Report: Lewes 1 United Women 3
Manchester United Women are into the semi-finals of the Vitality Women's FA Cup for the very first time after beating Lewes 3-1 on Sunday afternoon.
Marc Skinner's side got off to a flying start, opening the scoring inside eight minutes. While it looked as though Ona Batlle had assisted Alessia Russo for the opener, Lewes defender Rhian Cleverly was deemed to have got the deciding touch to give us the lead.
Vilde Boe Risa's thumping header gave us our second with 20 minutes to go, but the hosts soon halved the deficit through Emily Kraft.
Second-half substitute Nikita Parris secured safe passage through to the last four with a late strike, though, making this our best-ever run in the competition to date.
A searching pass was played into the path of Natalie Johnson who fizzed a dangerous ball across the box where Kirsty Barton was waiting to bounce. A late intervention from Maria Thorisdottir prevented an almost certain opening goal for the Rooks inside five minutes.
Just a few minutes later, the Reds responded by going a goal in front at The Dripping Pan. As has been the case many times this season, Batlle turned provider down the left as she pinged a ball towards the onrushing Russo, who darted toward the front post. Despite our no.23 connecting with the ball, it was Lewes defender Cleverly who was adjudged to have the final touch that took it beyond Sophie Whitehouse.
This afternoon marked the first time Lisa Naalsund had a run out in United colours, but her debut was unfortunately cut short after 25 minutes, with the Norwegian midfielder forced off due to injury. Hayley Ladd received the nod from Skinner to continue in her place.
The Reds came out for the second half looking to build on our first-half lead, with Ella Toone coming on in place of Lucia Garcia.
Just two minutes into the restart, Martha Thomas was on the end of two brilliant opportunities to double our lead. The first came from a Batlle cross and the second from a searching Toone ball into the box, but on both occasions, our no.9 was denied by Whitehouse in the home goal.
After peppering the home area with a handful of dangerous balls across goal, the Reds finally earned our second of the afternoon courtesy of Boe Risa. Toone showed patience before picking out Batlle, who lifted the ball into the direction of our no.8 with her bullet header flying beyond Whitehouse.
Just when it looked as though Skinner’s side had assumed control of the game, the hosts halved the deficit seemingly against the run of play. A deflected pass out from the back by Earps dropped to Kraft, who lifted the ball over our shot-stopper to set up a grandstand finish.
Batlle came agonisingly close to putting the game to bed with our third after being found in behind by Russo, but Whitehouse was quick off her line to close down the angle and deny our Spanish full-back. Second-half substitute Parris also had a big opportunity to finish the tie, after showing initial strength to hold off the opposing defender, but her eventual shot went wide of the mark.
Our no.22 was quick to rectify her miss, though, and made no mistake when she went through on goal to guide the ball beyond the impressive Whitehouse to make it 3-1 and send the Reds safely through.
Lewes: Whitehouse; Stobbs (Mushtaq 86), Cleverly (Howells 78), Mason; McKenna, Hazard, Wardlaw, Palmer (Dalton 65), Johnson (Weir 78); Barton, Kraft.
Unused substitutes: Thompson, Rita, Copus-Brown, Longhurst, Moore.
Goals: Kraft 73.
United: Earps; Batlle, Le Tissier, Turner, Thorisdottir (Mannion 64); Zelem, Naalsund (Ladd 27), Boe Risa; Thomas (Parris 65), Russo (Williams 86), Garcia (Toone 45).
Unused substitutes: Baggaley, Tounkara, Cascarino, Leon.
Goals: Cleverly (own-goal) 8, Boe Risa 68, Parris 89.
Bookings: Le Tissier.