuss’s gloves.

After weathering that particular storm, Liverpool tried to snatch an opener themselves on the brink of half-time when Rinsola Babajide had a rare moment of joy in her battle with United right-back Kirsty Smith and found Niamh Charles in the box. However, the visitors’ no.17 had her back to goal and could only hook the ball wide of Mary Earps’ left-hand post.
Arch rivals in the men’s game of course, both of these two North-West clubs had gone into this meeting seeking a first win of the season. United had lost the opening two league fixtures away to Manchester City and at home to Arsenal by the slenderest or margins, while Liverpool had also been beaten 1-0 by Reading and Spurs, before losing 3-2 at home to Sheffield United in the Continental League Cup last Sunday.

Ever determined to break their duck, Casey Stoney’s side - who were without summer signings Jackie Groenen and Jane Ross, due to injury and illness - stepped up another gear around the hour mark to put the visitors’ goal under intense pressure.

Preuss had to dive to her left to push Zelem’s curling free-kick wide and then, when an opportunity opened up from the resulting corner, the Liverpool goalkeeper blocked a fierce low strike by Ella Toone at the same near post. Moments earlier, she had made a similar save at the other side of her goal to again thwart Galton.
Leah Galton takes on the Liverpool defence.
Toone’s effort was United’s 10th to Liverpool’s two by that point in the game and the domination continued when Zelem slid a perfect pass into the penalty area behind the centre-backs, giving Galton another sight of goal. The United no.11’s first touch was unusually a fraction too heavy, enabling Preuss to race from her line and smother the ball on a surface soaked by several downpours.

The vocal home fans could sense the goal was coming and it duly arrived in the 71st minute when last season’s top scorer Sigsworth showed her awareness inside the box to feed James, and the teenager calmly evaded a sliding tackle as she cut inside on to her left foot and fired past Preuss.

It was no more than United deserved and Liverpool had little to offer in the way of a response as they stared a fourth straight defeat in the face. Instead, it was the hosts who nearly went further in front when hitting the bar twice in a matter of seconds - firstly with Galton's far-post header, from Hayley Ladd's right-wing cross, and then with Toone's volley on the rebound.
Our jubilant players celebrate after sealing the club's first-ever win in the WSL.
The scoreline therefore remained at 1-0 but just when it seemed James would have all of the headlines to herself on her birthday weekend, Galton – her main rival for the player of the match award – broke into the penalty area one last time and was brought down.
Zelem stepped up to send Preuss the wrong way with her penalty and ensure United would head into the women’s international break with three points on the board.


United Women: Earps, Smith, McManus, M.Turner, Okvist (A.Turner 46); Ladd, Zelem, Toone; James, Sigsworth (Hanson 76), Galton. 

Substitutes not used: Mikalsen, Edwards, Harris, Green, Arnot.

Scorers: James 71, Zelem pen. 90+4.