Leah Galton in action for United Women.

United Women 0 Bristol City Women 1

Manchester United Women began 2020 with a narrow defeat, as Bristol City Women emerged 1-0 victors at Leigh Sports Village in the Women’s Super League.

Former Reds forward Ebony Salmon gave the Vixens a first-half lead, as she drove her way into the penalty area and finished confidently, but after that it was all United, as Millie Turner had a goal-bound effort cleared off the line, while Lizzie Arnot and Ella Toone both hit the woodwork, as the visitors held on for their first WSL win of the season.

After a winter break of just over three weeks, Casey Stoney marked the start of a new calendar year by making one change to the XI that beat Everton 3-1 in our final league fixture before Christmas, as Kirsty Hanson came in for Jess Sigsworth.
Lauren James in action for United.
Lauren James looked lively for United in the early stages of the match.
It may have not been the lightning-quick start that fans have become accustomed to in recent times, with United scoring inside the first five minutes in our last three matches in all competitions, but Stoney’s side were on the front foot early on. Lauren James’s early cross from the left was cleared to Galton, and the winger’s first-time effort from close range had to be cleared behind.

James, who had signed her first professional contract with the club before Christmas, instigated a number of attacks in the opening exchanges, including putting Galton through on goal. However, Vixens keeper Sophie Baggaley was quickly off her line to beat the speedy winger to the ball.
James then had a crack at goal herself from the edge of the area, which forced a relatively routine save from Baggaley.

The Vixens, who hadn’t won a league game all season prior to this fixture, went in front with just over 10 minutes to play in the first half. Salmon received possession on the left, raced into the penalty area, and neatly dispatched the ball past Earps into the back of the net.

This setback sparked the Reds into life, and Stoney’s side came within inches of drawing level before the interval. Firstly, a scramble in the penalty area saw the ball fall to Hayley Ladd, whose powerful strike from range was nearly rewarded with her first WSL goal for United. 

And in first-half stoppage time, Katie Zelem’s corner from the left wasn’t dealt with by Baggaley, and Turner’s effort on the follow-up was hooked off the line.
Jackie Groenen in action for United.
Jackie Groenen came close to drawing United level as the game entered the closing stages.

Now that the visitors had a lead to protect, Tanya Oxtoby’s side rarely ventured out of their own half after the break, but they did have one opportunity to double their lead, with Salmon at the heart of it all once again. This time the former Red sprinted towards goal from the right, but with team-mates waiting in the box, the 18-year-old decided to go it alone and her shot from an acute angle brushed the side netting.

The Reds had loud appeals for a penalty waved away by the referee, as an Ella Toone corner from the left appeared to strike the hand of a Bristol City player, but despite appeals from the United team, fans and coaching staff, the officials weren't convinced.

As the game entered the closing stages, United upped the ante, and came within a whisker of drawing level. Groenen worked her way into a crowded penalty area, and the Dutch international’s saved effort ended up falling to Arnot, who looked set to walk the ball into an empty net. The winger lashed at the ball to make sure it would cross the line, but in doing so, diverted the ball onto the crossbar and, crucially, it didn’t cross the line.

With time running out, the Vixens’ goal continued to live an extremely charmed life. Groenen lifted a brilliantly-weighted ball to Toone, who had made a run into the box, but the ball struck the post and was cleared from danger, which got the fortunate visitors over the line to secure the three points.

MATCH DETAILS

United: Earps; A. Turner, McManus, M. Turner, Harris; Groenen, Ladd, Zelem (c) (Toone 71); Hanson (Arnot 45), James (Sigsworth 60), Galton.

Subs not used: Ramsey, Okvist, Smith, Ross.

Scorer: Bristol City - Salmon 34

Attendance: 2,021.

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