Chelsea Women 1 United Women 0
Manchester United Women's five-game winning run in all competitions has come to an end, as the Reds were beaten 1-0 by Chelsea Women in an engrossing Women's Super League encounter at Kingsmeadow.
Maren Mjelde's second-half spot kick broke the deadlock for the Blues, after Millie Turner was judged to have brought down Fran Kirby inside the penalty area.
The Reds, though, showed plenty of endeavour against the league leaders, and were unfortunate not to draw level late on, as Ella Toone's volley from close range was hooked off the line by the hosts.
Fresh from an international break where United's Mary Earps played in front of a record crowd at Wembley, and Kirsty Hanson received her first senior call-up for Scotland, the Reds travelled to the capital hoping to maintain our five-match winning run.
And after clinically disposing of Everton in the Continental Cup before the two-week pause in domestic action, Casey Stoney named an unchanged XI for the first ever meeting between the Reds and the Blues.
In front of a a record attendance for a WSL game held at a non-Premier League stadium, the visitors were fired an early warning shot, as Erin Cuthbert’s corner was floated in towards Mjelde, who pulled it back to Magdalena Eriksson and blazed over from inside a crowded box.
The Reds soon grew into the game though, and had a great opportunity to take the lead in the eighth minute. Kirsty Hanson harried Jonna Andersson and managed to win the ball off the Chelsea defender inside the host’s penalty area. The Scotland international’s shot, however, from an acute angle brushed the side netting, when there were teammates gathering in the box.
United’s intensity continued, with Jackie Groenen’s right-footed shot from just outside the area forcing a save from Chelsea keeper, Ann-Katrin Berger.
The hosts did pose a threat on the counterattack and had their best chance of the first half in the 23rd minute. Ji So-yun received the ball off Millie Bright, who had made a bursting run out of defence. The South Korean international played in Ramona Bachmann, but Earps was there to palm the Swiss’s effort away for a corner. From the resulting set piece, Bright’s towering header was easily dealt with by our stopper.
After the interval, it remained a closely-fought contest, until Chelsea were awarded a penalty in the 64th minute. Having come on as a substitute just minutes before, Kirby was brought down inside the area by Turner and the referee duly pointed to the spot. Mjelde was given the responsibility to take it, and duly delivered, as her spot kick was rifled into the bottom corner despite Earps getting a finger-tip to it.
In a frantic final 10 minutes, Kirby attempted to wrap up the three points for the hosts, but Earps was able to get a vital touch to the ball, as the 26-year-old forward tried to round our keeper.
Moments later, the Reds were inches away from an equaliser, as two of Stoney’s substitutes combined to great effect. Jess Sigsworth’s cross from the right found Toone, whose volley from close range ricocheted off Berger, hit the underside of the crossbar and was cleared away by Bright.
Ultimately, Stoney's side were not able to restore parity before the final whistle and will be hoping to return to winning ways in our Continental Cup tie against Leicester City on Thursday. The match at Leigh Sports Village kicks off at 19:30 GMT, and if you can’t make it to the game in person, you can watch all of the action on MUTV, with coverage getting under way at 19:00.
United: Earps; A. Turner, McManus, M. Turner, Harris; Zelem (c) (Toone 74), Ladd, Groenen; Hanson (Sigsworth 59), James (Ross 80), Galton.
Subs not used: Mikalsen, Okvist, Arnot, Smith.
Scorers: Mjelde pen. 64