Report: United Women 2 Manchester City 2
Manchester United and Manchester City played out another thrilling derby at Leigh Sports Village as Gareth Taylor's visiting side took home a point despite playing much of the game with 10 players.
Georgia Stanway's 36th-minute sending off seemed destined to affect the outcome of the game, but City's opening goal only minutes later changed that outlook, Bunny Shaw heading in to give the Blues a first-half advantage.
United came back after the break and found two goals in quick succession - the first a clever flick from Lucy Staniforth, the second an accurate finish from Alessia Russo - to take the lead with only 15 minutes remaining.
Substitute Ellen White drew City back level with a simple two-yard tap-in after Mary Earps had saved a brilliant strike from Jess Parks.
The result sees United move above Chelsea and up to third in the Women's Super League table, with the rest of the division still to play this weekend.
United showed signs of quality throughout the first half, particularly through good combination play on the left wing with Ona Batlle and Leah Galton, but were the lesser of the teams. The Reds were clearly up for the challenge, regularly winning second balls, but lacked enough vigour in attack to break down the City defence.
Mary Earps had to be in fine form, first denying Janine Beckie from close range as the American got on the end of a curving left-footed cross from Lauren Hemp. A couple of minutes later, Earps was assisted by Maria Thorisdottir, who cleared a Hemp header off the line.
United did threaten from time to time - Hanson with a left-footed curler, spinning with her back to goal on the edge of the box - but the first half was a cautious one. Any such caution was thrown to the wind by Georgia Stanway when the City midfielder, filling in at right-back for the day, lunged at Galton's leg, unintentionally stepping into her quadricep. The referee took a couple of seconds to ponder her decision before sending Stanway off.
The momentum should have swung United's way, but if it did, it was only temporary. Two minutes later, Bunny Shaw put City ahead, heading home unmarked in the centre of the box. The cross came from Demi Stokes.
By half-time, that lead could have been doubled. Stokes floated a crossfield throughball for Hemp to explode onto and the English winger beat Batlle before sending a teasing ball that evaded two players and then bounced past the post without the crucial contact needed to turn it goalwards.
United found the extra level required in the second half. Toone and Blundell had early shots blocked before Galton was taken down just inside the area, only to watch the referee wave away any complaints. Earps still had to be alive, pushing out a fiercely-struck drive from Hemp at a tight angle after United had gifted away possession in the final third.
Toone forced Taieb into a first save of the half, turning and shooting from the edge of the box. Clear-cut chances were still hard to come by, and it required a moment of creativity to bring United level. Blundell took a left-sided corner quickly, pushing it out to Toone who turned and crossed quickly to the near post where Staniforth, almost retrieving the ball from behind her, flicked the ball in at the near post for her first United goal.
A minute later, Galton stormed through, closely pursued by two defenders. She couldn't quite find the finish to put United ahead, but that's exactly what Russo could do another two minutes on. Batlle crossed from the left and Russo initially fluffed her touch but recovered well, maintaining her balance, getting the ball out of her feet and pulling a well-placed shot into the bottom right corner.
United's celebrations had hardly died down when Ellen White drew the game level. The England striker was in the right place at the right time, a wonderful save from Earps to deny a stunning long-range Jess Parks strike simply falling at the feet of White. She duly finished off.
The Reds had more intent to find a winner late on, but City defended well and kept Skinner's side out. Shares were spoiled at the end of a thrilling match.
United: Earps; Blundell, Mannion, Thorisdottir, Batlle; Zelem (c), Groenen (Ladd 85); Hanson (Staniforth 67), Toone, Galton; Russo.
Unused substitutes: Baggaley, Harris, Boe Risa, Fuso, Jones.
Goals: Staniforth 72, Russo 75 | Bunny Shaw 33, White 79.