Match report: United 3 Brighton 0

Manchester United Women continued our unbeaten start to the WSL season by beating Brighton & Hove Albion 3-0 on Sunday.

It was Ella Toone - playing her 50th game for the Reds - who got the ball rolling from a first-half penalty, while Alessia Russo grabbed her maiden goal for the Reds in the second period, before substitute Jane Ross scored our final strike in injury-time.

United supporters also got a first opportunity to see new signings Lucy Staniforth, Tobin Heath and Christen Press in action, all of whom were introduced as second-half substitutions.

It was a frenetic start to proceedings at Leigh Sports Village, but the best chances in the opening five minutes came from corners at either end of the field, both of which flashed dangerously across the box but went unmet by an attacking player.
Toone put United ahead after nine minutes.

After such a high-energy beginning, it wasn’t a surprise that the first goal of the afternoon came after just nine minutes.

It was Kirsty Hanson who started the attack, when her excellent pass released Toone down the right flank. Our no.7 sent in an excellent cross that caused panic in the Brighton backline, and youngster Maya Le Tissier hauled down Alessia Russo, leaving referee Elliot Swallow no option but to point to the spot.

Toone strode confidently up and placed the spot-kick into the bottom corner, giving the Seagulls goalkeeper Megan Walsh no chance.

Our forward players continued to combine well, with Toone coming close again from a Leah Galton cross, while minutes later the former slipped in Russo for a shooting opportunity, although the effort was blocked en route to goal.

The high-pressing style adopted by both teams meant it was a chaotic and entertaining affair, and on 25 minutes Galton again flew down the left wing and crossed, only to see Brighton defender Victoria Williams nod it clear, before Toone sent the resultant shot just over.

United were dominating proceedings and came close to doubling our advantage from a Galton corner, that resulted in Toone’s shot being blocked in the box. From the following goalmouth scramble, Russo’s effort on target was headed clear by Felicity Gibbons.

Brighton were really struggling to deal with the movement, pace and power of our attackers. On 38 minutes Hanson teed-up Toone for another shot, on the edge of the box. However, the England international didn’t make the cleanest of connections and the ball fired over the crossbar.

Despite the hosts’s dominance, Brighton came close to equalising just before the break when a goalmouth scramble presented Megan Connolly with an effort around the six-yard box. But the midfielder lost her footing at the crucial moment and skewed the ball over the bar, only minutes before Gibbons’s shot was deflected wide for a Brighton corner.
Galton ran the Brighton defence ragged at Leigh Sports Village.
After the interval, United again started in an offensive manner, with Hanson’s strike on target forcing a smart save from Walsh, and then Toone curled a shot over.

On 53 minutes, Walsh was again called into action, this time to excellently deny Galton in a one-on-one chance, which the stopper placed wide for a corner.

United continued to dominate with Russo’s free-kick hitting the wall and then Hanson shanking one high and over.

Midway through the second period, Casey Stoney introduced Lucy Staniforth for her United debut, in place of the lively Toone.

Soon after, another summer signing made it 2-0. It was Russo who latched onto a loose ball in the middle of the park and drove at the visitors's backline. The attacker powered her way through and unleashed a powerful effort that flashed into the back of the Seagulls’s net.

It proved to be the striker’s last involvement, and the 21-year-old was replaced by new recruit Tobin Heath.
Russo makes it 2-0.
The US international didn’t take long to give a first indication of what she’s all about, as Heath cut inside on her right foot and curled an effort towards the back post. Walsh again proved equal to it, while Galton’s follow-up was parried wide for a corner.

As the game entered the final 15 minutes, Christen Press was also brought on for her United bow, as the pace of proceedings began to wain.

Mary Earps, who had a quiet afternoon, was called into action when she rushed out to clear the ball and prevent a Brighton attack, and then collecting a low cross from Aileen Whelan in the latter stages.

Soon after, Press was just inches away from making it a dream debut, however our no.24 hit the post after an excellent run from Hayley Ladd.

As the game ticked closer to its conclusion, Ross grabbed a final strike to make it 3-0. It was Heath who provided the inch-perfect cross for the Scottish striker, and she capitalised on a rare moment of indecision from Walsh, and headed past the Brighton stopper.

A few minutes later and the referee’s full-time whistle signalled an end to an excellent afternoon’s work for Stoney’s side.
Tobin Heath was one of three Reds to make a debut in Sunday's victory.

MATCH DETAILS:

United: Earps; A.Turner (C), McManus, M.Turner, Smith; Ladd, Groenen; Hanson (Press 77), Toone (Staniforth 65), Galton (Ross 77); Russo (Heath 70).

Subs not used: Ramsey.

Goal: Toone 9, Russo 69, Ross 90+2.

Booked: Press 78.

Brighton: Walsh; Le Tissier, Kerkdijk, Williams (Stott 76), Gibbons; Connolly (Jarrett 76), Bowman (C); Whelan, Kaagman, Green.

Subs not used: Fiskerstrand, Lee, Heroum, Barton, Simpkins.

Booked: Le Tissier, Green, Kerkdijk.

Referee: Elliot Swallow.

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