United Women 4 Brighton Women 0
Manchester United Women recorded our biggest-ever Women's Super League victory, as the Reds swept aside Brighton & Hove Albion 4-0 at Leigh Sports Village.
Lauren James fired us into the lead in the 10th minute, latching on to a brilliant centre from Leah Galton. Our provider turned goalscorer 19 minutes later, confidently finishing from close range. After the break, the rampant Reds added a third, as Galton stretched on to the end of Kirsty Hanson's low cross from the right. Katie Zelem scored a fourth from the penalty spot late on, as Hanson was brought down by Kayleigh Green.
After a dominant display in the Continental Cup during midweek, which saw the Reds cruise to an 11-1 victory over Leicester, Casey Stoney made eight changes to her starting XI. Mary Earps was restored in goal, while Martha Harris and Amy Turner returned to the back four. Hayley Ladd, who bagged her first goal United against the Foxes, was back in the starting line-up alongside Jackie Groenen, with Kirsty Hanson, Lauren James and Leah Galton leading the attack against the Seagulls.
Eager to bounce back in the league after our defeat against Chelsea last weekend, United were on the front foot from the off, and had a goal chalked off in the eighth minute. Galton’s long-range effort forced a fantastic save from Megan Walsh and Turner was there to follow in the rebound, but the defender’s celebrations were cut short as the assistant referee had their flag raised for offside.
Seconds later, though, the Reds took the lead. Ladd battled to win the resulting free kick in the air, before Turner played in Galton, who had made a lung-busting run down the left. The 25-year-old winger delivered a delightful centre to James, who tapped home from close range to score her second league goal of the campaign - her fourth in all competitions.
James had a chance to double her lead 10 minutes later, as the youngster received the ball off Groenen inside the penalty area. However the angle was against her, and her effort was caught with relative ease by Walsh. Amy Turner had made a surprising run forward from right back, and she also had a shot saved by the Brighton ‘stopper.
The first 45 minutes were spent predominantly in Brighton’s half and United soon tightened their grip on the match, as Galton made it 2-0 to the hosts. Katie Zelem showed great vision to play a wonderfully-timed through ball to the winger, who confidently struck home from a difficult angle to break her duck for the 2019/20 season - her first goal for the Reds since the final day of the previous campaign.
It took the floundering Seagulls 42 minutes to have their first attempt of the game. Aileen Whelan had a speculative effort from distance, however it was blazed high over Earps’ goal. And United could have been out of sight before the interval. Amy Turner picked out a perfect cross from the right to Groenen, but the Dutch international couldn’t get her shot away before she was dispossessed by a Brighton defender. James could have added to her tally in stoppage time, but Walsh was off her line to smother the danger.
In the second half, Stoney’s side continued to show great intensity going forward, and had numerous chances in the first 10 minutes. Millie Turner glanced a header wide from a United set piece, while James had two efforts blocked well by Walsh. The first saw the keeper rush off her line to beat the youngster to the ball, and the second was parried away at the near post, when our forward could have squared it to Turner who was in acres of space.
Nevertheless, Galton ensured that United would get a third, and match our biggest-ever winning margin in the WSL. Zelem instigated the move, spreading the ball out wide to Hanson, who’s low cross from the right rolled across the face of goal and was slotted in by Leah, who wouldn’t be able to complete her hat-trick, as she was subbed off with 12 minutes to spare.
There would be time for the Reds to get a fourth, as with three minutes to go Hanson was brought down inside the penalty area by Green and referee, Steven Copeland, duly pointed to the spot. Up stepped Zelem, and our skipper made no mistake, as she fired to the right of the keeper to ensure United picked up our biggest-ever win in the WSL following our promotion from the Championship.
Stoney's side will be back in action on Sunday 1 December, as the Reds travel to the capital to face West Ham United (15:00 GMT).
United: Earps; A. Turner, McManus, M. Turner, Harris; Zelem, Ladd, Groenen (Toone 73); Hanson, James (Ross 61), Galton (Sigsworth 79).
Subs not used: Mikalsen, Okvist, Green, Sigsworth, Smith.
Scorers: James 10, Galton 29, 67, Zelem 87 pen.