Report: Birmingham City 0 United Women 2
Manchester United Women bounced back from last week's defeat to Chelsea in perfect fashion with a dominant and deserved win against Birmingham City on Sunday evening.
The Reds took a first-half lead through Leah Galton's left-footed strike from six yards out, and doubled their lead in the 80th minute thanks to a tap-in from Ella Toone, Hannah Blundell assisting both goals.
With three wins from the opening four games, Marc Skinner's team now sit fourth in the WSL table, level on points with third-placed Chelsea and three behind North London duo Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur.
United dominated first half proceedings, controlling possession, creating several chances and receiving little threat back from Birmingham City.
The search for an opening goal ended thanks to an incisive run from left-back Hannah Blundell. The summer signing made the goal with a fantastic first touch that took her forward, an excellent second that allowed her to cut across her opposite number and a third to pull it back for Leah Galton, who duly finished the move off.
United played good football, the forwards interchanging well and Alessia Russo, starting for the first time this season, looking impressive. The England forward gave a driving presence to United's attack on the right, pushing the Reds forward every time she received the ball. Her return will be a boost for Marc Skinner.
Despite United finding the lead and the dominance of possession, clear-cut chances were hard to come by, Louise Quinn having an excellent game in the Birmingham defence. Ella Toone fed Jackie Groenen through at one point, only for goalkeeper Emily Ramsey - on loan at Birmingham from United - to come and claim it well.
The Reds came out after half-time immediately seeking a second goal, the first chance coming in an explosive counter-attack. Russo spearheaded the move, sprinting forward with the ball at her feet while the even faster Galton sped away in front on the left wing. Russo played in Galton with perfect timing and she shot well only to watch the effort squeeze just past the right post.
Birmingham found their way into the game after 55 minutes, two subs being made at half-time, through the medium of set pieces. The home team offered little in the first half but challenged Earps in a 10-minute period which threatened to leave United ruing missed opportunities.
Earps first had to be alive to a corner which was set to curl into the top left corner, punching it clear, and made a further couple of good saves, while Jackie Groenen was booked for halting a Birmingham counter-attack. United survived the period and soon resumed dominance.
Gronen came close to her first goal for the club. Kirsty Hanson, who replaced Lucy Staniforth at half-time, cut inside well and played it to Groenen on the edge of the box. The Dutch midfielder manouevered the ball well, turning and losing her marker before unleashing a right-footed drive from long range. It dropped just past the left post.
Three minutes later and United should have led by two. Good combination play from Galton and Blundell left the latter with a great opportunity to poke it past Ramsey, but the full-back instead toed it over the crossbar.
Ella Toone found a deserved goal after 80 minutes. The young forward, being used this season as a striker by Skinner, had come agonisingly close only minutes earlier, breaking through and onto a good ball from Hanson. Despite Lawley's attempts to pull her back, Toone pushed forward and chipped Ramsey only to see the ball cannon back off the left post. It would have been a glorious goal, but instead it was a tap-in that doubled the lead for United.
Constant pressure left Birmingham struggling to cope with United's numbers and Katie Zelem fed Blundell through on the right with perfect precision and timing. Blundell controlled the defence-splitting pass well and pulled it back for Toone who opened her body up to finish past Ramsey with her left foot.
More chances came for United as Birmingham tired but the final moment of ruthlessness was just missing for the Reds.
United: Earps; Batlle, Thorisdottir, Mannion, Blundell; Zelem (c), Groenen; Russo (Boe Risa 71), Staniforth (Hanson 45), Galton (Jones 90+2); Toone.
Goals: Galton 27, Toone 80.