United Women 7 Crystal Palace Ladies 0
Manchester United Women have won the FA Women's Championship after a dominant 7-0 victory over Crystal Palace Ladies at Leigh Sports Village.
Youngster Lauren James scored four goals, and had United up-and-running after nine minutes with a textbook finish into the top corner, before Lizzie Arnot doubled our lead with a tap-in from close range. Leah Galton, the provider for Arnot’s strike, added a third to our tally with a cracking effort two minutes later.
Twelve seconds after the break, Jess Sigsworth got her fifth goal in as many games as the Reds further tightened their grip on the match, before a frantic final seven minutes saw 17-year-old James bag a further three strikes to cap a sizzling individual display.
With promotion to the Women’s Super League achieved on Wednesday night against Aston Villa, Casey Stoney made three changes to her team. Katie Zelem and James returned to the starting XI, after missing our match in midweek due to suspension, while Aimee Palmer replaced Amy Turner in central defence.
On a balmy afternoon in Leigh, the Reds started on the front foot as Galton spurned an early chance in the fourth minute. Lizzie Arnot put a delightful ball in from the right, however the winger saw her effort from close range trickle past the post.
Minutes later though, it was James that got the early breakthrough for United. Arnot dispossessed the visitors deep inside their half before Ella Toone played in Lauren who had made a run into the box. The 17-year-old turned the Palace defenders inside out before arrowing her shot into the top-left corner to get the title party in full swing.
In a first half that was dominated on all fronts by United, Stoney’s side were relentless in trying to increase the lead. Skipper Alex Greenwood charged out of defence, bypassed the midfield and had a crack at goal which was only partially saved by stopper Lucy Gillett before a defender managed to hook the ball away from danger.
Fifteen minutes before the break, United struck twice in two minutes. Firstly, Galton produced a sumptuous low cross from the left that deflected off a Palace player into the path of Arnot, who doubled our lead, before Leah got a goal of her own when she took on a defender and unleashed a beautiful strike from an acute angle. The home fans began to chant: ‘Stand up for the champions.’
The story of a historic day in the sunshine for United Women at Leigh Sports Village in images.
As Palace looked to snatch a consolation before the break, they were hit on the counter. Arnot kept herself onside and was one-on-one with Gillett, and attempted an audacious chip from outside the box. However, the Scottish international’s effort rattled the crossbar as the referee blew for half-time.
After the interval, the 2,112 fans in attendance had to wait just 12 seconds for our fourth. James had the initial shot, which was well blocked, and Toone had a go on the follow-up from just outside the box. Ella's strike got a finishing touch off Sigsworth on its way through, giving Jess her 13th goal of the season.
In the final seven minutes, James sealed her hat-trick and went one better, helping Stoney's side seal the league in style. The first was a demonstration of Lauren's strength, as she shook off the Eagles' defence and slotted the ball past the keeper, and the next completed her hat-trick, when she headed in Charlie Devlin's cross following a brilliant turn by the substitute.
There was still time for the youngster to add a seventh. She dispossessed Palace in midfield, surged forward, had an initial shot saved but then rounded the keeper and slotted home the rebound in the final minute of regulation time, rounding off a history-making week for United Women.
United: Chamberlain, Harris, Palmer, M.Turner, Greenwood (c); Arnot (Hanson 60), Zelem, Toone (Green 53), Galton; Sigsworth (Devlin 68), James.
Substitutes not used: Ramsey, A. Turner, Smith.
Goals: James 9, 83, 85, 90; Arnot 33, Galton 35, Sigsworth 46.
NEXT HOME MATCH
United's next and final home game of the season is on Saturday 11 May as Lewes Women pay a visit to Leigh Sports Village (kick-off 17:30 BST). Match tickets are on sale at www.manutd.com/womenstickets.
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