Brighton 2-2 Manchester United: Toone and Williams rescue late point for Red Devils

In the wake of losing their last four consecutive home Barclays Women’s Super League matches, Brighton & Hove Albion manager Melissa Phillips made four changes to the side defeated 4-2 by reigning champions Chelsea before the international break, as most notably top-scorer Elisabeth Terland returned to the Seagulls’ starting eleven.

BHA: Baggaley; Kullberg, Bergsvand, Thorisdóttir; Carabalí, Robinson, Symonds, Haley, Terland; Zigiotti, Bremer

MUN: Earps; Riviere, Le Tissier, Turner; Blundell; Toone, Zelem; Miyazawa, Galton, Geyse; Malard

Following a 10-minute delay to kick-off due to the late arrival of an ambulance to Broadfield Stadium, visiting Manchester United wasted no time in calling former player Sophie Baggaley into action as on-loan Olympique Lyonnais Féminin striker Melvine Malard forced a sublime save from the Brighton goalkeeper – almost immediately from the get-go.

Finally allowed to settle after an unrelenting opening attacking gambit from the visitors, Brighton manufactured a testing couple of minutes for visiting goalkeeper Mary Earps, as several inswinging corners by Massie Symonds nearly caught the England international out.

With the contest now set up more evenly after a distortedly attacking opening quarter-hour from United, a more relaxed Brighton side somewhat deservedly broke the deadlock after thirty minutes, as the in-form Elisabeth Terland fired Symonds’ pin-point pass beyond Earps for her fifth league goal of the season.

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Determined to register an immediate response, Marc Skinner’s side came within inches of an equaliser almost immediately from the restart. However, Geyse’s search for her first-ever goal in the Barclays Women’s Super League following her summer move from Barcelona continued to elude her, with Baggaley producing a magnificent save to redirect her effort onto the post.

With time left in the first half, Baggaley again repaid the faith shown in her by Melissa Phillips to not restore Nicky Evrard into Brighton’s goal – despite the Chelsea loanee being available again after sitting out the game against her parent club – by magnificently tipping Katie Zelem’s shot onto the bar before reacting instinctively to redirect the rebound from Millie Turner onto the post.

Seeking to make it third time lucky, and hold onto all the points after scoring the game’s opening goal for a third consecutive league match, Brighton thought they had doubled their lead on the stroke of the hour-mark but were left bitterly disappointed as Terland’s strike was ruled out for offside.

Amid a surprising lack of goalmouth action from either side, Manchester United managed to get themselves back on level terms in the 78th minute as Ella Toone ended her barren run in front of goal with a stunning strike from the edge of the area that flew into the top corner past Baggaley.

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Seemingly not starstruck by Toone’s first league goal in 2023, Brighton stormed to the opposite end of the field, and nearly restored their lead as firstly Earps tipped Pauline Bremer’s goalbound effort onto the post before strike-partner Julia Zigiotti Olme struck the crossbar.

Nonetheless, there was nothing Earps could do to prevent Brighton from seemingly winning the game in the 89th minute as Guro Bergsvand authoritatively rose above her marker to head home Veatriki Sarri’s inviting corner.

Unbelievably, there was still time left on the clock for substitute Rachel Williams to again break Brighton’s hearts – like she did in the semi-finals of the Women’s FA Cup last season – as her instinctive run towards the back post led to a simple tap-in, and a dramatic 98th-minute equalising goal for Manchester United.

Late drama in an unforgettable 100+ minute classic at Broadfield Stadium leaves a surely-heartbroken Brighton side in ninth position in the Barclays Women’s Super League standings, while Manchester United extend their unbeaten league record to five.