Manchester United 2-1 Aston Villa: Pressure on Skinner eases as Parris nets brace for the Red Devils

Manchester United hosted Aston Villa in the Women’s Super League on Sunday at Leigh Sports Village, looking to get back to winning ways after two successive defeats – to Chelsea in the league and to Manchester City in the Women’s League Cup. Nikita Parris’ first-half brace was enough to seal the three points for the hosts despite Rachel Daly’s second-half penalty conversion.

The Red Devils were victorious over the Villans at the start of the season at Villa Park with Lucia Garcia and Rachel Williams producing the comeback to cancel out Rachel Daly’s second-half strike. Aston Villa recorded defeats in their five opening games of the season, but have climbed to seventh in the table, six points behind Manchester United who sit in fourth – seven points adrift of the top three.

MUN: Earps; Riviere, Le Tissier, Turner, Blundell; Naalsund, Zelem; Garcia, Toone, Geyse; Parris
AVL: van Domselaar; Mayling, Patten, Corsie, Maritz; Dali, Nobbs, Blindkilde; Leon, Daly, Lehmann

An evenly contested opening five minutes saw both sides unable to settle down with the ball with the first chance of the game falling to Rachel Daly in the centre of the box at four-minutes, her left-footed shot on the end of Kenza Dali’s cross going left of the goal, missing the target whilst under pressure from Le Tissier.

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United were quick to attack down the other end with Millie Turner carrying the ball through the centre of the pitch. Her failed attempt to play the ball through to Lucia Gracia was quickly recycled by the hosts who regained possession with Hannah Blundell crossing the ball into the centre of the box to an unmarked Nikita Parris who headed into the bottom right corner at seven minutes to open the scoring.

Hannah Blundell played another dangerous cross into the box just seconds later, but no red shirt could direct it into the goal. Ella Toone – making her 150th appearance for the Red Devils – found herself one-on-one with van Domselaar at 11-minutes, but the Villa keeper came out to clear danger. Looking to extend their lead, Blundell and Garcia played a one-two just outside the box with the former’s right-footed strike from the left side of the box going straight at van Domselaar for a comfortable save at 14-minutes.

A series of free kicks in the Manchester United defensive half after tough challenges from the Villans saw Alisha Lehmann receive the first yellow card of the game in the 16th minute.

As Skinner’s side continued to control possession and look threatening going forward, Ella Toone found herself with an opportunity to double the hosts’ advantage at 17-minutes, but her shot from the centre of the box was fired over the crossbar.

Adriana Leon thundered down the right-flank in the 23rd minute, working her way into the box, but good defensive work from Millie Turner was enough to knock her off the ball giving Earps enough time to come and collect. Villa had another chance to trouble the defence of the Red Devils at 23-minutes but Kenza Dali was caught offside.

After a shot from Lucia Garcia rattled the top left corner of the far post, the ball fell kindly to Nikita Parris who struck with power and precision to double her tally at 32-minutes. United continued on the attack with the ball almost falling to Parris again just two minutes later with a chance to complete her hat-trick, but van Domselaar was out to collect before she could get a shot off.

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Van Domselaar was working hard for her side again pushing a cross from the right that flashed across the face of goal away before Ella Toone could tap it home. Still desperate to complete her hat-trick, Nikita Parris shot at the near post at 41-minutes, but the visitors’ keeper had the danger covered, sending the ball behind for a corner – nothing would come of the set-piece with the ball flicked towards goal by Maya Le Tissier, but ultimately going wide.

With one-minute of the first 45 left to play, Alisha Lehmann broke forwards for the Villans as she capitalised upon a sloppy defensive past, but England’s number one, Mary Earps, was quickly out to clear. Another chance for Villa as the first half entered three additional minutes was quickly dismissed as Ella Toone stuck out a foot to prevent a goal before launching on the counter. Working the ball into the visitors’ half, she played a pass to Geyse who was swarmed by a flurry of Villa shirts before getting a shot off. The visitors were awarded a free-kick just past the halfway line but took too long to take it with the half-time whistle being blown – the hosts went into the break with a two-goal advantage courtesy of a Nikita Parris brace.

There was one change for the visitors as the players came out for the second half as Kirsty Hanson replaced Alisha Lehmann. Having enjoyed a total of 13 shots in the opening 45-minutes – eight of which were on target – in contrast to the visitors only registering one, the hosts were quickly on the front foot with a through ball finding the run of Nikita Parris who was sprinting into the box in the 47th minute – the United forward did well to position herself to get a shot off but it was blocked by van Domselaar and sent out for a corner that the Red Devils couldn’t capitalise upon.

Hungry to find a way back into the game, Villa occupied a rare spell of possession ten-minutes into the second half with Rachel Daly playing the ball into the box to substitute, Kirsty Hanson, but her shot didn’t trouble Earps who made an easy block. Increasing the intensity and applying the pressure in the United box, Villa continued their spell of possession until their captain Rachel Corsie fired her shot over.

Garcia took down Villa’s number nine Rachel Daly whilst waiting for a corner to be taken with the referee awarding a penalty in the visitors’ favour. Daly stood over the penalty spot at 60-minutes and fired past her England teammate to half the deficit. The 32-year-old almost got a second as she came sliding into the box in the 62nd minute but with the ball caught under her feet, she couldn’t slip the ball past Earps with United clearing the danger.

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Villa continued to chase the game believing there was a way back in as they continued to test the focus and resilience of United’s defensive line but fell into the hosts’ offside trap in the 64th minute. Substitutions for the Red Devils saw Nikita Parris and Garcia make way for Williams and Galton at 68-minutes with another United attack on the cards at 71-minutes as Toone and Geyse combined.

Naalsund did well on the right as United looked to reinstate their two-goal cushion, searching for Galton but van Domselaar collected with ease. In the 86th minute, Riviere put a dangerous ball into the box that was met by the head of Williams, her header going wide as the hosts maintained their lead.

With the officials indicating seven minutes of additional time after a pause in play following a collision of heads between Daly and Le Tissier, Villa frantically searched for an equaliser with the momentum from Daly’s penalty conversion having dissipated. United were the closer of the two sides to find the back of the net but the full time whistle brought the game to a close at 2-1 with the pressure on Marc Skinner easing after collecting three points at home.

The Red Devils host Brighton next week in the Women’s Super League where they will look to build upon this positive result.