United Women 2 Aston Villa 1

Sunday 28 January 2024 14:15

Manchester United Women clinched victory in our return to the Women's Super League on Sunday afternoon after a Nikita Parris double led to a 2-1 win at Leigh Sports Village.

It looked as though the visitors may take the upper hand early in the game, taking control and peppering our penalty area with an array of dangerous crosses in the first few minutes.

Any such worries were soon neutralised inside ten minutes though, when Nikita Parris notched the opener with a glancing header before doubling both her own and her team's tally just beyond the half-hour mark, firing a rebounded Lucia Garcia effort into an open goal from close range.

United grew in confidence throughout the first half and the Villans persisted with building out from the back despite struggling the break our intense press, the Reds in full control throughout the vast majority of the opening half.

We returned from the interval with the same attacking intent but, against the run of play, Villa forward Rachel Daly went down after some contact from Garcia whilst defending a corner, which the referee deemed sufficient enough to award a penalty. Daly stepped up to convert the resulting spot kick. The Villans looked to build on their goal but were unable to complete a comeback, with a strong defensive showing from Marc Skinner's side proving enough to ensure the three points remained in Manchester.

Lucia Garcia was just millimetres away from a sensational strike in the build-up to the second goal.


After a scrappy few opening minutes, it was the visitors that first took control of the game, with Kenza Dali providing a quick succession of crosses, the closest of which was sliced wide by Villa forward Rachel Daly.

Despite that early pressure, the Reds managed to build an attack of our own. After losing possession high up on the left-wing, Hannah Blundell seized a misplaced pass and instinctively sent a first-time cross into the middle. It only needed the lightest of touches from the head of Parris to send it past the goalkeeper and inside the far post to provide her side with an early advantage.

It looked like our lead was about to be doubled from the opposite flank ten minutes later, a slaloming run from Lisa Naalsund concluding with a cutback to a an unmarked Ella Toone in the centre but she could only send the effort beyond the crossbar.

The game settled into a calmer rhythm midway through the first half, with the Villans determined to keep patiently building from the back, but often getting caught in the intense high press from Skinner's side and losing possession inside their own half.

It was that familiar pattern that re-emerged for the Reds' second, with the ball sent out to the left side following a regain of possession on the halfway line. Garcia creeped into the penalty area and let off a right-footed curler that rattled off the post and back out into the path of Parris, who rocketed home her second of the game into a vacated net.

Villa goalkeeper Daphne van Domselaar was on hand minutes later to prevent United stretching our lead to three inside the first 45 minutes after a period of sharp build-up play, involving all of our attackers, concluding with a Geyse shot that was just tipped wide of the goal. The Reds were firmly in control now, Geyse again causing problems on the right-wing before she found room for another cutback to Toone, whose effort looked goal bound this time before being headed back into play by the Villans' defence.

Fears crept in just before the interval, a misjudged pass from Millie Turner was stolen by Alisha Lehmann but the subsequent run was nullified by Mary Earps sweeping up a long way from her goal.

Mary Earps didn't put a foot wrong when called upon, despite a relatively quiet opening half.


There was no sign of letting up from the Reds on the commencement of the second half, with Parris determinedly searching for her hat-trick after latching on to a wicked through-ball from deep by Naalsund. Our no.22 attempted a shot to the far side but it was well saved by van Domselaar.

The Villans stepped up their intensity in the opening ten minutes after the interval, getting the most joy down the right flank but failing to create a clear-cut chance, typified by Jordan Nobbs taking on a speculative long-range effort that was palmed wide by Earps.

From the resulting corner, Daly went down in the box under pressure from Garcia and was awarded a penalty, which Villa's no.9 stepped up to convert herself to give her side a fighting chanceof completing a comeback. 

An excellent defensive display was required in the second half to ensure victory for the Reds.

Carla Ward's side grew in confidence following their goal, but failed to convert their positive spell in the game into an equaliser before the pace of the game once again settled down.

Being reduced to a one-goal cushion made for a more tense finish than the game otherwise warranted, but the Reds' backline defended resolutely, including an acrobatic fingertip save from Earps in the final 10 minutes of regular time following a well-taken effort by Villa substitute Kirsty Hanson.

Seven minutes of additional time did nothing to ease the tension in LSV. Villa were still focusing much of their energy down the right flank, but left-back Blundell answered every question asked, moving the ball away from dangerous areas well and winning a free-kick high up the field late on to reduce the pressure and slow the opposition down.

Naalsund almost netted a spectacular effort from distance in the final seconds of the game, but it was just tipped over by van Domselaar, the two first-half goals of Parris proving enough to seal victory on the day.

Garcia was unfortunate to give away a penalty shortly after the interval.


United: Earps; Riviere, Le Tissier, Turner, Blundell; Zelem, Naalsund, Toone (Guerrero 83); Parris (Williams 68), Geyse (Malard 83), Garcia (Galton 68).

Unused substitutes: Tullis-Joyce, Evans, Ladd, Aherne.

Goals: Parris 7, 33.

Bookings: Riviere 82.

Aston Villa: Van Domselaar; Mayling, Patten, Corsie, Maritz; Dali, Nobbs, Blindkilde; Leon (Salmon 77), Daly, Lehmann (Hanson 45).

Unused substitutes: Leat, Poor, Pacheco, Magill, Mullet, Gregory.

Goals: Daly 60 (pen).

Bookings: Lehmann 16; Leon 72; Patten 90+4.


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