Match report: United Women 2 West Ham 0
Manchester United Women picked up an important three points in the WSL on Saturday on a memorable afternoon for Casey Stoney’s side.
It was, of course, our women's team's first-ever game at Old Trafford, and it was marked by a well-deserved 2-0 win, with Lauren James and Christen Press grabbing the historic goals.
Although Millie Turner was forced into some great defending for the Reds in the first minute, as she headed Katerina Svitkova’s dangerous cross away from the six-yard box, Casey Stoney's side were on top in the opening period and that early attack from the Hammers proved to be a rarity.
The first shot of the game came from James after 10 minutes, when she swivelled at the edge of the area and powerfully struck towards goal with her right foot. However, Hammers keeper Courtney Brosnan was equal to the effort.
Ella Toone then shot just from outside the box, but it was blocked by Gilly Redisch, before James’s follow-up strike was deflected out for a corner.
The Reds' no.16 was clearly enjoying her team's first appearance at the Theatre of Dreams. On 19 minutes, she flew down the left wing and crossed for Press. The American did get a toe to the ball inside the box, but couldn’t turn it towards goal.
An historic dayGallery
Check out the best images from United Women's first-ever game at Old Trafford.
But it was still the Reds who were dictating the play and Katie Zelem fired over the crossbar on 23 minutes as Stoney’s side searched for an opener.
It really should have came a few moments later as James fastened onto a loose pass midway inside the West Ham half. The attacker drove forward before slipping the ball into Press, who then played it across goal to a waiting Toone. Yet, the pass was just beyond the United no.7 who was set for a tap-in from just a few yards out.
Soon after, an almost identical chance presented itself, when Press broke into the box on 35 minutes and again looked for a pass into a team-mate, but the ball to James was intercepted and cleared for a corner. From the resultant set-piece, James headed over from just under the crossbar.
Next it was West Ham who went close. Martha Thomas counter-attacked on the Reds, cut inside onto her right foot but dragged her shot just wide.
As the game ticked closer to half-time, it was a more even contest, with Toone and Jackie Groenen registering speculative strikes, while Svitkova and then Kenza Dali tested Earps.
From a corner on 49 minutes, Millie Turner met the ball and it looped up to Maria Thorisdottir, who flicked it forward into the path of James. The Reds attacker got the slightest of touches on the ball and just knocked it into the back of the net and, in doing so, became the first United Women’s player to score at Old Trafford.
It could have been 2-0 soon after, when a West Ham clearance deflected off Groenen and would have ended up in the goal if it were not for an excellent save from Brosnan.
The visitors still offered a threat on the front foot, as Brynjarsdottir’s shot from the edge of the box demonstrated, although it was well saved by Earps.
Then, on 55 minutes, the hosts doubled the lead. Groenen, who started the second half fantastically, jinked through the West Ham defence before slipping the ball into Press around 12 yards out. The American striker took a touch to compose herself before smashing into the Hammers goal.
United could have made it 3-0 just after the hour mark, but again goalkeeping heroics denied us a goal. This time it was Lucy Staniforth who broke forward and tried to place one past Brosnan, and the midfielder will have be disappointed with the finish as the Hammers stopper got a hand to the ball to push it wide.
James was still a huge threat on the left flank and on 71 minutes she curled a shot just wide of the far post.
The game entered a bit of a lull with the momentum broken up by a few substitutions and injuries. The Reds were still pushing on to find a third goal and the pressure was proving tough for the Hammers to deal with; so much so, that Laura Vetterein was sent off with 10 minutes remaining, for two bookings.
Due to the numerous substitutions and pauses for injuries, eight minutes of injury-time were signalled by the fourth official's board, but with West Ham dropping deep it was a period that provided few shooting opportunities.
Kirsty Hanson went closest during that time but she skewed her left-footed shot wide of the target.
It proved to be the last chance of the game on a memorable afternoon for the Reds and a crucial one in the quest for Champions League football next season.
United: Earps; Thorisdottir, A.Turner, M.Turner, Batlle (Harris 74); Zelem (c) (Ladd 65), Staniforth (Hanson 65); Groenen, Toone, James (Ross 84); Press (Sigsworth 84).
Substitutes not used: Bentley, Smith, Bourne, Jones.
Goal: James 49, Press 55.
Booked: A.Turner, Batlle, Ladd.
West Ham: Brosnan; Redisch (Barker 88), Flaherty ©, Fisk, Vetterlein, Svitkova; Brynjarsdottir (Cissoko 84), Van Egmond, Longhurst, Dali (Mustafa 88); Thomas (Pacheco 78).
Substitutes not used: Ramsey, Benton.
Sent off: Vetterlein.
Referee: Lisa Benn.