Arsenal Women 2 United Women 0
Manchester United were beaten 2-0 by Arsenal at Meadow Park on Friday night in the Women’s Super League.
An unfortunate own goal by Millie Turner gave the Gunners an early advantage, before Carlotte Wubben-Moy added a second for the hosts after the break and they hung on to their lead despite Bethany Mead being sent off with half an hour left to play.
The result sees the gap narrowed in the race for Champions League football as Jo Montemurro’s team move within three points of the Reds in the table, with a game in hand.
It was a difficult start for Casey Stoney’s side as we fell behind in just the third minute when Caitlin Foord drove at the Reds’ defence and played in Jill Roord. Dutch international Roord then looked to cut the ball across the six-yard box, but it deflected massively off Turner’s outstretched leg as she tried to block, putting the ball out of reach of Mary Earps who was helpless to stop it going in.
Looking to react quickly, Lauren James worked an opportunity as she cut inside in the penalty area and unleashed a shot, but the 19-year-old’s curling effort was right at the Gunners' Austrian stopper Manuela Zinsberger. Christen Press also had a chance soon after, following a quick break, but as the ball was cut back to her in the box a defender was on hand to close down the strike.
United’s best route to goal appeared to be coming down the left flank, particularly thanks to the tenacity of Ona Batlle. Twice she won the ball inside the Arsenal half, leading to two excellent opportunities – although both went begging.
The first saw Batlle play the ball into the feet of Jackie Groenen who, with her back to goal, turned well to play it across to James. With a free path to goal the attacker took a touch to set herself, but fired over the bar. Then having won the ball back following the goal-kick, Batlle knocked the ball forward to Lucy Staniforth who slid it into the box, but a lunging Ella Toone was unable to make the contact needed to turn it goalward.
Having had the share of the possession and chances, the Reds were under threat of going in at the break two down when Roord found herself again in behind. Electing to take on the shot this time, Earps was able to gather the ball comfortably and extinguish any danger.
As the second half began, the hosts again came out the traps quickly as Mead cut in from the right and fired a left-footed shot just beyond the post, although Earps appeared to have it covered if the shot had been on target.
The United stopper was called into action again soon after, turning a Vivianne Miedema cross behind for a corner. However, the resulting set-piece saw Arsenal double their advantage. Wubben-Moy rose well to meet Katie McCabe’s ball into the area and nodded it in seven minutes after the break.
Shortly after the hour mark the Gunners were reduced to 10 as Mead was shown a second yellow card in just 11 minutes. The advantage of the extra player swung momentum back in the direction of United who had struggled to assert ourselves again, unlike in the first half.
Yet, as Arsenal dropped back to protect their lead, the challenge of breaking them down proved increasingly difficult. Toone thought she had succeeded as she turned in substitute Jess Sigsworth’s flick-on at the back post, but it was ruled out as the flag was raised for offside.
Five minutes before the 90, skipper Katie Zelem found herself free to shoot in the area, but lifted her effort over the bar and despite further endeavour by United to reduce the deficit and put Arsenal under pressure, the hosts stood firm to secure the victory.
Arsenal: Zinzberger; McCabe, Wubben-Moy, Little (Patten 86), Maritz; Roord (Gut 82), Walti, Van de Donk (Nobbs 86); Miedema (Evans 91), Mead, Foord.
Subs not used: Williams, Stenson, Maier.
Goals: Turner og 3, Wubben-Moy 52.
Booked: McCabe, Walti.
Sent off: Mead.
United: Earps; Batlle, M. Turner, A Turner, Harris; Zelem (c), Groenen (Ladd 82); James (Sigsworth 62), Staniforth, Toone; Press.
Subs not used: Bentley, Thorisdottir, Hanson, Ross, Smith, Jones, Bourne.
Referee: Amy Fearn.