Manchester United Women 2 - 0 Liverpool Women
Manchester United Women: James 70’, Zelem 90+4’ (penalty)
So this is cool, right? This is not at all terrifying or nerve wracking. Meeting the newly promoted and yet relegation table buddies Manchester United Women for the first time ever in the FA Women’s Super League (because their team didn’t exist three years ago). Captained by former Liverpool player Katie Zelem and managed by other former Liverpool player Casey Stoney, this was always going to be a wild ride.
Both teams are looking for their first league win today, and while Liverpool just barely sit atop United in the table, they’re both sitting in the relegation zone this early in the season. Things started well for Liverpool, looking threatening through Rinsola Babajide, Melissa Lawley, and Niamh Charles exploiting the space out wide. Lawley broke early down the right but wasn’t able to connect her cross to anyone in a Liverpool shirt. United tried to get into the game early, too, with Lauren James taking a shot from distance but Anke Preuss was able to gather it with ease.
With the likes of Babajide starting, Liverpool were able to find connections to their forward lines a lot easier than... well any other game this season. Courtney Sweetman-Kirk won the ball from a United defender at around 15 minutes in and tried a cheeky chip, but Mary Earps made sure to save it for United. Winning the ball high up the pitch would be the best strategy for Liverpool, with Babajide going for am ambitious cross towards goal, but it’s cleared easily near the post.
United were not to be outdone, as play switched quickly between both teams, and Leah Galton attempted a powerful shot on goal that Preuss was quick to save, around 25 minutes in. Niamh Charles was the next to make a solid attempt, picking up on a ball from a right corner, but it was just barely cleared off the line by United captain (ugh) Katie Zelem. Liverpool appeared to have the most chances in the first half, but United would come close yet again when James fired a left-footed shot only to hit the crossbar five minutes from the end of the first half.
The break, unfortunately, seemed to do the hosts some good as they come out with a bit more fight for the second half. First, a low cross from United into the box caused a little chaos, before going out to goal kick. Then Preuss turned away another Galton effort at the near post, with the ball going out for corner that is thankfully cleared. Katie Zelem (ugh) won a free kick in the 60th minute, and her shot tested Preuss. Ella Toone picked up the rebound and gave it a go herself, but Preuss was able to keep that from turning into anything.
Even with all of this, Liverpool continued to press and threaten, with Babajide making a break for it around 64 minutes but unable to find the right angle to play in Sweetman-Kirk. The opening goal would come six minutes later, when Jess Siggsworth and Lauren James took advantage of Liverpool’s inability to clear a corner. Despite all the work on setpieces that they’ve apparently done, they’re scored on yet again through one and United took the lead.
From there it was a game of trying to find an equalizer, and desperately, in any attempt to get points on the table for the Merseyside Reds. Leighanne Robe took an ambitious shot from distance that went just past the post, while Sweetman-Kirk tried her hand at an overhead kick that just couldn’t find the net. They literally tried everything they could in those last twenty minutes, and United did as well as they attempted to double their lead and put things to bed. Both Galton and Toone would have shots denied by the crossbar in the space of seconds around the 82nd minute.
Injury time was the game ender, with five minutes added on. Despite changes made with substitutes Ashley Hodson, Jess Clarke, and Kirsty Linnett coming on, the Reds were unable to find an equalizer. Instead, Fahey would trip up Galton in the box and win United a penalty. Zelem stepped up to take it and sent Preuss the other way, and that was that.
A tough outing for our Reds, despite loads of potential on the pitch. With this many losses under their belt, though, it’s difficult to see how they can bring themselves back up from here.