United defeat Liverpool but fail to win WSL

If Marc Skinner’s side were to pull off the impossible and lift their first FA Women’s Super League title on the final matchday, the Red Devils knew that they’d need three points on the road against Liverpool. Even that wouldn’t guarantee finishing at the top of the table – as Manchester United would also rely on Chelsea slipping up at the Select Car Leasing Stadium, where they’d face relegation favourites Reading.

LIV: Laws; Bonner, Fahey, Matthews; Hinds, Nagano, Holland, Koivisto; Kearns; Van de Sanden, Stengel

MUN: Earps; Blundell, Le Tissier, Turner, Batlle; Zelem, Boe Risa; Galton, Toone, Parris; Russo

United looked to find the opener with ten minutes on the clock, exploiting space on the left flank as Blundell was able to pick out Galton. The winger’s cross was held well by Laws though, keeping the game level – and the title firmly in Chelsea’s hands for the time being.

Liverpool improved as the half continued though, coming close through Shanice Van de Sanden – and with every passing minute, United’s hopes of beating Chelsea to the title faded away. News of Chelsea’s opener rippled through the ground, with the home fans taking great pleasure in taunting their historic rivals.

It had certainly been an open game, and moments after Chelsea doubled their lead at Reading, Ona Batlle came close to putting United ahead. In what could well be her last game for the club, the Spaniard’s cross in from the right flank was palmed away well by the ‘keeper before being cleared properly by a resolute defence.

With stoppage time approaching, Katie Zelem picked out Nikita Parris with a tidy ball over the top of the Liverpool backline – and the winger’s volley forced a great save from Laws to keep the game goalless at half-time.

Despite hopes of a title lift being almost non-existent by the start of the second half, the travelling contingent remained vocal in their support for the Red Devils. Nikita Parris looked to find a breakthrough as the game dragged on, but she was denied by the superb Liverpool defence who hadn’t faltered all afternoon.

The momentum seemed to change though around the hour mark – and the next chances fell in favour of the hosts. Emma Koivisto’s tight-angled effort was pushed wide by Mary Earps, but it felt like just a matter of time until Matt Beard’s side found a breakthrough.

The introduction of Lucia Garcia changed that though, as just moments after replacing Nikita Parris, she found the back of the net to propel United into the lead. Having scored a last-ditch winner in the Manchester Derby last weekend, the Spaniard had bagged another crucial goal against the club’s biggest rivals – but it looked like it’d be too little too late given the Chelsea scoreline.

And that was the case – as the referee’s final whistle brought an end to the WSL season, with Manchester United narrowly missing out on the league title. It still marks their best top-flight season yet, and the Red Devils will look forward to playing on the continent next season.

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