Manchester United Women suffer second defeat of the season to Arsenal – Charlotte Duncker
Manchester United fell to their second defeat of the league season as a late Danielle Van de Donk goal denied Casey Stoney’s side their first point of the season.
Goalkeeper Mary Earps looked to have been United’s hero on a tough night at Leigh Sports Village as a string of impressive saves kept the Women’s Super League champions Arsenal at bay for 88 minutes on Monday evening.
The third choice England goalkeeper proved a point to watching England manager in front of a crowd of 2,530 as a host of fine saves denied Joe Montemerro’s side as Arsenal‘s star studded attack peppered the United goalmouth in the second half.
Stoney spoke about fine margins after their defeat to Manchester City in the opening game of the new league campaign and the United manager will have rued their missed chances during their dominance in the first half as they slipped to defeat after a dominant second half performance from the WSL champions.
Arsenal came into the game off the back of a 4-0 hammering of Fiorentina in the Champions League having won their campaign opener against West Ham the weekend before, while United were going into the fixture looking for their first points in the top flight.
Stoney was forced into two changes from the side that impressed against City at the Etihad with summer signings Jackie Groenen and Lotta Okvist both ruled out through injury. New captain Katie Zelem had spoken before the game about how the newly promoted United side were ready to compete with the best in the league and they showed that again, especially in the first half.
United’s midfielder restricted Arsenal‘s best playmakers Jordan Nobbs and Kim Little as the current champions struggled to find their usual rhythm in the game. And it was United who got the first big chance of the game.
Jess Sigsworth intercepted a loose Jennifer Beattie ball and put a lovely cross into the area to find Ella Toone rushing into the area unmarked but her header was just wide.
United continued to press and cause Montemurro’s side problems with Toone having a couple of half chances, first with a long range shot from the edge of the area which was over Manuela Zinsberger’s bar and then moments later when she couldn’t manage to keep her shot down from a Katie Zelem corner.
As the half wore on it was Arsenal who grew into the game. Their slick passing and movement created a perfect opportunity for last season’s record breaking goalscorer Vivianne Miedema just before the break.
Third choice England goalkeeper Mary Earps was proving a point to the watching England manager Phil Neville in the stands as a superb double save denied the Dutch international.
First to save a header and then she was down to deny the Arsenal attacker scoring the rebound at the near post. Earps’ acrobatics meant it was goalless at the break and Stoney will have been looking for her side to succeed where they failed at the Etihad and continue their dominance in the second half.
And it was the visitors who were on top in the second as they pressed United into making simple mistakes. But despite the pressure from the champions it was United who created the first chance after the restart.
Jane Ross found herself clean through on goal and was denied by a good Zinsberger save. The United attacker managed to get the rebound back across the face of goal but it was cleared off the line by Leonie Maier.
But as the half wore on it was all Arsenal.
Earps again to the rescue to deny Kim Little twice and Beth Mead had an effort flash in front of the goal. United’s defenders tried to snuff out Arsenal‘s threat but the visitors were too much in the end for Stoney’s side.
As the game entered the last 10 minutes United were clinging on to what looked set to be their first point of the new season. Miedema hit the post in the 87th minute and somehow United managed to clear the goal mouth scramble that followed.
But there wasn’t as much luck for the United defence a minute later as substitute Van de Donk shot was deflected in to give Arsenal the three points.
Stoney’s side showed again they have what it takes to compete in the top tier but they need to start getting points on the board.