United thrash Brighton to retain top spot

Marc Skinner’s Manchester United travelled to Brighton on Saturday, as the Red Devils looked to pick up three points that would see them retain the top spot in the Women’s Super League against a struggling Brighton side. Amy Merricks’ side sit 11th in the twelve-team championship, just two points off Leicester who occupy the sole relegation spot.

BHA: Williams; Pattinson, Kullberg, Connolly, Morse, Fox; Sarri, Bance, Olme, Robinson; Lee
MNU: Earps; Blundell, Turner, Le Tissier, Batlle; Zelem, Ladd; Galton, Boe Risa, Toone; Russo

United dominated possession from the get-go on the South Coast, and they didn’t have to wait too long for the opening goal. Leah Galton fired home for her seventh of the season in the 12th minute, rising highest to nod Katie Zelem’s corner past Lydia Williams and into the back of the net!

Leah Galton could have found a second a few minutes later after Ella Toone’s whipped ball in from the right – but the angle was far too tight for Galton to be able to do anything meaningful with the chance. Brighton looked to head forwards as the game approached the half-hour mark, with Katie Robinson looking to pose a threat from the right side of the box – though she was forced out wide by Hannah Blundell and Leah Galton who did well to get the ball away.

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Lydia Williams was forced into action later on as she snatched Vilde Boe Risa’s header out of the air, after the Norwegian rose highest to divert Katie Zelem’s free-kick towards goal. She had another chance two minutes later as she tried to poke Alessia Russo’s cross past the Australian ‘keeper, but that effort failed to threaten Williams.

United took a well-earned 1-0 lead into half-time after a fairly scrappy opening 45 minutes – but Brighton looked to bring themselves level soon after play resumed as Julia Olme sent a ball toward Lee Geum-min, though Millie Turner did well to intercept and turn the ball towards Mary Earps who gathered well to ease the pressure.

Katie Zelem’s corner five minutes later was nicked away by Brighton who sought to launch a counterattack, and Katie Robinson did well to break away on the right flank – but the opportunity was wasted as her cross to Lee Geum-min had far too much on it.

Leah Galton finally bagged her second in the 65th minute, picking up a ball from Hannah Blundell on the left before driving in-field and working her way past the ‘keeper, eventually slotting it into the bottom-left corner to double United’s advantage.

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The Red Devils had the ball in the back of the net again just ten minutes later, as Galton picked up the pieces on the left flank and squared it to Ella Toone – who sent it past Lydia Williams, but the offside flag was raised and the goal was disallowed.

Rachel Williams found United’s third in the 86th minute, heading home from yet another Katie Zelem corner to put the game to bed. Marc Skinner’s side weren’t done there though, and a minute later Lucia Garcia got on the score sheet. Brighton had attempted to pass it back to Lydia Williams, but the Spaniard intercepted, ran around the Australian ‘keeper and slotted it home to send United 4-0 up.

That result is exactly what Marc Skinner’s side needed as they prepare for a four-way title charge. Arsenal take on Manchester City tomorrow lunchtime – and Gareth Taylor will be hoping his side can take advantage of a tiring Arsenal after they defeated Bayern Munich in midweek. Chelsea prepare to face Aston Villa at the Bescot Stadium, where Carla Ward feels optimistic that her side can pick up a shock result after the Blues were taken to penalties by Lyon on Thursday.